You can never say that Lena Dunham’s millennial offering isn’t both risky and risqué. Sunday’s episode found us plunged into cocaine experimentation and what happens when there’s sex amongst the dolls. SPOILERS AHEAD!
If you’re closer to the age of forty than to the age of twenty, it would seem reasonable that certain themes in Dunham’s hit Girls would make one do a double take, if not outright cringe. And almost oblivious experimentation with cocaine is one of those themes. Those of us belonging to Generation X remember the horrors of young lives cut short from a life of too much partying mixed with cocaine. After all, this is how we lost River Phoenix, the shocking death of Len Bias, how it cut down Corey Haim after long suffering with the drug, as well as how it took Robert Downey Jr. decades to become sober, and nearly the same with Drew Barrymore. We learned early on that of the drugs to experiment with — cocaine was one of the huge no-no’s. It was always seen as a drug that ended tragically and scarily.
Cue to 2013. Once when you thought cocaine was either found in shadowy alleyways or amongst only the posh who could afford it, in Sunday’s episode Dunham makes it as easy to come by as going to your downstairs neighbor’s apartment (where the known junkie dwells) and awkwardly asking for some over a bottle of pomegranate juice. There was none of this “damaged sense of self” thing going on with Dunham’s character’s quest to find the money to score some coke and sniffing it repeatedly with a buddy throughout the episode. This leaves her sweaty, paranoid, and pretty-much topless running through the New York City streets. We just assume that naturally this is something the ever aiming to please Hannah would do, the catalyst being to impress an editor who would pay her $200 to write about the experience as a freelancer to an online site. The other option was finding a threesome on Craigslist. How was accepting candy from a stranger before getting into their big, blue van after crossing railroad tracks not also involved, cementing all of our 1980’s fears?!
What we find is that in Hannah’s world, it’s literally this easy to get someone to try coke for the first time — appeal to the psuedo-hipsterism enterprise of “living out loud,” “experimenting with life,” and “documenting it for the future.”
Wow. What a way to reduce our 80’s D.A.R.E program exercise to undecipherable Charlie Brown waa-waaa-waaaing. Could it be said that Dunham acted irresponsibly in response to the long forgotten “War on Drugs?” After perusing the interwebz for response we find mostly kudos for Dunham.
Paste Magazine says:
Mood-altering substances might be an easy dramatic advice-how many shows have had episodes about drunken indiscretions?-and initially I groaned over Girls’ coke habit. At least it grows out of a good joke, with a quick and vicious little takedown of Vice-style millennial gonzo-ism, and leads to some of the show’s funniest moments.
Drug humor is often lazy and lame, but Girls avoids the afterschool special route while also not making cocaine look like an awesomely great time.
It’s some of the broadest, funniest comedy “Girls” has ever done – very much evoking Shoshanna’s crack freak-out last year (and suggesting that next season, Marnie or Adam have to use cocaine in an episode) – and yet all the hijinks effortlessly pivot into more serious territory when a coked-out Elijah decides to tell Hannah about his aborted hook-up with Marnie in the premiere. The episode doesn’t suddenly turn stone-serious – if anything, what’s most impressive is that those later scenes still have laughs.
Of course, what could have been a huge advert for recreational drugs had its natural comeuppance with the pair falling out over Elijah’s bi-curiosity, a best-friend face-off with Marnie, and an unlikely rescuer in “the creepy guy downstairs”.
So perhaps it’s not Dunham’s responsibility to tackle some of these larger issues. After all, what we’ve come to expect from Dunham’s show is her view of reality as it pertains to these characters and her generation. She touts the mantra of doling out honesty no matter how it goes down for the viewer. What Dunham showcased was clearly the party effect of doing cocaine, and overlooking the downside of addiction, even if sweating, emoting to disastrous result, and licking toilet seats don’t totally look like a good time. We’ll just say that for now, the show gives you a helping of bitter stuff with heaps of sugar in the form of wanton, random humor to make it go down easily. We’re not sure if this is a Louis C.K. gift Dunham has or a curse, though.
On the other side of town we have Hannah’s BFF Marnie who meets up with cocky, brash artist Booth Jonathan who she’s had the hots for ever since he swankily threatened to sex her up in the first season. This time he makes good on the promise, but not before taking her to his amusement park full of neophyte art installations located in his ramshackle loft apartment. There is a wall of TVs that he locks her in with which reeks of some sort of sensory torture? foreplay? And there he is making himself an espresso and checking email like he’d just prepared a picnic for his date and not locked her in a fiber optic tomb as she’s pelted with disturbing image after disturbing image. Finally, he releases her to her exhausted comments of how much of a genius he is. Sure, we’re supposed to get that Marnie is impressionable and a little silly for seeing some prelude to a potential date rape scenario as a genius prospect, but cluelessness is part of the prescription for this show. And we know that most of all, Marnie likes to win and conquering Booth Jonathan is tantamount to a win in her book.
Later we see them both having what appears to be uncomfortable sex on a brass bed while a life-size doll overlooks. Booth wants to know what Marnie thinks about the doll to which she says, “Sassy?” And yes, this was hilarious, and so very, very, Marnie. Instead of assessing the situation realistically and saying, “weird” or “haunting” or “batshit insane.” She says something benign instead, but we get that she didn’t like the experience at all. She knew she was playing a part to get the ego boost she desired — which is the same thing she wanted from Elijah during their failed hookup. Marnie, like Hannah, craves acceptance and validation.
Ultimately what we’re supposed to take from both Hannah’s and Marnie’s experiences are that they were simply red herrings utilized to make them both face reality and honesty about one another. While Hannah needed powdered courage to confront the other, and Marnie needed some sort of backhanded, but essentially hollow, validation to be able to listen to Hannah — we get to the meat. Hannah has decided to finally tell Marnie that she’s not a good friend. And this is something that is universal across generations whether you understand Dunham’s coke-fueled motivations or not. It is never an easy thing to tell a friend that they suck at being a friend — or to hear it without lashing back. So despite some commentary to the contrary, laced (no drug pun intended) into the episode there actually was a bit of an “After School Special” outlook at the very end.
Moral: You casually use drugs, you get hurt emotionally, and you break up with your two best friends. Then you have sex with Laird — the creepy turtle owning, ex-junkie who stalks you while you run around topless in a mesh t-shirt, all while trying to impress a magazine called JazzHate of all things.