A Nasty Guide to the Many Bathroom Scenes in Lena Dunham's Girls
Lena Dunham loves herself a good bathroom scene. She embraces the toilet, the shower, and the tub in a way few directors have before, incorporating these bathroom fixtures into some of the most emotional and revealing moments in the show. As the first season of Girls wraps on HBO, we offer this guide to interpreting her 11 most critical bathroom scenes in all their golden shower and cupcake-filled glory.
Key Line: “I never see you naked when you always see me naked, when it should actually be the other way around.” (Hannah) Toilet: No Nudity: Yes Guest Star: Cupcake Lesson: Don't let being in a bathroom stop you from comfort eating.
In the Girls pilot, Dunham immediately demonstrates the intimacy between Hannah and her best friend (and roommate) Marnie by showing them in the bathtub together. Hannah, nude, casually eats a cupcake while Marnie, strategically covered by a towel, shaves her legs. When Marnie’s boyfriend, Charlie, barges in on them, he quickly realizes his error and retreats—in this scene, the bathroom is a girls-only zone, a place to talk candidly about breasts and annoying boys.
Key Line: “I’d like for you to see a real high person.” (Jessa) Toilet: Yes Nudity: No Guest Star: Toilet paper roll Lesson: Peeing should be treated as casually as blinking.
Later in the pilot, after Hannah has downed opium tea and set off to ask her parents to continue to support her financially, Jessa and Marnie argue about Hannah in the most logical room for such matters: the bathroom. Jessa is sitting on the toilet, as poised as if she were on vintage fixie bicycle. Her elegant pee posture only serves to emphasize how cool and carefree she is compared to Marnie, who seems like an uptight shrew in this scene.
Key Line: “Don’t ask me that ever again in my life.” (Jessa) Toilet: No Nudity: No Guest Star: Menstrual blood Lesson: If you're confident enough, you can seduce a cute guy anywhere.
In Episode 2, Jessa stalls her abortion by going to a bar, ordering a White Russian, and hooking up with a floppy-haired stranger named Morgan in a graffiti-covered public bathroom. In this scene, Jessa revels in her desirability and sexual power. When Morgan discovers Jessa is bleeding—which she knows means she’s not pregnant after all—he seems bewildered and perhaps a bit disgusted, but Jessa merely smiles and kisses him again.
Key Line: “The first time I fuck you, I might scare you a little. Because I’m a man, and I know how to do things.” (Booth Jonathan) Toilet: No Nudity: No Guest Star: Marnie's pantyhose Lesson: If you're feeling horny but can't stand your boyfriend, the bathroom is always there for you.
That key line, delivered in Episode 3 by the boyish but confident artist Booth Jonathan, turns Marnie on so much that she has to absent herself from a work party to masturbate in the loo. This is the first time we’ve seen Marnie alone, and her self-pleasuring indicates a very different set of desires from those expressed previously. The bathroom is the only place good-girl Marnie can indulge her animalistic sexual urges, which is ironic, given that she’s derided the animalistic aspect of Hannah and Adam’s relationship.
Key Line: “You know what’s good for your skin? Sugar.” (Hannah’s co-worker) Toilet: No Nudity: No Guest Star: Eyebrow pencil Lesson: Don’t take beauty or sex tips from your co-workers.
In Episode 4, Hannah escapes to the bathroom at work to gossip with female co-workers. There, in Lena Dunham’s favorite room, Hannah’s co-workers admit that their boss gropes them, but that they put up with it because he’s generous with money and other favors. Hannah’s coworkers also begin critiquing her eyelids and skin; one of them begins making her up with an eyebrow pencil.
Key Line: “So this is where the party at?” (Katherine) Toilet: No Nudity: No Guest star: Jessa’s kimono Lesson: If you’re going to flirt with your boss, the bathroom is the most logical place to do it.
