WILL HANNAH EVER GROW UP?
by Dana Drori
During her interview on Alec Baldwin’s Here’s the Thing, Lena Dunham discusses the responsibility of writing female characters. “We won’t fuck someone because they have a nice apartment,” she says. “There’s not gonna be any version of prostituting yourself….the characters can make mistakes but they have to be emotionally responsible for the things that they’ve done.” In this week’s episode, Hannah does not fuck someone because he has a nice apartment. She fucks someone because she wants the experience of fucking someone with a nice apartment. (Han(Le)nah thinks there’s a difference, but there really isn’t: in both instances, sex is bartered for something other than pleasure/desire/power/comfort or whatever reasons people typically have sex. For the record, I’m cool with all of it).
I completely understand Hannah’s desire for experience, and even her constant conflation of sex with experience. (I have, several times and in various ways, done what Hannah does in this episode, and in one particularly regretful case it left me empty and weeping too). The whole ethos of doing and trying everything RIGHT NOW because these years are meant to be the fullest, ‘best years of our lives’, as Shosh reminded us last week, is burdensome enough for any twentysomething without Hannah’s compulsion to create those experiences in order to write about them. But unlike most people Hannah, typically, DOES NOT act ‘emotionally responsible’ for her own actions. Her whole relationship with Sandy; doing blow and fucking Laird: all of her actions this season bear no emotional responsibility for her character.
At the end of this episode, though, Hannah exhibits the slightest potential for character growth, discovering that the experience she takes away is not the intended ‘fucking a stranger with a brownstone’, but in fact her first real emotional response to her own actions. She has this epiphany that, in self-identifying as the Atlas of experience, she is just exploiting herself and others, which is emotionally exhausting; and that she actually “wants what everyone wants”, which is to be ‘happy’ (note: on HTT, Dunham says to Baldwin, “if you ask a girl in her 20’s, ‘Are you a happy person?’ she can say, ‘I have happy moments,’ but I don’t think it’s possible …to be an at-peace human when you are between 22 and 30”).
My question is, does it take a unique episode like this one — removed from the rest of the cast, surreal in its narrative — for Hannah to glean some form of maturity? Does Hannah’s wisp of an epiphany actually even result in real growth? In the same interview, Dunham says, “so much of what this show is about is seeing these girls off into their adulthood…you look at them and you go, ‘They’re on their way; they’re more okay than they were when they started.’” Until now, whatever character arc Dunham had hoped for Hannah has been totally absent, because Hannah lives on a fucking loop of action without consequences. It is nice, if but for a moment, to think that this dreamlike episode may be the catalyst from which we see real change. But my guess is probably not. Everything will be back to normal next week. Still, there is a sliver of potential in this episode for Hannah, and maybe, hopefully, we will see it again.