Five Essay Prompts for ‘GIRLS’ 3×10: ‘Role-Play’

Hannah as a bored housewife. (HBO)

Hannah as a bored housewife. (HBO)

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. For an episode about role playing, this was an episode about the characters we make out of ourselves. As Soojin says, there aren’t enough hours in a day to be a woman and a girlfriend and a gallerist and an electronic musician at once. It’s too much for one person! Marnie doesn’t know if all those things can be in one person…and in another moment of alignment, neither does Adam. But for Hannah, the artistic is holistic, and she can’t understand how someone’s art could create a crisis of identity, since her art is so wrapped up in who she is. 

 
How do both Hannah and Soojin represent different problems of the modern millennial and which would make for a more annoying Thought Catalog essay?
 

Is Adam’s problem here a crisis of identity, or one of artistic practice? When Hannah says “I have a job too” and he responds, “it’s not the same thing,” she gets insulted because she thinks he is saying his work is more important than hers. But what he is really saying is that even if they both inhabit characters for their art (arguable anyway, since Hannah is mostly just herself on the page), Adam has to be that character onstage, in the moment, while Hannah, as a writer, isn’t performing live. She can screw it up, fail to inhabit the character, and then go back and edit herself. Which is what she is doing, changing the script from “hedge funder’s wife” to “cheerleader screws the school weirdo” right in the middle of things—which is what starts their fight in the first place. Adam’s reaction may be out of proportion, but he has a point. If he need to focus, Hannah’s energy here is all aimed at diluting that focus so that he’ll pay attention to her more.
 
If Hannah represents a problem of the modern millennial, it is a lack of empathic awareness. She is a terrible role player, because she can’t really be anyone but herself, all the time. Real acting, inhabiting another character’s point of view, would be totally beyond her. And so when she thinks of Adam’s struggle to stay focused, she can only think of it in terms of her own work, the need to buckle down and spend a few hours getting good writing done. The idea that it could consume you and require long-term focus hasn’t even crossed her mind. Which is why she assumes that Adam’s lack of sustained attention to her must be a failing of their relationship, rather than a momentary blip while he rehearses.
 
Soojin’s only issue is that she’s a humblebragger. She isn’t actually struggling at all to do all of these things. (Isn’t having rich parents awesome?) And so of course her Thought Catalog essay would be the worst.
 
It is interesting that she is saying this to Marnie, though, who is actually going through an extended identity crisis, exacerbated in this scene by the thought of becoming an assistant to someone younger, stupider and less experienced than she is.


2. “I have a job to do now and I need to focus and I’m not here to fill up your life with stories for your fucking Twitter.”
 
Although Adam’s been the voice of reason all season, this episode was devastating in its portrayal of his selfishness: he’s too wrapped up in his show to be (rightly) disturbed when his girlfriend doesn’t come home all night and call, or that when she does show up she says she stayed over at a male coworker’s house. He invites her to his play’s rehearsal and then acts like she’s imposing when the director says it’s a closed set. And when Hannah makes one of her rare efforts to think about what someone else wants, he reuses an old line from season one, where he accused her of only wanting to use sex with him as inspiration for her stories.
 
So my question is: Was Adam a better boyfriend the first season, as a reclusive shut-in who fucked women while pretending they were “little orphans with a disease”? Is his criticism of Hannah here less or more valid than it was two years ago?
 
While Adam acts pretty abominably here, let’s not let Hannah off the hook entirely. Her attempt to “think about what someone else wants” is not some giving, selfless act, but very clearly an attempt to get him to pay more attention to her.
 
But yes, he isn’t paying much attention to her, is totally wrapped up in the play and ignoring her feelings, and generally being a terrible boyfriend. And he has clearly been thinking of her as a disctraction even before she created this elaborate plan for them—note that he has already asked Ray if he can stay with him before their fight even happened.
 
Nevertheless, my vote is still for him being a better boyfriend now. Yes, he has an issue communicating his need for space and focus, but that need is time-limited. Presumably after the show ends, he will be able to focus on her again. Not the greatest state of affairs for a relationship, to be sure, but far superior to the bordeline sociopath he was two seasons ago.
 
The most important development in his character here is that not only does he not need weird kinky role-play sex anymore, but that being in a stable relationship has made him realize that that need, too, was part of his addictive personality. It’s a very dark kind of self-awareness, but at least it is self-awareness, and it has to make him a better person (and a better boyfriend) in the long run.
 
