While the Oscar debacle was unfolding on ABC on Sunday night, HBO was airing what might be the strongest and most important episode of Girls that the network has ever produced.
Lena Dunham is a divisive figure and as a result Girls has always been a divisive show. Life through the eyes of the narcissistic, self-indulgent Hannah Horvath provides a very unique perspective into this strange period of a young woman’s life as you’re finishing your education and trying to understand what it truly means to be an adult. Girls came on the air at the perfect time for me, it was right when I was finishing up my second semester in college, so as this group of young women have progressed and matured (or not so much so) my life has changed with them and I’ve always felt like the tone and the themes of the show are incredibly relatable.
One topic that 20-something women (and men) have been particularly vocal about is rape culture and how the imbalance of power contributes to non-consensual sex. Girls took that topic on Sunday night and they handled it in a very, very smart way.
In a standalone episode that only follows Hannah, she meets with one of her favorite authors in his home to discuss a piece she had written about allegations college students on his book tours had made about coercive or potentially even non-consensual sexual encounters with him.
In her conversations with this author she defends her work, revels in his praises and they disagree about the nature of sexual relationships and the role that power plays in consent. Their conversation started out tense, but grows warmer as he opens up to her. You can see this hard line that Hannah has drawn between consent and coercion begin to blur in their own conversations, in the way that he’s treating her, but she doesn’t realize he is manipulating her until it’s already happening. It was very smart to show how a confident, empowered young woman could spout rhetoric about rape culture and the male power complex and mean every word of it, but not see it coming when it’s directed at her.
There’s a great segment that at the end of the episode where Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner discuss the episode and they rightly point out that people who might adopt sexually predatory behavior aren’t always overtly evil and cartoonish. It’s not always that black and white.
If you’re not into Girls or just haven’t seen the show before, you can still enjoy this episode. It’s a standalone episode, so you don’t need to see episodes prior to follow it.
I was super impressed by this episode. It was a good narrative for the episode and the subtext was super powerful and relevant. Nicely done, Lena Dunham & Co.