The XX Factor

Girls on Girls: What’s With All the Peeing? And Cake?

Lena Dunham on Girls (HBO)

For the finale week we are joined by Jenni Konner, the executive producer of Girls.

Hanna Rosin: I have to say, our own Allison called it in last week’s dialogue. Jessa, she predicted, would end up more “conventional” than she seemed, possible even a “wealthy stay-at-home mom.” It seemed crazy to me last week and now here we are, watching her kiss the groom. A wedding is a fairly conventional way to tie up a season, especially one that includes a series of sudden, unlikely couplings. And yet this one stayed true to the subversive spirit of Girls. Most wedding finales don’t show the bride peeing, the bride’s cousin calling everyone “dumb whores” or the show’s main character chewed out by her boyfriend for being a “dumb bitch” and a “monster.” What did you all make of the impromptu nuptials?  

Allison Benedikt: I am vindicated! Though Jessa’s impromptu wedding wasn’t exactly what I was picturing when I talked about her future married-with-kids status last week. (I was more envisioning a house in the Hamptons 10 years down the line.)

Dana Stevens: Jessa marrying Thomas John was so out of left field, such a genuine season-ending shocker, that I’m still wondering (as Shoshanna suspected when Ray wooed her with the line “You vibrate to a very strange frequency”), “Am I being punked?” Is it possible the two-week courtship is some sort of a hoax (or at the very least a green-card scheme on Jessa’s part)? 

Laura Anderson: I love that idea, Dana! Maybe June’s questions about Jessa’s immigration status will finally be addressed.

I agree that the wedding was totally out of left field, but it worked for me. We know Jessa is impulsive; we know Thomas John loves beautiful women (though his other passions remain to be seen). (Also, who hasn’t dreamed of hearing those magic words?: “The first time we met, truthfully, I thought we were going to have a threesome with your friend Marnie. … I thought to myself that if I ever saw that crazy bitch again, I would make her my fucking wife.” Ah, romance.) I thought the wedding was also a reminder that intense dislike (which is what we saw the last time Jessa and Thomas John met) is in itself a kind of chemistry. Think also of the love-hate streak that runs through Hannah and Adam’s relationship, or Charlie and Marnie’s, for that matter.

Jenni Konner: In many ways I think of the wedding as a reaction to the speech that Katherine gave her in the previous episode. That’s Jessa’s interpretation of Katherine’s advice. It is out of left field for sure. But not unprompted. Jessa’s actions are usually, let’s say, untraditional, even if she is being “traditional” in the sense that she is getting married.

Meghan O’ Rourke: I thought the nuptials worked brilliantly—doesn’t everyone know someone who got impulse-married in their 20s? And I bought that it would be Jessa. Though in an hourlong show, there would have been time for more build-up, a few more clues thrown the viewers’ way of Jessa’s back-and-forth on this one. But it works especially well against the backdrop of Hannah/Adam’s fight. There’s a special poignancy to experiencing relationship turmoil at weddings: They either make you want to run blindly forward into your own love affair, or leave you saying, “Am I doing the right thing?” (One might think the details of this particular ceremony would leave Hannah all the more sure of Adam—on the other hand, easy to be reminded that small decisions have big consequences.)

Anderson: I also thought Jessa’s decision to marry Thomas John was typical of her behavior throughout the season: She seems to love male attention, and Thomas John’s (sorry; can’t stop saying his full name) infatuation with her seems totally like the kind of thing she’d get off on. (I also thought the hilarious post-wedding soundtrack—beginning with Lady’s “Yankin’”—echoed the way Jessa revels in her own sexual desirability.)

Rosin: It was particularly excellent to watch Marnie dance to “This Pussy Be Yankin.’ ”

Konner: When we shot the wedding, we did play back “Yankin’” many many times and it was pretty great to be able to walk around on set and hear the crew singing the phrase “this pussy be yankin” without realizing the words that were stuck in their heads.

I really loved Marnie in this episode. She has been so buttoned up and I love the feeling that she is really letting go, even if it’s kind of false. Like how I stop gossiping for about a week right after Yom Kippur, she is really going nonjudgemental and it makes me laugh.

