So much happened in episodes 4 and 5 that it’s hard to know where to start. I resort to a list:
- Hannah interviews a female writer that tells her “childlessness in the natural state of the female author.”
- Hannah finds out (via an embarrassing encounter with a previous love interest/doctor) that she is pregnant from her rendezvous with the surf camp instructor in episode one.
- Hannah decides to keep the baby even though she has a mounting list of reasons why she probably isn’t ready.
- Jessa and Adam decide to make a movie together about their past with Hannah. Jessa doesn’t like Adam’s representation of his previous relationship.
- Marnie is still seeing Desi, but in therapy. And her narcissism is at peak Marnie. She declares that she has bruises all over her body from the two-hour massages that she needs in order to deal with the stress of Desi’s addiction.
- Ray realizes that Marnie is cheating on him and he eventually breaks up with her.
- Ray’s friend Hermie dies suddenly, leaving Ray to reevaluate his own life.
- Elijah does not take the news of Hannah’s pregnancy very well because he’s feeling particularly left behind compared to the life achievements of his friends. He tells Hannah that she’ll be a terrible mother.
- Hannah’s mother, Loraine, also doesn’t like the news of the pregnancy and she tells Hannah, “Every time I look at your baby, I’m going to see my own death.”
These two episodes artfully raise questions and difficulties that every modern woman has to confront at some point in her life: how to balance a career with motherhood. What’s surprising about these two episodes is that Hannah doesn’t parrot the typical response that we expect from her (and from the creators of “Girls”).
Based on all previous episodes, and public comments by Lena Dunham, we expect that Hannah will want an abortion, and that the ensuing episodes will be full of familiar arguments about every woman’s right to choose or not being ready to have a baby—especially because Hannah just started to achieve relative success as a writer. But, even though the child is barely the size of a lentil, Hannah can’t escape the feeling that it’s still a baby, her baby. Nothing else matters.
That Hannah doesn’t use the pregnancy to get attention, that she believes there is actual life inside her, and that she thoughtfully considers how she might provide for another human—these are all signs of long-awaited personal growth. And they represent values that are becoming increasingly difficult to find on television, even though a lot of real-life women have them.
In today’s political climate (amid Planned Parenthood arguments, work-life balance impossibilities, rising cost of living, and whatever provocative thing Trump has just tweeted) it becomes difficult to remember that children are a joy and a gift no matter what the circumstances. And that the ability to create life is perhaps the most miraculous and beautiful thing that humans can do.
But it’s not just the growth and birth of an infant that is miraculous. It’s also amazing that parents survive every day after the birth for the next twenty years. Children are so incredibly dependent and selfish: they require constant food, money, time, energy, and they are rarely thankful. They are not yet able to conceive of the needs of others or how their needs fit into the larger picture of a familial unit. We all know that a baby girl doesn’t care if her mom is tired and unshowered and weeping at three a.m. When the baby needs to eat, she needs to eat. It’s not her fault that she is selfish, and that it’s not bad; it’s simply the nature of being a little girl. At some point she will grow out of it. Her perspective on the world, and how she fits into it, will widen.
The first five seasons of “Girls” were like watching a show about giant baby girls loose in New York City. The characters had no consideration for time, money, hard work, or other people. They could not conceive of a world outside themselves, reflecting a large cohort of young adults today. They tried everything: internships, adventuring, being cut off from their parents, networking, moving to a foreign country, graduate school, political activism, new careers in almost every field imaginable. Yet nothing seemed to “work.” What would it take for them to stop being such girls?
Dunham prepped her audience for season six by stating that the girls would start growing up. Halfway through the final season we’ve started to see some of the characters make more mature decisions than ever before, and each moment is one where they decide to put someone else before themselves. We see throughout these two episodes that becoming a woman requires something truer and more difficult than professional success, money, status, or a collection of adventurous memories.
Contrary to our ego-centric conception of what it means to become an adult today, none of these characters have actually grown up by trying to “find themselves” or “deciding what kind of person they want to be” after a series of semi-meaningful provocative experiences. They’ve become women once they’ve done the opposite: once they’ve stopped focusing on themselves and started thinking of others.
“Girls,” perhaps without knowing it, is a somewhat of a campaign for selflessness. It’s so easy to think only of oneself in a 2017 America. Almost every article, app, product, and latest self-help philosophy is designed to help us think more and more about ourselves and what we want out of life. “Girls” shows us how this in not a life of freedom, but a life of being perpetually enslaved by one’s own inability to achieve deep peace and happiness when constantly putting oneself first. For Hannah, the surest way to actually find herself, or rather: to become a woman, is to stop thinking of herself altogether. We see this play out in direct juxtaposition to Marnie’s swelling egotistical attitude.
At the end of episode 5, Hannah sits on her stoop with the actress that’s playing her in Adam’s film. The woman works full time and has three kids. She assures Hannah, “Don’t worry. Kids are super easy. It’s being an adult that’s hard.” I can’t wait to see how Hannah does.