I am one episode away from finishing season 3 of Girls.
To be honest, I have not been a huge fan of this season, until recently. The first half of the season seemed to lack the mastery that seasons 1 and 2 oozed. There was a floundering, a lack of intentionality and focus, that bugged me. I kept watching, of course, because I love Lena, and I love what the show tries to accomplish. Even in its failures, it is still one of the most interesting shows on television at the moment.
However, around halfway through this season, things coalesced. The show found its groove again. And it found its groove with flair. And it has nothing to do with the ambivalent way Lena takes off her clothes or the show’s ironically funny portrayals of millennials and their angst.
As Duana writes on Canadian gossip blog Lainey Gossip, “I continue to feel like this is the first season that Girls wanted to have. The things they’re dealing with are quasi-standard fare for a show like this, it’s just that it took this long to do them well. I want to be mad at some of those floundering first efforts but how can I when we’ve arrived here?”
And it’s true. While some of the romantic tropes I loved in seasons 1 and 2 are absent (since Hannah and Adam’s stable relationship does not lend itself as well to entertainment value), the show has continued to explore the struggles of finding adulthood and discovering your voice.
One of the most compelling themes of the show is what it means to be an artist in an American society (in an American city) that is not terribly hospitable to unconventional career paths. How does one pursue an artistic career when everything — from rent to parents — is telling you that it is a horrible and impractical idea and when are you going to get a real job, anyway?
Poor Hannah wants to be a writer. Poor Hannah wants to be, if not the voice of her generation, then at least a voice of her generation. And yet poor Hannah cannot seem to make it happen. A coffee shop job does not pay the bills. A magazine job sucks too much of her soul, leaving too little time for the writing that matters. And the only editor who believes in her dies, leaving her book deal stuck somewhere between purgatory and oblivion.
Hannah perseveres, despite. She sticks to her dream of being a legitimate writer, even though the amount of time and thought she devotes to talking about writing and figuring out how to make this career happen far exceeds the time we actually see her writing), and even though those around her (Marnie, Adam, Ray) seem to be making headway in exactly the directions they want to go while she stalls and stalls some more.
But Marnie and Adam are lucky. They are the exceptions while Hannah is the rule. Because most of us are Hannahs. Most of us are figuring out how to pay the rent while not sacrificing what we love. Most of us are figuring out what kind of artists we want to be and what it is we want to say (and how) while the rest of the world expects practicality and certitude and reliable rent payments.
It is not merely, as Duana writes, that “Girls has somehow managed to show the unending indignity of feeling like you’re a creative person while not actually being a creative person for a day job,” but that it has encapsulated the struggle of what it means to want desperately to make a difference, to feel stifled by a culture that emphasizes immediate gratification and entertainment over authenticity and integrity. To search constantly for a way outside the default, to craft a career in the liminal spaces otherwise ignored. And it is in this way that Hannah is, in fact, a voice of her generation.