Hannah Horvath, the central character of HBO’s Girls who is played by the show’s creator Lena Dunham, is one of the most self-involved, immature people on television. Although theoretically independent, she still relies on her parents for support—albeit less explicitly these days than in earlier seasons—and, as we’ve seen in the last few episodes, she’s still oblivious to some basic realities of adult life. She seems unaware, for example, that it’s a bad idea for a teacher at a private school to befriend one of her teenage pupils, and she sees no problem with heading off-campus to get a piercing with Cleo, her new bestie-slash-student, and texts the kid all weekend about her personal problems. In Sunday’s episode, though, Hannah displayed surprising maturity when confronted with surprising news about her father’s sexuality.
Last week, Hannah’s dad, Tad, told his wife, Lorena, that he is gay. The realization came after a productive couples therapy session and on the heels of Lorena getting tenure at the university where they both work. At the end of the episode, Lorena blurted out the news to Hannah in a telephone call, and last night, Tad visited his daughter in New York.
Hannah’s initial response is to say the right things—that she’s proud of Tad and worried about her mom. She expresses gratitude that her parents stayed together for so long—longer than most of her friends’, she says—and offers her dad some real talk when he suggests that he and Lorena might still stay married: “So you finally have the courage to come out of the closet, and you’re going to stay married to a woman? That makes no fucking sense.” She’s right, but Tad doesn’t take the truth telling well—calling her “a child, basically” and denying that she has any special insight because she once had a sexual relationship with a gay man.
The strange thing is that she’s probably right: Hannah’s relationship with Elijah, her gay ex, is somewhat masochistic, but her involvement with Elijah and his circle, and her life in New York City, has almost certainly given her more exposure to the gay world than Tad has experienced in East Lansing, Michigan. Nevertheless, she’s shaken up by the news, and upset when Cleo tells her she needs to “check her homophobia.” Hannah whines to the principal—who has summoned her into his office to remind her of the importance of boundaries after she gets into a verbal tussle with Cleo in the school hallway—that she’s being judged for her response to the news: “It’s not a homophobic thing. It’s just imagining your parent in a sexual situation of any kind. It’s brutalizing.”
Later in the episode, Hannah confronts Elijah (Andrew Rannells) and Tad (Peter Scolari), who she feels are being insufficiently considerate of her feelings. Everyone (other than her mom) is demanding that she be cool and understanding, lest she come off as homophobic, but that isn’t fair. “I’m trying to be cool about this thing, but you are not making this easy,” she tells them. “You’re my dad. I don’t want to hear about you having sex with anyone. … And I don’t want like to be made to feel like some self-involved asshole because I’m a little discombobulated.” Expressing feelings honestly, rather than mouthing right-on platitudes, is a real sign of maturity. Her dad may be on the path to becoming a daddy, but along the way Hannah is turning into an adult.