3. What is the biggest signal to the audience that Jessa has finally hit rock bottom?
 
A) She’s finally succeeded in alienating Shoshanna, the most obsequious family member ever written to exist outside a storyline dealing with royal incest;
 
B) Cokehead Jasper breaking up with her for being too toxic;
 
C) Her willingness to admit that she’s an addict;
 
D) That her admission seems like another identity she’s trying on to see if it fits;
 
E) None of the above, because the biggest sign that Jessa has hit rock bottom is that we don’t care if Jessa has hit rock bottom.
 
Has Jessa hit rock bottom? How would we know? What context has GIRLS given us that would let us know what rock bottom looks like for Jessa?
 
At this point I have to assume she has farther to fall. Yeah, sure, a drug addict dumped her, and she didn’t even want to be with him in the first place, but this can’t possibly be the first time that has happened to her. I’ll believe Jessa has hit rock bottom when she not only admits that she has a problem, but that she is powerless against it.
 
She is nowhere near there now, it seems to me. D is the most telling choice here. Because she doesn’t call herself an “addict,” she calls herself a “junkie.” A junkie isn’t someone seeking help. It is a lifestyle of addiction. She could be very content calling herself a junkie for years and never admitting she has an actual problem.
 
Great, now you have me feeling sorry for Jessa. Never thought that would happen.
 
4. You have to hand it to Hannah, when she commits, she commits HARD. In her role as a bored housewife to “Marfaniel” she throws a drink in an alcoholic’s face and allows a stranger to believe she’s about to get raped. (These are the best moments of GIRLS, when the show pushes itself into the realm of cringing absurdity.) Tell us a little more about this wife of a stockbroker who walks around in bondage gear (and granny panties), keeps her pied-à-terre filled with champagne and strawberries, and has a dildo “destroyed by overuse.” What is the HBO pitch for a show about HER life, and would it rate better than GIRLS?
 
Oh, please tell me America has had enough of shows about bored, sex-addicted housewives. If someone wanted to pitch a show about this woman to HBO, it’d have to be a straight-up parody of those shows: her husband is actually a loving, sweet man, rather than some distant sugar-daddy, but she has her head so filled with ideas about what you’re supposed to do when you’re married to a rich man that she acts in ridiculous ways. 
 
She flirts with her husband’s boss at a party so clumsily and obviously that he thinks she’s joking, and he hilariously invites her to do her whole “drunk flirt” routine for the rest of the party. She tries to instigate drama among her female friends by struggling with them over the planning of a charity ball, but they all agree that her ideas are actually really good and put her in charge of the whole thing. She continually tries to sleep with her pool boy, but he so oblivious to her advances that she actually remains completely faithful to her husband. And so on. 
 
The setup would be pure Don Quixote, or Nurse Betty. We see her watching reruns of Desperate Housewives over and over, etc. It’d be called something like Not That Desperate, and HBO would cancel it after one season. 
 
5. I want to hear the rest of Marnie’s song that she wrote on Ambien. In fact, I’d listen to an entire album of Allison William’s sleep tripping warblings. (Seriously, fuck Adderall, Ambien is the best tool for unlocking your creativity because you look at what you wrote the next day and it’s like a lucid dream of amazingness.) Knowing what we do about her daily habits, musical tastes and her inspirational books on tapes, write two more stanzas to Marnie’s song.
(For reference, here’s the part we heard on the show)
 
There is nothing I can say now;
We’ve been through this before
(Swimming pools of candy)
I see you on the mountains
We’re flying on a jet plane
There’s flowers in the attic
I haven’t met Tom yet
 
How could this be anything other than an exercise in stupid free-association? Marnie is just pulling phrases and images from things she remembers: Savage Garden, John Denver, V.C. Andrews. I’m sure Tom is just a character in a TV show she watched recently. So every verse would end up like that:
 
I think you are a cornflake
floating over all the bridges
Jesse and Leslie said goodbye
and I never knew the secret
 
Rumor has it we’re still over
sorry like a Saturday night
so turn your face to me now
I’ll give you all my change
 
But is that productive at all? On the one hand, it is just mindless rambling. On the other hand, Desi isn’t wrong: it is a good way to get over your fear of not being perfect and just start making something, anything. Which is what Marnie so desperately needs. That, and someone to tell her that her beanie is just the worst.