Also, I will also tell you immigration is not a factor in the wedding. And I would like to mention I am on set filming a peeing scene as we speak.

Stevens: I hope Girls will become known for its varied use of peeing scenes. There have been a couple of great ones already: Hanna crying on the toilet at Adam’s after he told her “I’m done growing, kid”; Marnie and Jessa’s faceoff about what being a “best friend” means in the first episode. 

Anderson: I should probably mention that I’m working on a slide show of bathroom scenes from Girls to be published after the season finale. There are so many good ones, and they are rich with meaning!

Rosin: I should probably mention that I am peeing right now.

Stevens: With the preliminary disclaimer that I am an avowed Hannah/Adam ‘shipper, there were a couple of moments between them in this episode that felt wrong, out of character, particularly for him. I can believe the idea that the commitment-averse Adam (who, as he puts it, got “chased like the Beatles for six months”) suddenly becomes fiercely passionate once he goes all-in. But this episode changed the way Adam talked. Suddenly his customary oblique bursts of self-expression became articulate, mature-sounding sentences about “the long haul” that just didn’t seem like something Adam, however strongly he suddenly felt toward Hannah, would say. Similarly, the ADD freakazoid we just saw at the Bushwick party two episodes ago, dancing with Hannah by manically lifting her backpack up and down, transformed awfully fast into someone who interrupts her Beyonce imitation with a request that she “save some of that for later.”

Benedikt: I felt the same, Dana. Like Adam had walked out of a different show. I mean, I definitely bought his emotional reaction to the wedding—he is a man full of feeling—and I maybe would have bought him “playing grown-up” (like, moving in with Hannah for fun). But not being grown-up.

Rosin: I took that to be Adam’s wedding mode. Adam takes things very very seriously and why should wedding be any exception? So he was rising to the solemnity of the occasion,
saying Buddha-like phrases like: “Time is a rubber band.”

Anderson: I was baffled by this line: “Time is a rubber band.” What do you think he meant by that?

Stevens: That was one line that did ring Adam-esque to me, a faux-Zen koan sort of on the order of Keanu Reeves’ “There is no spoon” in The Matrix. It was in response to Hannah observing that the wedding was coming awfully fast, so I assume all he mean is that duration is immaterial if you’re in love. 

Konner: We were always building toward this fight with Hannah and Adam. Hannah has always been a character who doesn’t always want what she thinks she wants. We’ve seen examples of it with jobs she has had and even in smaller ways with Adam earlier in the season in their push and pull. I also think Adam is a man of huge extremes and it’s a little nuts that he talks about moving in with her so quickly. It’s not as simple as she rejects him because he likes her.

Benedikt: I don’t think we’re supposed to think she’s in love with him (are we Jenni?? Tell us all your secrets!!). I read the relationship as her taking steps to live a certain kind of life—to do what she thinks is necessary to be an adult. To stop fucking up.

Rosin:I also read that fight as resistance to the usual rom-com ending. Lena Dunham has talked about how false she finds such narrative arcs, where the girl is entirely motivated by chasing the ring. Here was a compressed rush towards that ending and Hannah had to put the brakes on it, pause and figure out if ending up with Adam was going to get in the way of something else she wanted to do.

Konner: I think that’s right. I think Hannah cares very much about her work and thinks everything else comes after it. If she slows down and has a true romance, will her work suffer?

Anderson: Not to overwhelm you with questions, Jenni, but one of the developments I found most surprising (but also very, very sweet) was Shoshanna and Ray’s burgeoning relationship. His speech to her in this episode (“You vibrate on a very strange frequency”) was about 10 times more genuinely romantic than Thomas John’s to Jessa. Did you always know they were going to get together, or was it decided once everyone involved in making the show witnessed the chemistry between Zosia Mamet and Alex Karpovsky?

Konner: I cannot remember exactly when we made the choice but it certainly had a lot to do with seeing those characters interact. They are both so specific and obviously very different, but one thing they have in common is that they are both so extremely opinionated. We couldn’t wait to see what happened when these very extreme personalities interacted.

