Welcome back to Boys Who Talk About Girls, where we interview men who — against all of your objections — watch the HBO comedy called ‘Girls' but who really gives a shit because this was the last episode (I know I don't). The mission: To get them to speak without reserve or remorse about sex and relationships in a manner most men won't, which is to say, in a way that will reveal great truths about how we speak to each other when you're not around, which is probably still, after seven of these, a pretty acquired taste.
This week's interviewee is a man who we'll call Jason. He's 24, lives in the East Village, and works in media sales.
This week, Ray and Shoshanna end up in the sack. Shosh, as we know, is a virgin. Have you ever taken a girl's virginity?
Yes, I have.
Once, or multiple times? When did it happen?
One that I know of, and that was in college. It was actually my first time, too. But she didn't know it was my first time. I lied.
Earlier in the season, Shoshanna was hooking up with a guy who threw the brakes on explicitly because she was a virgin, explaining that he "didn't do" virgins. Yet Ray, who is easily ten years her senior, had little hesitation. Would you have sex with a virgin now, at 24?
Um, yes. I would. I wouldn't freak out the same way the camp buddy, did. I thought that was a little insensitive on his part.
It's funny, his feelings for her are: You're such an interesting creature.
Right! (Laughs) He's fascinated by her as a specimen, almost. Which is good or bad in that...
I think it's okay! I think she's okay with someone being fascinated with her, because none of her friends take that kind of fascination with her.
She's kind of like a tertiary character in their world.
She seems like a neutral slate in which all of the other characters are projected upon her. As superficial as she ostensibly is — she loves Sex and the City and brings Dylan's Candy Bar chocolates to an abortion — she ends up exposing all of the other characters' superficialities and judgemental ideas.
Yep! There's that line she has last night where Ray's asks her: ‘What's wrong?' And she tells him: ‘Everyone's a stupid whore.'
That was a Yes! You nailed it! moment. It was a whole of art engaging in self-loathing.
Yes! In one way or another, everyone on that show is kind of a stupid whore.
Did you know that women aren't supposed to wear white to other women's weddings?
That was not a piece of knowledge I had.
Exactly, I had to clear that up. I didn't know it was a thing, or rather, still a thing.
One of the things I've taken from ‘Girls' is that these situations are too bizarre to happen to one person the way they happen on the show, but as vignettes, there are moments of ‘Holy shit, that's happened to me.'
I think that's to the credit of people like Lesley Arfin. This is no way goes without mentioning the fact that she's racially insensitive person, but I think the presence of adults around the writers' room on this show has helped illustrate these kind of nutty situations that have probably happened to someone, somewhere down the line.
Speaking of adults, do you notice how all of the men on the show take the grown-up role? Adam calls Hannah "kid." The guy Jessa's marrying? He's a man-child, but he's a 35 year-old. Even Ray makes that comment to Hannah in the coffee shop: "That's the problem with your generation. You think too much."
Which is such a great line. And Ray's not even that much older than them, but enough to create a divide.
There are examples of that all the time, though. When the girls are alone, they're like kids. Hannah's lying in the bathroom as Jessa's going to the bathroom. And there's a line where Hannah asks Jessa if she feels like a grown-up now, and Jessa responds something like ‘Yeah, I guess.' And that's such a kid conversation to have! Jessa looks like a child bride, she's got the flowers, she's not wearing shoes. This isn't a woman getting married, it's a kid getting married. These are girls, still.
This all goes without mentioning that it was the least believable of all the episodes, but also enjoyable for that.
Yeah, and I think that's something that makes me want to personally reevaluate whether I want to continue to watch this show. I went through the same thing with Gossip Girl. Not to tie them together, but there's an air of reality about all of these situations. We're all going: "Oh, god, I've said that, and heard that, and done that.' But the show is made in such a way that those real situations get undermined by the core construction of the plot and the show itself.
So you're saying the less believable the plot, the more the reality of the situation gets undermined, the more your enjoyment of the show is undermined?
See, for me, it's inverted. The thing with Girls is that it's actively participating in so many things about life in New York City that drive you fucking crazy, whereas a show like ‘Bored to Death' is always making fun of it. Bored to Death was easier to enjoy in that Zach Galifinakis' character trying to remake himself in the image of a Park Slope Lesbian Mom was hilarious. It was so watchable.
