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'Girls' Premiere Recap: I'm A Hannah, But I Wish I Were A Jessa

Posted: 04/15/2012 11:09 pm

Note: Do not read on if you have not seen the series premiere of HBO's "Girls."

At first glance, HBO's "Girls" might look like an exaggerated version of the "S--- New Yorkers Say" meme. But Lena Dunham's "Girls" isn't just a show for young twentysomethings living in New York City; it's a show that offers a little something for everyone. (Yes, even men.)

Of course, as a young twentysomething female writer living in New York City, I can tell you that I relate to Hannah (Dunham) -- the extremely self-aware, but deeply vulnerable writer at the center of "Girls" -- far more than other character on TV. I feel like I know her, or maybe I feel like I am her. Or do I just want her Brooklyn walk-up apartment?

And then there are Hannah's friends. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is a wondering, free-spirited artist who just returned to the city from Europe. She's also Hannah's childhood friend, which makes Hannah's current best friend and roommate Marnie (Allison Williams) feel uneasy. And then there's Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) Jessa's immature cousin.

Comparisons between "Girls" and New York's aspirational fairytale "Sex and the City" are pretty much inevitable -- even though the two couldn't be more different. "Girls" isn't glossy, predictable or perfect; it's embarrassing, crude and extremely intimate.

Kudos to Dunham for addressing the comparison within the first 10 minutes of the series' premiere in this little exchange:

Shoshanna: "Do you like the poster?"
Jessa: "Oh, I've never seen that movie."
Shoshanna: "Only the show?"
Jessa: "Is it a show?"
Shoshanna: "Oh my god. You're not serious. That's like not being on Facebook."
Jessa: "I'm not on Facebook."
Shoshanna: "You're so f---ing classy. You know, you're funny because you're definitely a Carrie, with like, some Samantha aspects, and Charlotte hair. That's like a really good combination."
Jessa: "Well, thank you."
Shoshanna: "I think I'm definitely a Carrie at heart, but sometimes ... sometimes Samantha kind of comes out. And then, when I'm at school, I definitely try to put on my Miranda hat."

Sure, Dunham may have been poking fun at the unfair comparisons, but that exchange between excitable college student Shoshanna and her hipster cousin Jessa is also incredibly authentic.

I can't tell you how many times I've had this conversation among my friends. Sometimes, I even find myself talking about it with coworkers. I can still remember my freshman year roommate telling me that she was "definitely a Charlotte," as she put the final decorative pillow on her extra-long twin bed.

Mind you, this is the same roommate who made seasonal flower arrangements for our dorm room, took five minute "power naps" and transferred to Tufts in our sophomore year, where she met the JFK to her Jackie Onassis. She very much is a Charlotte.

But what about me? I wanted to be the Charlotte. She was obviously the prettiest. She had the best hair, the best wardrobe and she got her fairytale ending. As far as the quintessential female stereotypes go, Charlotte embodied them all. (Looking back, however, I can now tell you that I most certainly identify as a Miranda, with like, some Charlotte aspects.)

My roommate, however, disagreed. "You're a total Carrie," she told me. Wait, what? Are you kidding me? Carrie? I don't want to be the Carrie. No one wants to be the Carrie. After five seasons and more than a dozen or so horrible life decisions, did anyone actually want to be the Carrie? All she did was whine about her problems and write a horrendously bad sex column.

My roommate then clarified: "Well, you want to be a writer."

Great. I'm sure Joan Didion will be so happy to hear that all female writers living in New York City are getting compared to Carrie Bradshaw. This is where I'm sure Hannah and I would agree.

We don't want to be Carrie Bradshaw, but of course, we would like to have her shoe closet and the security in knowing that one day, we'll be sleeping on sheets that don't have a 200 thread count.

Here are five standout quotes from the premiere of "Girls" that I think every girl -- myself included -- can relate to.

"Do you know how crazy the economy is right now? I mean, all of my friends get help from their parents."

In opening scene of "Girls," Hannah gets unexpectedly cut off from her parents, played by guest stars Becky Ann Baker ("Smash") and Peter Scolari ("Newhart"). Of course, Hannah should have seen it coming. Her parents were still supporting her two years after graduating from college. Honestly, after watching this scene, I was almost certain that I was going to hate Hannah. I mean, could she be any more self-entitled and whiny? Some 24-year-olds are working two jobs just to pay off their student loans, so why should I feel sorry for Hannah?

