The most insightful line in this week’s episode of Girls came from guest star Louise Lasser, playing wheelchair-bound senior artist B.D., who observed: “I hate watching television because all the old women are shells… and it just hurts to be a shell.”
A female artist with a successful career, bemoaning her state in relation to what she sees on a screen: It really is as pathetic as it sounds, this legacy of the second wave feminist notion that sex is the purpose of a woman’s existence, therefore once her looks are gone, she is nothing more than an empty, useless receptacle. Still, it’s an odd statement coming from a woman with a successful career, right?
Perhaps Girls has debunked another second wave feminist myth: “Career” is not permanent salvation from Friedan’s dreaded boredom and emptiness. Take it from famous French actress/bombshell Catherine Deneuve, who recently remarked on the secret to aging well:
“I think it’s different for men and women,” Deneuve said. “I think for men it has more to do with a fulfillment of what they do in their life, their social life, their work. I think for women, it’s more private. It has more to do with a personal fulfillment with a life, love and children, and work also, but not as the first main thing, I think.”
Speaking of work, so much for Hannah Horvath’s burgeoning career in advertising. This week she threw away the opportunity that paid in pursuit of her “authentic self” and those illusive “creative experiences” she’s always Tweeting about. After mouthing off to her co-workers and boss, Hannah was summarily fired from the “sweatshop factory for puns” in a move that was part Hannah self-implosion and part, as writer Lena Dunham called it, a statement about “writing for the sake of products, not principles.”
That may have been Dunham’s principle, but it wasn’t Hannah’s. Her career trajectory started its downward spiral the minute Adam began working his way up the ladder. The more he devoted himself to his work, the less time he had for the “drama” of Hannah. (In one of last week’s most hilarious exchanges, Hannah asked, “What drama, this is only me!” “Exactly,” Adam replied.) Last week, Adam temporarily moved back into his own apartment. Hannah began this week convinced Adam was slowly breaking up with her. She ended the week by quitting her job.
“Career” fears aside, Hannah laughed in the face of a job most writers would kill for: a steady paycheck with benefits, a midtown Manhattan location, the chance to spend your days interviewing Broadway stars and your nights tucked into reviewing fancy uptown hotels. Her enthusiasm was evident on her first day, in the writers’ room scenes, during every assignment and especially when she got her first paycheck. In fact, her interest only began to dim when Adam’s interest in her started taking the back burner to his focus on his job.
If Girls preached a typical feminist mantra, Hannah would have used her relationship turmoil as a reason to immerse herself in her work and build her professional career. Instead, she withdrew from a promising job with more speed and attitude than Adam withdrawing from their relationship. Dunham may intend her character to pursue creative genius, but the message she is sending through Hannah’s actions does more to prove that careers aren’t satisfying after all. At least not in comparison to, how did Deneuve put it? Oh yes, “a life” and “love”.