Here is what was unsettling about Hannah Horvath and HBO’s “Girls”

I finished the first season of HBO’s “Girls,” yep, the one with that kinda chubby girl who’s naked in almost every episode.  You’ll need to read this twice:

Critics lauded [HBO’s “Girls”] for its raw nature, humor, and refreshing tone, applauding [Lena Dunham’s] more realistic portrayal of women and their relationships than mainstream media tends to present.

By “critics” they mean the Huffington Post, Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, etc.  Hey wait–they tricked us, those guys are the mainstream media.


Don’t worry, they did trick you, but only because you wanted it.  If the “realistic” nudity or selfish daddy’s girls or not enough black people in this show is the most unsettling or offensive thing about it, then they tricked you and you wanted it badly.  The real unsettling controversy about Hannah Horvath and friends starts with their godawful parents.  No, not because they owned guns or watched The O’Reilly Factor, it’s actually much worse.

Hannah is what, about 25 years old?  Assume she made it through Oberlin in four/five-ish years and gave the milk away for free at her “internship” for 2+ years.  That’s a lot of time, tuition, and rent (and cell phones, and internet bills, and health care) for mom and dad to have paid for (especially at Oberlin and later New York).  But they are done with that now–they are cutting her off, goddamn it.  It’s time she stood on her own two feet.

Because the Matrix has you, it also published this infamous gem in Oct. 2010.  Summary: student loan debt-free, parent-supported Scott hasn’t been able to find a good, paying job since 2008.  Holy shit, he’s been looking for almost 2.5 years??  The economy must be terrible.  Same for Hannah Horvath, I guess?

Actually it is the same–exactly the same.  Both had parents who, pretty obviously, paid for, arranged, planned, explained, guided, and absolutely helicoptered the fuck out of their children.  Make sure they drive straight to violin practice right after school and then study for the PSATs (there’s an app for that).  Getting into Oberlin isn’t that easy, there are Asian kids to contend with.  It’s just that they worked so hard for their children to be successful–they want them to have every opportunity, but also a safety net for a while.  For at least 2.5 years.

I mean, the NYT said it, so while it  may not be true, it’s probably what most upper-middle-class white people want to think.  “Wait, you forgot that her parents cut her off at the start of everything–no more safety net!”  Wrong, I remembered that they paid for a nice dinner, carefully explained the reasons and dad desperately tried to soften/reverse the blow.  Mom offered the same later.


The NYT and Hannah/Scott’s parents got it all backwards, and you know it by this line: “The Great Recession damaged the self-confidence of the young, and that is beginning to happen now, according to pollsters, sociologists and economists.”

That’s not how it works–hard things happen and then you find out who you are by your actions in response to those hard things. “You probably support Patriarchy, too!”  Guilty, I do, but remember that Haagen Daz, whiskey, therapists, your mega-church, your parents, the NYT, and HBO all support your never having to find out what a hard thing is like.

In the Great Depression, some people found out they were resourceful, hard-working, and could even win a World War.  In our Great Recession, we found out that it’s important to have safety nets all the time.  Like helicopter parents, or legacy admissions, or volunteer work on your resume.  Can you guess which generation ended up with the self confidence?

Is that why Hannah Horvath is unsettling?  Not enough self confidence?

God no, and I don’t blame her parents specifically–they just bought hard into the system.  Here is why Hannah and friends are so unsettling:

As a person, she has absolutely not changed or grown or overcome or learned one thing about herself.  For her entire life.  She’s the same person at 25 as she was at 12.

She’s not selfish (like everyone says, more red herring), she’s just a normal, stupid little kid.  “Oh, is that why Adam calls her ‘kid’ all the time?”  Meh, I guess you can have partial credit for that one.


What single fact does she mention about herself in the season 1 finale?  That she’s exactly 13 pounds overweight and it’s terrible to have to live with.  Yeah yeah, I know she’s lying about how overweight she is.  The important thing is that she learned that solitary fact about herself from the system/mainstream media, which also praised her realism.

(Hint in case you missed it–the system did not tell her how overweight she was, it told her that being overweight is terrible, but we have some great ice cream ads and a gym membership to help with that.  Yes, you’ll need both.)

Her parents failed her because they so completely protected her from pain/challenge that leads to profound change and personal growth; the system/media failed her because it taught her to want the wrong things.  Together, they created perhaps the best defense against positive personal change that any generation has experienced.

Not busy tonight? Want to find yourself, figure out who you are?  Don’t go with your friends to that trendy party/bar.  Instead find a dive bar (or better yet, an Applebees) and start a fight.  And lose.

Just kidding, requisite Palahniuk reference.  But hey, the show is about these girls finding themselves.  Similar to Sex and the City, right?  That’s what the critics said anyway.  I mean, seriously, I remember how different Carrie Bradshaw was at the end of Sex and the City, how much she had grown as a person.

Oh, wait, has this trick already been played on me before…?


About Timber St. James

I used to be a galley slave, but now I race chariots.
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One Response to Here is what was unsettling about Hannah Horvath and HBO’s “Girls”

  1. Pingback: Today, the “American Dream” means clinging fiercely to your role as a battery in the Matrix | TimberStJames

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