But that's where Dunham's extremely self-aware writing kicks in. Later on, even Hannah acknowledges the hilarity of her situation.

"Can I tell you something really embarrassing? Until yesterday, I received all of my money from my parents. Does that make you feel sick? Do you not want to talk to me?"

When she says that she has friends who get help from their parents, she's not entirely exaggerating. I have friends who still get money from their parents on a regular basis. In fact, I know people who rely on their hefty monthly allowances to survive in the city. And as much as I'd really hate to admit this, I'm sure that I've probably told my mom something similar to what Hannah told her parents. It's the typical guilt trip you try to lay on your parents out of pure desperation.

The only difference between Hannah and I? She really thought that she could convince her parents to give her $1,100 a month for the next two years, while I knew that there was no chance in hell my mom could afford to give me lunch money, let alone rent money.

"Hannah, he never texts you back."

Hannah texts Adam, the aspiring actor that she's seeing (not dating), to see if he wants to come to Jessa's welcome home dinner. Adam, being a typical d-bag, doesn't text Hannah back, and the above is what her best friend Marnie reminds her of. Nope, he never texts Hannah back. But he does, however, tell her things like, "You're not that fat anymore, so why don't you have [your tattoos] lasered off?"

I'm just going to say it: Adam is a perverted jerk who treats Hannah's heart "like monkey meat" and forces her to play "the quiet game" during sex. But no matter how much her friends try and tell her to dump him, Hannah still believes that there's a chance he'll love her -- a chance that he'll want to be her boyfriend.

I think we've all been there, but there's something about Adam and Hannah's non-relationship that makes me feel especially uneasy. It's probably because I'm still slightly hung up on my own Adam (sans the weird school girl sexual fantasies). He never called. He never texted back. I even used the same "Oh, I was just leaving a friend's apartment that was right by your apartment ..." line, which embarrassingly translates to: "I hopped on the train to Brooklyn because I wanted to see you, but I don't want to sound too needy."

And the worst part? He called me "babe." It's almost as bad as Adam calling Hannah "doll."

Meanwhile, Marnie's boyfriend Charlie seems like a total catch. But after being together for four years, Marnie is starting to feel suffocated. Sure, he may be a bit sensitive, but compared to Adam, he looks like the best boyfriend ever. He held her retainer in his hand.

Charlie, you can totally have my number.

"So, I've calculated, and I can last in New York for three-and-a-half more days, maybe seven if I don't eat lunch."

Having just been cut off from her parents -- and accidentally fired from her unpaid internship -- Hannah doesn't know what else to do, as she mulls over a few options with her friends. Perhaps yet another jab at our entitled Gen Y society, Hannah outright refuses the idea of working at McDonalds. However, as Martie reminds her, at least McDonalds employees get paid -- and get free fries. It's an added bonus, for sure.

Living in New York is expensive, and there's not a month that goes by where I don't have to do a bit of mental math before I send in my rent check. If I were in Hannah's position, I'd probably already be in tears.

"When you get hungry enough, you'll figure it out," Hannah's boss tells her after he fires her. "Do you mean physically hungry or hungry enough for the job?" she asks. In all honesty, it's probably a little bit of both.

Fact: Lunch in New York is ridiculously expensive. Unless, of course, you live off $1 pizza on St. Marks Place, which I've certainly done. Hopefully, that will help with Hannah's physical hunger.

"I think I might be the voice of my generation, or a voice in a generation."

Hannah is currently writing a memoir, but four chapters in, she's realized that she still has yet to actually live the other nine essays she'll need to make it into a book. That's what I love about Hannah. She's not a blogger -- she's an aspiring author. Surely, had she been a blogger, The L Magazine would have already recruited her to tweet for them.

But Hannah's not trying to be the definitive voice of her generation; she's just a voice. However, if Hannah's Twitter account tells us anything (over 18,000 tweets and less than 50 followers), there's no guarantee that her voice will actually be heard. Her parents aren't listening, the boy she's hooking up with certainly isn't listening, and her friends are all too preoccupied with their own struggles to actually listen to her.

Sure, no girl would ever dare tell her freshman year roommate that she's "definitely a Hannah," but when she Google searches something along the lines of "diseases that come from no condom for one second" -- or listens to Robyn -- she'll definitely be thinking of Hannah.

"Girls" airs at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO.

 

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