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. Throughout this episode, Hannah is the most levelheaded and mature person onscreen. She is kinder to her family members than any of them are to her or one another, and she calmly tells them how she feels when they are not being nice. Why does she act this way here, when in other environments she is self-centered, careless and avoidant? It can’t simply be her response to being around awful people, or she’d be like this around Marnie and Jessa too. What is it about their screwed-up family dynamic that makes Hannah come out looking like the sane one?
I only know this because I do it to my family as well: Hannah is able to separate this world from her “real life” responses because she’s able to view her family at a kinder distance. When you don’t live with them, the monarch familias can take on the rosy glow of the Golden Girls. My grandma, who can literally be the worst person I’ve ever met, I find incredibly entertaining. Haha, she’s always calling me fat! Ha, she drives my mom crazy! She’s basically Jessica Walter’s character on Arrested Development! Now that I’m not living at home, my grandma’s bad behavior and my mother’s frazzled response to it doesn’t seem like the angst-causing existential crisis it did during my teen years (Will this be me when I’m old??), but rather the lovable crankiness of a sitcom character. The old have so much to teach us!
You can tell this is how Hannah views her relationship with her aunts as well, but as soon as she starts spending time with Rebecca, someone she views as unfortunately a contemporary of herself, she immediately loses perspective and becomes awful again. The reason she can’t let Rebecca’s comments slide off her is that Rebecca is too much in her own world–someone her own age, whose respect she’d like to cultivate, whether she admits it or not–which ironically leads her down a path of hi-jinx that she’d probably laugh off, if it had happened to any other member of the family.
Well, GIRLS isn’t trying to be It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show that’s hysterical precisely because it’s about sociopaths with no feelings, an argument that ostensibly extends to the Seinfeld crew as well. What’s great about GIRLS is that despite its half-hour format, it’s very clearly positioned itself as a dramedy about narcissistic young women, something that, if tackled on any other network, would require an hour-long approach to keep the same tone. (Think: Parenthood.) That’s the wonderful difference between network tv and HBO (as well as streaming content! See: Transparent!): GIRLS doesn’t have to be constrained by its formatting. If that makes any sense.
Think of it like the clinical Rebecca reading Hannah’s Jazz-hate piece about doing cocaine: She might not realize the humor because its in a #ItHappenedToMe style blog post, but when we watched it last season as an episode in a longer narrative about Elijah, Laird (Laird!) and a mesh tank top, it was really, really funny.