The XX Factor

Girls on Girls: “Vagina Panic” 

A still from Girls (HBO)

Hanna Rosin: Hi Girls. This week we will go first and then the boys of Slate will follow up with their own dissection of the latest episode, and also respond to us.

I wish I knew half as much about all of you as Hannah seems to know about all of her friends. Abortions, ass bruises, baby hooker fantasies, “stuff that gets up around the side of condoms:” the show goes very deep in just half an hour. One thing I realized watching this episode is that I am really going to like to listen to Hannah talking. Her conversations - which are really more like monologues - have a very particular arc. She starts out winning and funny, then her self consciousness kicks in and she lands in a spot so disastrously far from where she started. Her job interview is a perfect example – with her rape joke she goes from charming to train wreck in a matter of seconds.

L.V. Anderson: Hanna, you left out the most train-wrecked part of that interview: Hannah’s reference to two bars supposedly in Cobble Hill. As Lena Dunham has already admitted, Weather Up (a fancy, speakeasy-like cocktail bar) and Washington Commons (a darker, divier place with a decent draught beer selection) are not in Cobble Hill. They are in Prospect Heights. However, I would not at all say that the median age at Washington Commons is 55, as Hannah’s interviewer says–Prospect Heights is actually a pretty young neighborhood, and I’d say Washington Commons skews younger than Weather Up because the drinks don’t cost $12 a pop. 

Miriam Krule: That interview scene was too painful for me to watch. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that she clearly is capable of having a conversation, but is just out of practice. (Is that the worst thing Adam is really doing to her?). Or the fact that she made a joke that wasn’t even funny or awkward. It was just wrong.

Heather Murphy: I think what was interesting about the interview scene is that it hit on the confusing casualness of interviews these days and the way in which interviewing often feels like dating. Even the dude interviewing her makes the analogy, saying that the only other situation she could brag that way is her online dating profile. When she chats him up about bars and neighborhoods, he doesn’t seem to mind. But then she pushes it one level too far. 

Rosin: Her conversation with the AIDS doctor is even more exquisite. She starts out in the normal range of AIDS neurotic and before you can say “speculum” she is horrifying her audience – and the doctor – with her epiphany that “maybe I thought I was scared of AIDS but what I really am is wanting AIDS.” This was such an emblematic moment – totally selfish and juvenile and yet completely sincere in the desire to escape the tedious trappings of a young adult life.  

Why do you think the AIDS fear colonized her brain at that particular moment? Was this just a dramatic way to avoid the more mundane girlfriendy, Sex and the City type conversation about what else was wrong with Adam?

Aisha Harris: Perhaps it’s because my generation is rather far removed from the heavy fear of AIDS (those born in the mid-late 80s who were not old enough to remember Magic Johnson making his declaration or Freddie Mercury’s death), I’ve noticed that it is not uncommon to casually throw off a joke about the disease.

Anderson. I found it interesting that this episode begins and ends with Hannah getting penetrated–first by Adam, then by the doctor–but she’s only honest in the latter situation, not the first. At the beginning, she’s so distracted by her need to appear sexy and her inexplicable love for Adam that she can’t articulate what she wants. Adam asks what she likes, and she says, “I like everything; I like what you’re doing,” which is not the correct answer. Although my favorite part of that hilarious, awful sex scene is when he asks her where she wants him to come, and she responds, ““It seems like you want to come on my tits, so I think you should come on my tits, because I want you to come, and it seems like you’re going to do it.” Way to be assertive, Hannah!

But I thought Adam’s worst sin (though it’s hard to pick) was his nonresponse to Hannah’s morning-after joke about the 11-year-old-covered-in-semen thing, What an asshole–that’s the worst kind of manipulation: to use a person for pleasure and then not even let them share it with you. 

We covered this a little bit last week, but what’s the deal with Adam? Do you think he’s oblivious to the fact that he’s terrible in the sack, or does he know it and not care?

Harris: I would argue that a lot of, if not most, younger guys are oblivious to the fact that they are horrible in bed, and I think that is because most younger women won’t tell them so. Hannah certainly won’t, and I imagine most of the women Adam has slept with are one-night-stands, or women like Hannah. 

Rosin: I want to stand up for Adam’s refusal to recognize that fantasy in the daylight. Come on! That was on par with the rape joke at the office. Certain kinds of dirty talk belongs only in certain contexts, and Hannah consistently fails to respect the usual boundaries.

The right way to reference a child hooker fantasy out of context is the way Jenna did at the bar.

What are you drinking, the cute Brooklyn guy asks her.

“Milk,” she answers, and smiles, showing off her toddler milk mustache.

Murphy: Hanna, I agree with you. Referencing the  fantasy out of context was simply divinely awkward. I found it hilarious. It wasn’t just what she said, but the voice and the way she said it that made it so uncomfortable. It was totally understandable that he reacted that way and just reiterated the degree to which they exist on different planes. It was sorta sweet the way in which she tried to claim it as her own, however.

Anderson: But it was a wildly inappropriate, borderline pedophilic fantasy! If I were Hannah, I would INSIST on discussing it the next day (or just run out the door and never look back).

Murphy: It was. If she had any sense in her she would have fled the moment she learned he fantasizes about children. But she didn’t. She’s so desperate to hold on to her skinny condom-phobic faux actor.