I will say I continue to be shocked every day by Lena’s vision and talent. She literally learns something one day and by the next day is writing and shooting a scene about it. She processes information into actual story and scenes in the time it takes most people, say, 15 years. It’s a very exciting thing to be able to witness.

Rosin: A question for you, Jenni: How conscious are you guys about Sex and the City  references/spoofs? What are everyone’s actual feelings about SATC? We had a theory that Lena Dunham was killing off Carrie in the episode where she went back home, but it was just a theory.

Konner: That was a theory. But keep em coming! The call out to SATC in the pilot was just letting everyone know we were aware of the importance that show holds at both HBO and basically in most of the world. It was not meant to be snarky even though some people took it that way. Every single one of the writers of the last season had seen every single episode. I think our show would not exist without that show. But that being said, we are talking about a very different time in women’s lives and for us, that’s the most important distinction. But we’ve talked so much about it that we all thought it was best if the SATC poster came down this season.

Stevens: May I permit myself the obvious insight that killing off one’s spiritual predecessor is hardly incongruous with loving it?

Anderson: Another pressing question: I would someday like to develop a unified theory of cake on Girls: cupcakes in the bathtub, cake pops on the dance floor, fuckable petits fours, cake in cleavage, cake on the beach. (The top moment of the episode for me was Adam deeply inhaling the scent of a cake pop in the background while Marnie and Charlie flirt awkwardly with each other.) What is the meaning of all this cake?

Rosin: I was very appreciative of all the self conscious cake-snarfing in this episode. That always struck me as the most bizarre uncomfortable Monty Python-esque moment of any wedding when the couple feeds each other cake. The Bridesmaids closing credit had a similar riff on gorging and sex, only it was with a giant Subway sandwich.

Konner: It’s very complex. We all love cake.

Stevens: Do you all agree that the closing montage, of Hannah falling asleep on the train, getting her purse stolen, and waking up on Coney Island at dawn to eat a piece of Jessa’s leftover wedding cake on the beach, was a sublime season ender? Having a few moments of dialogue-free quiet with this character we’ve gotten to know and (speaking for myself) love over the course of 10 episodes somehow felt just right—and left me me a little pang about how much I’m going to miss this chick while she’s gone.

Benedikt: I also loved that scene, and not just because of the quiet, but also because of New York. There were moments this season when I felt like Bushwick was sort of pretend Bushwick, but that last scene of her getting on the F at York Street (presumably to connect to the G?) and then ended up at the Coney Island stop, in all its dreary glory—that moved me.

Anderson: I totally agree, Dana. I’m definitely going to miss Hannah. Everyone else is a dumb whore.

Rosin: You know I have fallen asleep on that very same train and also had my purse stolen, also on the wee hours after a break-up. And my response was to kick the subway door in fury and then break my toe. Which made Hannah’s total calm all the more affecting for me. No crying, no processing, no calling the police. Just sand and cake. 

O’Rourke: That scene—the shouting across the tracks, the quality of light—had a mournful, elegiac tone. You could imagine it as suitable ending if the show hadn’t gotten to keep going. There are many moments, like this one, where I really feel the city as a presence, a character—something we haven’t talked about much.

Konner: It’s funny because just today we were joking that in our show Manhattan is not a character and that we are writing hate mail instead of a love letter to NYC. We tend to be unsentimental about the city. That beach shot was one of our few real beauty shots of the season. That said, Jody Lee Lipes, our first-season DP, created a beautiful, real look for the show that I love. It’s just not like, lingering on autumn leaves near the Empire State Building.

Stevens: Jody Lee Lipes has an amazing eye for the parts of New York City you don’t often see on TV. And it’s because the city isn’t generally romanticized in the show that that lyricism of that Coney Island montage felt right, and earned.

Anderson: Thanks for joining us, Jenni! I think I speak for all of us when I say we will be awaiting Season 2 with bated breath.

Stevens: Till then, back to my fanfic opus.

Read what the guys of Slate think of the season finale over at Brow Beat.