Guys on Girls, Season 2

Does Lena Dunham Think We Live in a Post-Racial World?
Talking television.
Jan. 20 2013 9:23 PM

Guys on Girls, Season 2

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Does Hannah really think we live in a post-racial world?

Lena Dunham and Donald Glover.
Lena Dunham and Donald Glover.

Photo by Jessica Miglio/HBO

David Haglund: Forrest, before Season 2 began you were concerned that Adam Sackler (Adam Driver) might take over Girls in the way that “Dumbass Homer” has occasionally overwhelmed The Simpsons. This episode concluded with Adam shouting “I’m craaazy” as he was hauled down a Brooklyn staircase in handcuffs. So: fears realized?

Forrest Wickman: No, not really. I’m less worried now about his character overwhelming the show—though I’m still a little worried about that—than I am about his character’s mental health. Post-Hannah, he seems to be going all Kübler-Ross, from denial (episode 1) to anger (the “album,” which was zany) to bargaining (for a glass of milk). That puts depression up next. Do you think we need to worry about him hurting himself? Or will he continue on living his man-life?

Haglund: He does seem a tad unstable. But I’m not too worried. Also, the “album” scene was probably one of the top-five funniest scenes Girls has done so far. “You destroooy my heart. Thanks.”

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Wickman: Agree that that scene was amaze. (I also think you and Kois underestimated that term, which is wonderfully stupid.) But do you think that moment, and the Scream-ish moment that followed—he’s texting from inside the house!—fit into the world of the show? Like you guys last week, I’ve found the second season to be funnier so far, but also a bit too broad. (Also a little broad: the basket of puppies.)

Haglund: I bought it. Mostly because Driver can sell almost any dialogue, as far as I can tell. That speech at the end, about “living his man-life”? Not many actors could pull that off, I don’t think. But when he said that “to quit this pursuit would be to shirk self-respect and abandon my own manhood,” I went with it completely.

Wickman: Driver’s character has been all over the place so far, and he’s somehow made it all work. But the show itself seems a little unstable. Have you noticed all the continuity errors lately? And the distracting scenery censors that hover around Jemima Kirke’s pregnant belly? (In real life she’s not so shy.)

Haglund: I have not noticed those things. But then, continuity errors don’t generally bother me much. You were also worried before the season that the show wouldn’t be “as savvy about race as it was about class and gender.” So: fear realized?

Wickman: Not at all! This seemed like the big Episode Where Girls Addresses Its Critics, and I thought it did so pretty well.

Haglund: I thought Donald Glover managed to carry off the plausibility-stretching character of a black Republican who would meet-cute with Hannah Horvath in a Williamsburg coffee shop. And Dunham managed to sell her own questionable bit of dialogue, in which Hannah pretends to have never 1) heard of Missy Elliott or 2) noticed that her new boyfriend was black. It seems highly unlikely that—even in a fit of relationship-ending pique—a twenty-something Oberlin grad would try to pretend that she didn’t “see” color.

Wickman: That did seem a bit Stephen Colbert of her. But it also got at one of the ways the Obama generation—Hannah’s, and mine—tends to treat race. Which is to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Haglund: Do they treat it that way, really? You would probably know better than I do, since Bill Clinton was still president when I was in college.

Wickman: I’m just speaking from my own experience—in college, especially, where it sometimes seemed like everyone wanted to live in a post-racial world that we’re just not in yet. Maybe that’s nothing new, but I think it may be exaggerated in a generation that emerged by helping to elect the first black president.

And the Missy Elliott reference was a smart way for Dunham to suggest that Hannah was thinking about race, at least subconsciously, even though she wouldn’t admit it. It was exactly the right reference for her character; Hannah would have grown up with that song. I just hope that Glover—and the show’s treatment of race—isn’t a “One Minute Man.”

Haglund: Another thing Dunham got criticized for during Season 1 was being the product of “nepotism,” because apparently HBO is always handing out sitcoms to the daughters of acclaimed New York City artists. So it seemed like another eff you to her critics when her mom, Laurie Simmons, popped up as the owner of a gallery where Marnie (Allison Williams) has applied for a job. Simmons was good in Tiny Furniture, but seemed a little less sure of herself here—though the bit about the teabag was funny. And Williams was great again, nailing that line about her previous employer (“she’s not good at, uh, living”).

Wickman: That was a great line, but I’m still not as taken as you and Kois with the Marnie of Season 2. The weak link has gotten stronger, but she still reads as an actor effortfully playing a character, rather than as a character, full stop. You can see the seams in a way you can’t with, say, Zosia Mamet. (Mamet is a strong argument against the allegations of nepotism. Williams not so much.)

As for Simmons, I didn’t notice that was her, but I thought she was great! If someone’s right for the role, I don’t want Dunham to have to worry about whether they’re a friend or a relative.

Haglund: Agreed.

Wickman: Do you also agree that Williams’ character is still a little bit of a drag? She strikes me as mostly necessary grounding for the show—or to put it another way, a necessary bummer.

Haglund: Hmmm. Not anymore. I thought her exchanges with Elijah (Andrew Rannells) at the door of Hannah’s apartment were hilarious—as was his description of her outfit as that of “a slutty von Trapp child.”

Wickman: The outfits in this episode in general! What was that zip-up sleeping bag Hannah was wearing? And I wouldn’t complain if more scenes played out in front of Elijah’s rainbow-sorted closet.

Haglund: That’s quite the backdrop. But can we pick this up later? It’s just, I’ve got a meeting, so...

Wickman: I’m unposing.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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