Jessa chooses the bathroom as the site for yet another seduction in Episode 5, when she applies lipstick, shimmies around in a kimono, and talks about her ex-boyfriend while her married boss, Jeff, looks on in amazement from the threshold of the room. When Jeff’s wife, Katherine, awkwardly interrupts the conversation, it comes out that Jessa has been using Katherine’s lipstick—which underscores Jessa’s betrayal of Katherine.
Key Line: “These things have an expiration date, OK?” (Adam) Toilet: Yes Nudity: No Guest Star: Empty toilet paper roll Lesson: The bathroom is the only place you can show your true feelings.
Later in the same episode, Hannah and Adam argue at Adam’s apartment, and Hannah is devastated to discover that Adam thinks their relationship is over, just as she was thinking it was strengthening. She retreats to the privacy of the bathroom, sits on the toilet and begins crying. At this point in their relationship, the bathroom is the only place in Adam’s apartment where Hannah can be emotionally vulnerable. Indeed, as soon as she emerges, she’s swept into a new, confusing sexual role-play in which her true feelings are hard to distinguish from her dominatrix persona.
Key Line: “Of course you’re embarrassed, because this is horribly embarrassing for everyone involved.” (Hannah) Toilet: No Nudity: Yes Guest Star: Peter Scolari ‘s penis Lesson: The symbolic power of the bathroom can be dangerous.
In Episode 6, Hannah, who is visiting her childhood home in Michigan for a weekend, comes home to discover her father passed out naked on the bathroom floor and her mother desperately trying to get him to come to. Her parents had been having sex in the shower when Tad slipped and hit his head. Symbolically, he has been knocked out by the emotional power of the bathroom. His wife and daughter make the best of the situation, helping him to his feet and out of the room that almost did him in.
Key Line: “Oh my God! You’re peeing on me!” (Hannah) Toilet: No Nudity: Yes Guest Star: Adam’s urine Lesson: Peeing on your girlfriend is a forgivable offense.
In Episode 8, a man finally opens up in the bathroom, so to speak, and the results aren’t pretty. (Our colleague Hanna Rosin described this incident as a “Psycho shower scene.”) In a move that represents both Adam’s overblown sense of his own masculinity and his total disregard for other people’s feelings, he follows Hannah into the shower and urinates on her despite her vigorous protestations. (For once, the bathroom is actually the most logical place for this encounter to take place—can you imagine if Adam had tried this in bed?) The golden shower becomes a point of contention between Hannah and Adam, but Hannah forgives him as soon as he apologizes—it’s hard to stay mad at Adam too long, even when he’s peed on you.
Key Line: “You think that everyone in the world is out to humiliate you; you’re like a big, ugly, fucking wound.” (Marnie) Toilet: No Nudity: No Guest Star: Marnie’s toothbrush Lesson: Toothbrushes are useful projectiles when you’re breaking up with your best friend.
In Episode 9, Hannah and Marnie have a blowup over their friendship and relationships with men. As Marnie brushes her teeth, Hannah accuses Marnie of wanting only "a boyfriend with a luxury rental" and accuses Marnie of harboring jealousy over her own newfound romantic happiness. The room that was once a place where girls could be girls has now become a zone of man-fueled conflict. Though Adam isn’t physically present, Hannah uses him as a weapon, citing his opinion of Marnie as though it’s gospel.
Key Line: “Do you feel like a real adult now?” (Hannah) “Mmm … yeah!” (Jessa) Toilet: Yes Nudity: No Guest star: Jessa’s flower crown Lesson: The best place to talk about rites of passage? The bathroom.
In the final bathroom scene of the season—which takes place after Jessa’s surprise wedding to dull venture capitalist Thomas John—Hannah lies on the floor of the bathroom, while Jessa (as in Episode 1) sits casually on the toilet, apparently enjoying the feeling of porcelain against her skin. “You’re so fucking gross lying there on the bathroom floor,” the new Mrs. John proclaims, apparently blind to the irony of this insult. Hannah’s full-body contact with the bathroom floor seems to indicate her yearning for a simpler time when girls could just hang out in the bathroom together, eating cupcakes, rather than worrying about marriage or adulthood.