Five Essay Prompts for GIRLS 3×4 : ‘Dead Inside’

Illustration via Alex Bedder.

Illustration via Alex Bedder.

These questions regard last night’s episodes 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. Okay, so Hannah is a little budding sociopath because she can only see her editor David’s death in terms of what it will do to her eBook sales. Though as quickly as we’d love to dismiss Hannah as a cold-blooded asshole, she does have a point when she’s talking to Ray when she tells him, “There’s more than one way to process something.”

If we’re going to get judgmental up in this bitch, is Hannah’s reaction to David’s death any less pathological than her friends’ desire to see Hannah “mourning quietly” for it? Consider: Caroline’s gleeful lies (which Hannah than co-opts); Ray’s anger; Jessa’s blase-ness; Adam’s “fear”; Laird’s ability to feel way, way too deeply about anyone’s death…even that of a made-up character?

This is yet another example of the writers of GIRLS wanting to have it both ways. They want Hannah to be both realistic and insane, sympathetic and also entirely narcissistic. But there is a huge, huge gulf between thinking that everyone processes death in different ways and that it is not crazy to be numb and unfeeling in the wake of the shock of someone’s death on the one hand, and on the other hand thinking that is somehow OK to voice aloud, within earshot of other humans, that your main feeling about the death of someone you were ostensibly close to is how it will affect you and your career. Even if this was a momentary thought — and one that may be natural for anyone to have (especially given the unnervingly awkward way in which Hannah found out about David’s death) — it takes a special kind of person to think “Hm, I should be honest about this feeling, it is not weird at all to say this to my friends.” This is more than a different way to process your feelings. This is thinking your feelings trump all decency. It’s gross, and Ray and Adam react entirely appropriately to its grossness.

I am intruiged by the way in which Adam has slowly become the moral center of GIRLS. When he says that he’s not mad at Hannah, but he is afraid, he is voicing the most reasonable possible response to having a sociopath in your life. Which, considering he grew up with Caroline, the only other character in the episode whose response is pathological, makes perfect sense.

2. Let’s talk about this whole Jezebel/Gawker commentary, which we can safely guarantee was written before that disgusting bounty that Jezebel put on Lena’s head. (She’s just super prescient and/or Jezebel is just super predictable?) Which scathing indictment masquerading as a Hannah Horvath’s defense of a Nick Denton property hits the closest to home, and why? (Feel free to use the title itself, “Goings Goings gone: Publishing’s most flamboyant player makes a water-logged exit worthy of a Bret Easton Ellis character.”)

Follow-up question: In what Golden Age era is this parallel-Gawker being published, and who is writing the post?

It is rather strange that the show seems to be talking about a version of Gawker that used to exist almost a decade ago but no longer does. It is hard to imagine Adam getting upset about Hannah getting her news from today’s Gawker; who under the age of 30 doesn’t get some of their news from Gawker or blogs like it these days?

Yes, sure, there is a still a snarky edge to its reporting that is absent from mainstream publications, and yes, it may not be the most respectful way to look into someone’s death, but it may have been the first (or even only) outlet reporting on this tragedy. This critique, and the headline, are pretty much a straw man, and make it seem like someone just has a decade-old axe to grind.

Not that I can blame them. That old version of Gawker (still alive in some sense in the cabal that is the Gawker comment threads; see question #3 below) was so terrible, insidery and self-congratulatory, expanding the very small New York media world into its own universe around which all else orbited, that I could barely stand to read it (and thus have no memory of any of its bylines).

Which then starts to make sense, at least thematically. That old Gawker was exactly like Hannah, and would have been precisely where such a media-narcissist got her news. Too bad the reference is so out of date, or that would actually have been very clever.

3. Write comments about David’s deaths from three of Hannah’s “e-friends” on Jezebel. Feel free to add GIFS, if necessary.

Supposing Hannah’s taste in e-friends is not superior to her taste in real-life friends, you’d probably get a heady mix of snark and smarm. So a couple like this: “I met David Pressler-Goings at an industry party in ’09, and he was the most lovely raconteur, had only nice things to say about my DVF dress and my writing. He will be sorely missed.”

And then a few of these: “Not to speak ill of the dead, but he and his ilk have been over for years. What have we read from these guys lately that isn’t outmoded in a hundred ways? Old farts think they still know how to get down.”

swag Five Essay Prompts for <em>GIRLS</em> 3x4 : ‘Dead Inside’

(Followed by a thread of people yelling at this poster for being insensitive and/or defending his sentiments/choice of GIFs.)

And then, of course, the obligatory: “Missed headline opportunity: Twink in the Drink.”

4. As someone who cries way more when someone dies on TV than in real life (generally! And only because IRL doesn’t have the narrative arcs of scripted shows!), I find it totally unrealistic that Jessa would care that much about Season or her death/Jesus-like resurection. Here’s a girl who couldn’t get through a whole conversation about her cousin’s non-grief (“The group didn’t have room for two practical yet goofy girls”) over a friend’s death before she forgot that her cousin had a friend who died; what are the chances the woman who doesn’t believe in linear time would even remember one of Season’s friend’s phone numbers?

Whereas Hannah’s “time to process” reads just as fake to me as the story she tells to convince Adam that she has feelings, Jessa seems like a really good example of someone who pretends to be unfeeling but reacts with actual emotion once things sink in. Jessa’s “I didn’t really hear what you said, so much that I forget within the same conversation” may be a comic bit, but realistically, it seems more of a cultivated pose on Jessa’s part than a real lack of attention (as does her ridiculous and self-serving assertion that she experiences time a different way from the rest of us). And whether or not she is “listening” to her cousin, her words do register enough that she decides to go visit Season’s grave. (Can we take a moment to appreciate how good that name choice is? Just on the Mother Goddess edge of being a hippie-weirdo name, but off-kilter enough to work for an old drug buddy. Kudos, writers.)

And the same delayed reaction seems to be happening with her experience in rehab. While there she was flinty and uncaring, but her desire to mourn Season, and her very raw reaction to seeing her and understanding why she did what she did, reveals Jessa in something like a process of changing. Dare we say it, one of the characters on GIRLS may be getting some kind of an arc. Or an arc that does not involve running toward or from a man, but instead actually changing inside.

5. What is the legit saddest thing about this episode? That David died? That Hannah was unable to grieve? That Hannah lied about grieving? Or that Adam probably recognizes Hannah’s fake-story about her dead cousin as just the sort of twisted parable his sister would tell? Or Marnie quitting Ray’s over her YouTube video?

Be sure to answer in a made-up Kübler-Ross Model.

Well, taking just Hannah’s grief, the progression of stages seems to go: Confusion, Narcissism, More Narcissism, Glee and finally Mendacity. Nothing about her story feels sad to me. Disturbing, sure. And Marnie is sad, but just in a head-shaking sort of a way.

The only thing that made me sincerely sad in this episode was the realization that Season (and her co-conspirators) had to have been 100% sure that Jessa would never, ever show up at her funeral (even when personally invited) in order for their plan to work. Jessa had to be the kind of person whose reputation for taking a heartless stance against mourning was such a settled thing that they could depend on it to fake a death. And the look on Jessa’s face when she realizes that had to have been the case. Now that is fucking sad.