Harris: I’m with you, Laura. If a guy ever said something like that to me, it would be over and done with, but I’m not Hannah. Perhaps this contradicts with my finding the date rape joke hilarious, but if pedophilia (even if it’s just “pretending”) is something that actually turns you on, well…I’ve watched enough Law & Order: SVU to know to run for the hills. Not okay.

Anderson: Although Hannah grew on me this episode (in spite of her selfishness), Marnie continued to grate. Does she have any redeeming qualities? She harangues her boyfriend; micromanages her friends’ abortions; and judges Hannah for Adam’s dirty talk.  “Hannah. Adam cannot do that to you. He can’t. He’s not your boyfriend,” says Marnie. She’s so caught up in rules about who can and can’t do what, and she thinks that as long as she follows the rules–specifically, staying in a monogamous relationship–nothing bad can happen to her. 

I mean, we’re talking about a woman who once hit a puppy in her car and who tells her boyfriend that his body is disgusting. Someone explain to me if there’s anything to like about her.

Krule: You don’t think Marnie is the ultimate “put together” friend. The one who seems to have “everything”: a boyfriend that is “too good,” a chic job, and will even throw an abortion party for you after you showed up however many hours late to the dinner she threw for you? I think someone like Hannah needs a Marnie in their life. I actually totally bought her wanting to be a mother, I hate to make the obvious Sex and the City comparison, but she is so clearly Charlotte.

Rosin: Don’t you all know women like Marnie, who are so addicted to mothering and controlling that they manage their lives into misery? She’s definitely a familiar type to me, and as we will learn next week, the most vulnerable to the submission fantasy!

Anderson: The only thing that keeps me from hating her completely is that she seems completely and utterly miserable–even more so than Hannah.I might start considering liking her when she does the decent thing and breaks up with Charlie.

Krule: That’s fair, it’s unclear to me why Charlie hasn’t broken up with her either, but doesn’t that show how vulnerable she is? I understood that as her being afraid of being alone, of moving on, just like all of them are. She’s been going out with him for four years, it’s her college years and I think it’s understandable that she’s reluctant to let that go.

Anderson: I have a hard time separating my dislike of Marnie from my dislike of Allison Williams. As an actor, Williams is the weakest of the four leads. Then again, maybe the way Marnie stirs up this rage inside of me indicates that she’s actually doing a decent job of portraying this character.

Murphy: Shall we talk about the abortion party?

Anderson: Why is Marnie even throwing an abortion for Jessa? I would understand her throwing an abortion for Hannah–Hannah’s her best friend, as we learned in episode 1–but Marnie doesn’t even like Jessa, and vice versa. Is anyone so much of a control freak that they would plan an abortion for an acquaintance they can hardly stand? 

The best part for me was Shoshanna’s entrance to the party, with her bag of candy from Dylan’s Candy Bar? She also delivered my favorite line of the episode: “Hey. A little bird told me you are getting an STD test. Fun.”  Zosia Mamet’s delivery of these insanely out-of-touch lines never fails to crack me up.

Krule: Better:”You get to have sex and then have a test about it.”

Murphy: My favorite line was definitely, “How could she ruin the beautiful abortion that she threw?”

Harris: Here’s mine:

S: “Haven’t you seen Rent?” 

M: “Please, I’ve seen it like 12 times, it’s basically why I moved to New York.”

Krule: Speaking of the “beautiful” abortion party, does anyone else find it off-putting how much they use that adjective? Everything and everyone seems to be beautiful.

Harris: “Beautiful” is to Girls what “fabulous” was to SATC–that word was all over that show, rather tediously (I’m currently re-watching the entire series again).

Anderson: Didn’t Marnie say “You’re beautiful; stop it” to Hannah in episode 1 when Hannah implied that she was unattractive in the bathtub? I think it’s the kind of thing women say when they’re validating the living shit out of one another.

Rachael Larimore: We haven’t talked about Jessa. She’s quickly becoming my favorite character. What about everyone else?

Anderson: I also love Jessa! But do we believe that she’d order a White Russian? I guess it was 1:00 in the afternoon ….

Speaking of which, I love how she told the bartender, “These things never start on time” when she realized she was late to her abortion. 

Murphy: And have we ever before seen a makeout scene with period blood where the woman was not mortified?

Harris: Her reaction to finding out she’s not (or no longer) pregnant was incredibly refreshing. I also loved when her and Hannah were talking about the article that tells women that sex from behind is a bad thing (will get the exact context later), and she says, “What if I want  to feel like I have udders? This woman doesn’t care what I want.” That solidified my until-then wavering appeal for Jessa.

Anderson: Actually, one thing I wondered when I watched this episode for the first time was whether Jessa had just been lying to Hannah and Marnie about being pregnant in order to get attention. Now that I’ve re-watched it, I think she genuinely thought she was pregnant–but did anyone else have the same thought?

Krule: I can’t really see Jessa lying about this–about being somewhere when she’s supposed to yes–she seems like the person who would say exactly what she wants/thinks with complete disregard for how it would affect anyone. See her advice to Hannah in the first episode.

Rosin: At the end of the episode, I know Im supposed to agree with that obgyn who says: “You couldn’t pay me enough to be 24 again.” But watching this show, I really don’t. To be able to luxuriate in that kind of endlessly looping neuroticism, well, it seems like a beautiful thing  to me. In fact, I am starting to see this show less and less in generational terms and more in terms of a certain kind of sensibility which I completely relate to.

Murphy: Hanna, you are obviously nothing like Hannah.

See how the guys of Slate respond to the girls over on Brow Beat