Girls, Season 2, Episode 7: “Video Games”
Written by Bruce Eric Kaplan and Lena Dunham
Directed by Richard Shephard
Original air date: February 24, 2013
In an episode totally in the spirit of season 1’s “The Return”, this week’s episode of Girls sees Jessa and Hannah take a little trip to the countryside to meet with Jessa’s father. Jessa is clearly feeling the emotional weight of divorce far more than she had anticipated and is spurred to visit her somewhat alienated father due to a cryptic message she receives from him (it is, most likely, a butt text). Her character seems to be at an opposite point of where she was just one year ago. Her lifestyle which was free-wheeling and adventurous now seems tired – almost tortured. She brings Hannah along on this search for emotional support from her somewhat alienated father, as a “cushion” to soften the conflict of the situation.
It becomes quite apparent that though Jessa’s childhood shaped her into the free-spirit she has become, the sort of laissez-fair – almost careless upbringing has left deep emotional scars. Shedding light on Jessa’s confusing marriage, we understand her impulse to settle down as a sort of revolution against her father’s own apparent disavowal of fidelity and responsibility. There is a tense song and dance at play in the dynamic of their relationship as they seem to take turns taking the lead and to follow, each disapproving of the other’s style of dance. In contrast with the relationship that Hannah has with her parents, where the roles between parent and child are quite clearly defined, here they are far more ambiguous. Jessa and her father are equals, not only in how similar they seem to be, but in the very nature of their relationship. They are less father and daughter, then two friends torn apart by time and neglect. Jessa seems to be at a turning point in her life, where she is searching for the stability of labels and social conventions as a means of pulling her through an apparent crisis of identity, hoping her father will fill that void.
Hannah has an interesting role within this episode, as she is clearly ill at ease within this universe. Hannah is more neurotic here then she has been all season, and every moment seems to be prepared to send her into a panic attack. Though one could easily assume Hannah is merely uncomfortable with this setting, one has the sense that her mind is elsewhere. She is physically present to support Jessa, but her mind seems pre-occupied with “back home” where she has an e-book waiting to be written. Her insecurities take complete hold of her, and in contrast with early episodes, her willingness to commit to new adventures and experiences seems forced. She desires to maintain her passion for experience, but seems involved in emotional compulsions that prevent her from detaching them from their human consequences. This could have been a perfect opportunity for relative anonymity as far as sex and drugs, but she seems unnaturally concerned with both her own pleasures and comfort.
Could it be that the Girls are growing up? And what does that really mean? It seems in our media culture, in recent decades we are proliferated with images and icons of the immortal child. This is most obviously portrayed in the man-boy syndrome that seems to be at the heart of nearly every comedy these days, but women are not immune either. For women, the stereotype is a little different and is mostly focused on escaping aging. As far as recent films go, Judd Apatow’s This is 40 portrays one of the more compelling examples of women going through a state of crisis and while it is largely centered on the loss of youth and beauty, the female contrast of youthful fun and carelessness with the “mom” character is far closer to the current trajectory of Girls. Women are not just afraid of losing their status of beauty, but perhaps most importantly their desirability and sense of recklessness. With the proliferation of the errant and child-like male, the older women get the more likely they are to be portrayed as slave drivers attempting to work out the errant youth of their male partners. This also harkens back to the episode “Boys” in which Adam and Ray converse about the benefits of dating younger women, basically confirming the impulse to stagnate their social trajectory. This makes a particular interesting contrast to Hannah’s 8 second fling this episode with Jessa’s half-brother, and how gender, sex and age are intimately connected.
With just three episodes left in the season, it will be interesting to see how far all the characters will come from the pilot episode, and the implications of their ability to change or not. This episode is relatively understated in comparison with some of the high energy and high stakes adventures we’ve had so far, and it comes at a potential turning point in the series. It might very well be the quiet before the storm. An episode like this serves as a counter-point to the apparent privilege of the characters, suggesting the rather complex wheels that make society run are far more than orchestrations of control or a symptom of our fear of chaos. The desire to settle down and have a family straddles a fine line between nature and nurture, and the work of answering questions of convention is becoming an increasingly compelling point of argument. Lena Dunhma’s decision to equate these quests and desires with video games is very much in vogue in terms of academic discourse these days, and gives a fascinating structure for these arguments. Though a bit under baked, it will hopefully open up a new set of possibilities and adventures in the future.