I hate all the guys on Girls. Ray, Adam, Charlie, Hannah’s Dad. All of them. You know why? They’re incredibly one-dimensional characters who only have two modes: asshole or lapdog. And even worse than that, we’re only supposed to root for them when they’re assholes. The asshole is hot — the one we’re supposed to want our girls to end up with at the end of the show. Plenty of girls get stuck in a tailspin of chasing after bad boys only until they get them, but is that the only relationship dynamic Lena Dunham is capable of writing?
Just look at Charlie’s trajectory throughout this season. The more he treated Marnie like shit, the more she wanted him to be her boyfriend. I know that this happens in real life, but it doesn’t happen to everyone you know. Sometimes you meet a nice, normal guy who can have mutually enjoyable sex with his girlfriend.
Unfortunately these guys don’t exist in Lena Dunham’s Brooklyn. It seems there’s no in between for her when it comes to men. Which is weird because she gives her female characters the complete opposite treatment. While I certainly don’t love Hannah, Marnie, Jessa or Shosh, I still see them as complex characters capable of being more than one thing at any one point. And because they’re written that way, they’re much easier and much more fun to watch on TV.
Take Marnie for example. She’s the most confident train-wreck we’ve ever met. Even as her life spirals out of control, she still attempts to be in control of everything happening around her. She’s simultaneously self-assured and insecure. Or how about Hannah? She’s following her dreams while falling apart. Even Shosh manages to step outside her stereotype this season by proving that she’s more than just a Pinterest profile come to life. Sure she loves bows and polka dots and rainbows, but she also loves ambition. She’s a girly-girl to the extreme, but also a woman who knows what she wants. They’re like real live people that you might know in your very own life. Sure they might be people you’d go out of your way to avoid at a party, but nevertheless, as a viewing audience, it’s hard not to feel strong emotions about them. And their stupid e-books.
But when it comes to creating complex male characters, Lena seems unable to get beyond the asshole/lapdog dichotomy. Adam’s an asshole. From the very first time we meet him, that’s the message we get. Until Hannah convinced him to be her boyfriend in Season 1 (and then almost immediately dismissed him for being a wimp). His relationship with Natalia toward the end of this season shows his attempt to be a nice guy again. But he can’t reconcile the two personalities. Last week, he was an asshole and wimp all in one night, by following Natalia around her friend’s engagement party like a puppy and then almost raping her after running into Hanna outside.
In last night’s episode, he started out as a wimp who was “forced” to think about what a girl wants during sex. But that was so terrible that he was in the process of destroying his apartment when Hannah called him in a state of despair.
His topless run across Brooklyn on Facetime with Hannah may have been Girls‘ romantic Say Anything moment, but what did it mean? He broke down her door and broke into her apartment, so she rewarded him with a kiss. She called the cops on him for less earlier in the season. And breaking into your ex-girlfriend’s apartment is pretty much a classic case of domestic violence. But, yeah!? They’re back together, I guess?
As Pretty-Woman as that final scene was during last night’s finale, I couldn’t help but being annoyed that they’re back together. “I’ve always been here…except when I spent the entire first season getting annoyed with you every time you attempted to interrupt my real-life game of lincoln logs. Dammit Hannah, I’m trying to build some real art here…Other than that, yeah, I like really like you kid.”
Need another example of a combination asshole/lapdog? Ray. Just like Adam, he starts off as a jerk. He took Shosanna’s virginity and walked away like it was nothing. But something about her kept him coming back for more. And this season, he’s so whipped that Shoshanna’s not even interested in him anymore. He basically moved in with her and then professed his love to her on the subway, which almost immediately sent her into the arms of another guy. In this case, she screwed a doorman in the mail room of her friend’s apartment building.
I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to feel bad for him as Shosh realizes that she’s outgrowing their relationship. But how long could this relationship between an idealistic, hyperachieving 20-year-old and an underachieving 30-year-old last? At the end of the episode, Ray actually tried to prove that he could change, but in typically Dunham fashion, the more he tried the less Shoshanna cared about him.
Finally there’s Charlie. Our anti-Adam. When we first met him last season, he’s clearly Marnie’s bitch. The series premiere includes a scene where Marnie chooses to sleep with Hannah just to avoid seeing him in the morning — and he accepts that. He was the nicest guy on the show and therefor a massive burden to Marnie and a joke to all the other females.
I spent the majority of Season 1 feeling sorry for him — but not attracted to him. Then he returned this season as somewhat of an asshole and he’s so much hotter for it. Marnie can’t help but pursue him like a crazy person until he finally admits he loves her. Without her, he went out and created a successful company, sold it, became a millionaire, grew a beard and generally became the most attractive male on the show. But within seconds of accepting her back into his life, he went from Charlie-in-Charge to Charlie-the-Cuckold.
Despite the fact that Marnie’s treated him like shit for the majority of their relationship and their non-relationship, he’s immediately like, “Oh you love me? I love you too!” It’s as if he completely forgot how she embarrassed him last week at his party — and actually, moments ago in a crowded restaurant. The second he has the opportunity to get Marnie back for good, he turns back into her bitch. How long into season three before Marnie dumps him or just becomes a major thorn in his side?
Hate to sound like I’m narrating Shrek here, but there’s this overarching theme in the show where the characters can temporarily flip from asshole to wimp (or vice versa). When the sun goes down, they’re back to themselves. No one has learned a lesson, no character development has been gained.
While I’m fully aware that assholes and wimps exist in real life, I’m also aware that they’re a little more dimensional that what we’re presented with in Girls. It would be great if Lena Dunham could write fully formed male and female characters. But maybe this is all part of her affirmative action plan for character development. Audiences have spent a long time suffering through one-note female characters that exist in television and film solely to support and move along the plot for fully developed male leads. In Girls, Lena Dunham has definitely flipped the switch on that paradigm.