Well, it was tongue-in-cheek! You knew it was a caricature. But how many times this season was there the ‘everyone we know going to a party' theme?
If we're to give them a lot of credit, maybe that's tongue-in-cheek, too. Funny you bring up Gossip Girl, because the place Jessa had her wedding is this space in Long Island City called The Foundry, and every television show in New York, it feels like, has had a party scene set and/or filmed there.
I'm not saying the show's not important because it has these tropes in it, but it makes me question whether we should all dive this deep on a show that is so... simply made. Like, there was another moment last night when Hannah falls asleep on the train — which, by the way, another amazing moment that's never been shown on TV before, that's happened to all of us...
But then she hollers at those girls to ask where she is, and then she gets off the train. Without her Metrocard! How's she gonna get back on?
It was so poorly done. It ruined the moment!
But okay, let's try to break it down: What are we to take that entire sequence to mean?
If anything, shouting at the other group of girls across the subway tracks showed how naive Hannah still is about this place, New York, that she thinks she has a handle on. She winds up in this other place and doesn't even know to check a sign to see where she is.
The beach scene reminded me of a bastardized version of the end of The Awakening. [Spoiler Alert: The main character of The Awakening declares her independence from the rigid norms of society by shedding her clothing and letting herself drown in the Gulf of Mexico.] Like, the un-Awakening: Not that I expected Hannah to drown herself, but she went all the way to the water, stopped, sat down, and ate some wedding cake.
What does that mean? What's the significance of eating cake on the beach? It doesn't mean shit. She hasn't learned a single thing, from anything that's happened.
I think the only character we've seen change palpably over the course of the season is Shoshanna. Who isn't a virgin anymore, presumably.
Yeah, that's true.
And again, we see Shoshanna in contrast to the rest of the characters for how superficial they are. Hannah makes an aside to her gay ex-boyfriend (and soon-to-be-roommate) about the girl he contracted HPV from, which he then gave to Hannah: "She wore floral capris like her hymen was still intact."
(Laughs) That's pretty good.
There is some stock to be put in the virginity issue, and I don't think Jessa's marriage is going to last. There was really no other change.
I'm going to bring up the guys on the show again, which I know, as a separate conversation, people are sick of. But: The guys are the only characters you see throughout the arc of this season that have actually developed and learned something. Adam trying to get into a serious, monogamous relationship. Charlie, who's trying to fuck Marnie on a sink in a bathroom at a wedding-which is all she ever wanted from him, really — and when push came to shove, she balked. She shot him down.
Wow. You're right.
Right? Then you have Ray and Shoshanna — Ray gets over his elitism to engage meaningfully with Shoshanna, who loses her virginity to Ray — and then the V.C. manchild, who gets married to Shoshanna. Come to think of it, Hannah really is the only character the ends up nowhere. Marnie ends up with the loser hosting the wedding, the SNL guy, Bobby Monyihan. Shoshanna loses her virginity. Jessa gets married. Hannah's the only one who winds up on the beach eating cake by herself.
At the end of the episode when Adam gets in the ambulance by himself after their fight (during which he gets clipped by the car in the street), and insists she doesn't come — 'Family only, don't let her in, she's a monster.'-
(Laughs) Which was amazing.
My girlfriend was sitting there feeling so bad for Adam, at that point. For the context of his character, the reaction was consistent, but for the story, he kind of overreacted.
He did. He totally did. But that's the thing: These people are not normal.
But so much so that it removed me from the moment. I never really saw Adam fall so in love with her. The dedication to that relationship seemed to be as much about who he is and his dedication to his own principles as anything else, which often times (in real life) is such a driver of reacting out of proportion: Pride. As Marcellus Wallace would say: "Fuck pride."
And Hannah almost says that to him: ‘I don't like people who talk about relationships as a noun.' Adam was doing that. This time, it was about him.
I still love Adam, and I still love the way Adam showed all of us how wrong we were about him, and how wrong we were about Hannah which was brilliant, story-wise.
Right. It kept me watching. I kept being pleasantly surprised by a character. Which is rare for TV.
So, Adam and Hannah fight over his desire to move in with her. I think this was a particularly relatable conflict for a lot of people. I once dated a girl who started talking about moving in together a few weeks after we started dating, because one of her friends moved in with her boyfriend after two months. My reaction, of course, was that she was fucking nuts.
