Five Essay Prompts for Girls 2×6: ‘Boys’

Boys (illustration by  Alex Bedder)

Boys (Illustration by Alex Bedder)

These questions regard last night’s episode of HBO’s Girls. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. The title of this episode, “Boys,” is clearly meant to be read as a contrast with the name of the show, and though it spends a lot of time with Hannah and Marnie as well, it certainly gives us a fuller picture of three of Girls’s male characters. Given this theme, what is the implication of the episode’s opening scene, which features John Cameron Mitchell, an artist well known for gender-bending, but here playing a fairly straight role?

I also loved the Hedwig cameo! Though I don’t think it had any subversive meaning in relation to the show’s title. Much like all the cameos this season (Rita Wilson, Patrick Wilson, AndrewAndrew, Donald Glover) Mitchell’s appearance was a tad haphazard. Almost random. Apparently every older person in the world wants to be on Girls, so it’s hard to read too much into these guest appearances. Strangely, we haven’t seen anyone playing themselves–outside AndrewAndrew, who didn’t have any lines–in that corny Saturday Night Live trope, or even in that less corny Curb Your Enthusiasm fashion. Maybe if David Mitchell comes along playing Jessa’s dad, but as David Mitchell, we could transcend into some meta-commentary. But I’m pretty sure from next week’s previews that’s not happening.

2. Based on what you know about Ray, Shosh and their relationship, why does she ask him whether the character in Little Women his godmother compared him to was Marmie or Amy (the mother and the youngest daughter), rather than, say, Jo? And why does Hannah suggest he is the father who dies of influenza, rather than Beth, who dies of scarlet fever?

Well obviously, Ray would be Jo, the hot-tempered one. But the fact that both Hannah and Shosh see Ray as a parental figure is a pretty big clue: not only do they still view him as the “responsible adult” (despite his cries to the contrary, which I guess we’ll just ignore, like Ray ignored Hannah’s quitting in last week episode), but as a provider as well. The funny subtext here is that Robert March is a lot like Ray: he was a scholar, there was an implication of debt and the impression that he was mooching off his friends’ charity. So … if the shoe fits!

Hannah’s comment is meant derisively: “First of all, you’re not a Marmie. You’re probably the dad, who died of influenza at the war.” She’s trying to drop some gangsta Louisa May Alcott knowledge on him. Like “You’re the dad, not the mom, idiot!” The reason Beth isn’t brought up is because she’s not an older, parochial character. For someone who is supposed to think outside the box (or, uh, her comfort zone), Hannah stubbornly refuses to cast aside gender roles when assigning her friends characters from a book. Hope she does better with her own! Oh God, do you think her ebook will be called Girls?!

3. Why does Ray shout, “I live in Brooklyn!” as his parting shot in his fight with the Staten Island girl? In his interpretation of Staten Island as a metaphor, Ray calls it an island full of people looking longingly at Manhattan but unable to get there; couldn’t the same thing be said of Brooklyn? What does Brooklyn represent for Ray?

I noticed that too, re: Ray’s Staten Island metaphor being applicable to Brooklyn. But in Ray’s mind, I think, Manhattan is too corporate and soulless (have we ever seen him in the city?), and he has a lot of Brooklyn pride for being anti-establishment and full of people with “meaty ideas” like Adam and himself.

His parting shot was in response to that amazing woman’s line, “Go back to Yogurt Town, kike!” which is based on his shirt, which does read “Yogurt Town.” What’s striking isn’t that he corrected her on the nonsensical apparel-based diss, but that he immediately jumped on the Jewish slur, and responded not by being offended that she used such a horrible word, but by explaining that he’s not Jewish. (“I’m Greek Orthodox!”)

That being said, I am going to start referring to Williamsburg as Yogurt Town from now on. Though, hmmm … Manhattan has a lot more of those Red Mangos and Tasti D-Lites and other bullshit fro-yo places than BK. Maybe that’s why Ray needs to counter her attack with Brooklyn pride.

4. Adam says that Hannah is a good person, she just has her own ideas of right and wrong. Can there be said to be such a thing as a moral foundation in Girls, or do the characters make it up as they go along? Moral quandaries to consider: stealing a dog because its owner seemed to be treating it badly and it licked your face; firing your assistant because she tasted your ice cream; asking the naked girl in your bed to back you up on the moral rightness of this firing; doing so without telling said naked girl that you have had (or possibly are still having) sex with the assistant too.

Hoooooold up there. I don’t think a moral foundation on the show can be proved or disproved by the house of cards that is Booth Jonathan’s huffiness. (Although I did have a long debate with myself about the ice cream issue: like, if you were someone’s cleaning person, would it be acceptable to take a bite out of newly bought rosewater ice cream? No, right? But personal assistant is such a malleable line … it’s an intimate enough position that your boss can have sex with you and give you orders while lying naked in bed, but it’s unacceptable for you to have a nosh at his place? On the other, other hand, I think I’d be a little grossed out if I opened my groceries and there were chunks taken out of my food. Especially because that girl was also pretty heinous about the scenario. She could have just said “Yeah, I guess that is weird, sorry!” but instead acted self-righteous enough to quit over it. She must really love Carly Rae Jepsen.)

As for the characters’ “morality?” I think they abide by more of a philosophy of interpersonal ethics. Hence, stealing a dog isn’t wrong, until a friend (or acquaintance) yells at you and makes you feel bad about it. Like how Elijah and Marnie’s sexcapades wasn’t “wrong” to them for the normal reasons–he’s gay! He’s dating someone!–but is considered bad only in how it affects their relationship with Hannah. More to the point: only feeling bad when you “get caught” is a warning sign for sociopaths and narcissists, of which Girls has many.

5. Imagine for a moment that you are Mikey the dog, but you can understand every word that is said in front of you. With whom do you end up identifying more closely, Ray or Adam? What does your doggy mind think their argument is really about?

“Bacon? Are they fighting over bacon? Is ‘Hannah’ a code word for bacon? It has to be. Why else would these two men-boys yelling at each other over bitches? There are enough bitches in the world. This is definitely not about bitches or bacon … but damn, I really hope I didn’t give Adam my rabies. Or does he always act like that? What are ‘graffiti cut-offs’?

You know what? I couldn’t really care less about these ridiculous humans and their white people problems. I’m not even a person. This argument does not reflect the barks of my generation at all.”