What do you think that was? Her being nuts, or her comparing her life to her friends'?
Both. But I don't understand what the rush to move in together is.
Neither do I.
But that's Adam's approach to relationships: Once he's in it, pedal to the floor. Does anything other than total commitment mean we're not taking relationships seriously? Or should we consider that take-no-prisoners approach to being in a relationship as reasonable? Because it is seizure of the moment...
No. No! It's an interesting approach and I think there is a time where that might be appropriate. But I think, had you done that...I mean, look, we live in different times. My parents watch ‘Girls' because this is a world they never understood. I think there is that drive to cohabitate, and it's real, whether by biological desire or societal pressure, that exists. But I think if you were to put the pedal to the metal, yes, you would've gotten serious, quicker, but you would've still broken up.
But if you contrast what happened with Hannah and Adam to Jessa's situation, Jessa took control of her life like [snaps] that. Hannah and Adam are talking about it and mulling it over and yelling at each other and deconstructing how she feels all the time. And who's happier right now?
Jessa. But more than anything that, to me, spoke to our generation's tendency to overthink, which calls back to Ray's line in the coffee shop.
It's not an advocacy for "think before you act," but a warning against the dangers of overthinking before you act.
I really wish Charlie fucked Marnie.
I know. Me too.
There was a moment when he grabbed her hand, and I was like, Yeah! I wanted to fist-bump him and be like, ‘You have grown, sir. And I applaud that.'
I wanted Charlie to go the distance so badly; we were shown what a measure of significant growth for Charlie as a character would've looked like.
The expectations for Charlie to be who he was came existed throughout high school, which is: skew away from machismo and learn the sensitivity that men of generations' past failed at. And now he's being punished for that.
Yup. And he's trying to change but — when he tried to make the move on Marnie at the wedding, after she dared him to, and she backed off — he's being punished for that!
Poor fuckin' Charlie.
The last words Adam said to Hannah before he was hit by the car: "You don't know struggle, and I'm a beautiful fucking mystery to you." This was really telling, and true: Hannah adored the mystique Adam held for her, until he didn't (like when he wants to move in together, or, I guess, pees on her in the shower).
Which can be a mystique-killer. But let me throw this at you: What if all that happened last night between the two of them is just him preserving the mystique? Is this just creating the drama couples need to stay in an exciting relationship? Keeping her out of an ambulance: Is he just trying to hurt her to keep things exciting? I've done that kind of thing, played games. In fact, he refers to the game, at one point.
Okay, not going to say that you're correct, but it's a great theory. And he does refer to "The Game," when he says "You love yourself so much, why's it so crazy that someone else might want to? Is this the game?"
It is. It is the game. If he didn't want to play it, he wouldn't be in the middle of the street with her arguing after Jessa's wedding.
Exactly. Which is why I didn't buy his outrage.
I think he's fucking with her.
I don't think so, but I do think it should be the result. It'd be far more interesting that Adam being Adam. That is far more compelling and truer of an idea than what we're probably going to be presented with.
People create drama in relationships. And guys and girls are both guilty of it.
I hate fighting. I'm the opposite of Adam. I already think most people are full of shit when they're indignant. When I do it, it means that I'm trying to put distance between myself and a relationship. It's an excuse to huff off in the easiest way possible: Fuck this.
Right. ‘Aghhhh, women.'
It's so bad.
On the whole, I know we joke about this as generation-defining television. But I think it is. And I think that's part of upsets so many people about it. It hits close to the chest, and it shows. And there's no other show out there like it.
No, there isn't. I was thinking about that last night: ‘How will history look back on ‘Girls'?
I think: Exceptionally. But more importantly, on the whole, do you like the show?
I do. I think, in many ways, it's one of the realest shows on television. And because of that, I've laughed harder and cringed harder and been more connected to this show than any show I've seen, period.
For me, it's great, but more importantly, it's funny. At the end of the day, it's been great comedy. Adam sniffing the cake pops last night was maybe one of the best moments of the entire season.
[Laughs] And I guess that's not real at all. That's just funny.
Foster Kamer is a senior editor at The New York Observer, and a starred commenter on Jezebel.