The 'Girls' Gut Check: Who Wants to Get Trapped in a Cage of TVs?

Four Atlantic staffers sound off on whether the portrayals of their generation's quirks in the third episode of Season Two of Lena Dunham's HBO show ring true.

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Things got very weird, very fast for the characters on Girls this week. Hannah and Elijah had a coke-fueled heart-to-heart that went awry; Marnie hooked up with someone who had an overly observant doll propped up next to his bed. There were mesh shirts and cold-call drug deals involved, plus some late-night consoling of an ex-addict crying in a grocery store. Again: Things got weird.

Experimentation, though, is what youth is all about ... right?

Below, a panel of millennials from the Atlantic staff—The Sexes channel editor Eleanor Barkhorn, Health channel editor James Hamblin, social media editor Chris Heller, and Entertainment and Sexes editorial fellow Ashley Fetters—respond to questions raised by the show's depiction of drug use, Internet writers, and guys who keep human cages made out of television sets in their apartments.

That coke binge: So far, Girls has portrayed encounters with opium tea, crack, and now, cocaine. Are we cool with how the show portrays drugs?

CHRIS: Hannah snorting coke and dancing in club kid's neon mesh shirt made for a splendid hot mess. And once again, Girls chose to depict drug use in ambiguous terms. When Hannah drank opium tea, she threw an artistic tantrum in front of her parents. (That's not good.) When Shoshanna smoked crack, she met Ray. (That's good!) Although it's clear that the coke-fueled dance binge was bad news for Hannah and Elijah's friendship, I'm not so sure that it's meant to be an outright criticism of doing drugs. At the risk of revealing myself to be a debaucher, I'm glad that's the case.

If we're supposed to approach Girls as a show about young people living in New York, it should depict the things that certain types of young people living in New York like to do. Meaning ... drugs. Excessive drug use is not good, of course, and showing it on TV can be an irresponsible way to suggest that it can be. That's not what I see happening in this episode, though. Hannah and Elijah get high, have a great time, then fight when they start to crash. I'd say that's a pretty excellent depiction of any sort of drug use. What do you all think?

(Also, I can't remember a time when a character on Girls has smoked pot on screen. Please tell me this has happened and I just forgot.)

ASHLEY: Charlie and Marnie met in college after Marnie ate a pot brownie and got paranoid. (That's ... kind of good and kind of not!) Plus I feel like Jessa smoked pot at some point? Maybe because she did, but also maybe because, you know, Jessa.

CHRIS: Henceforth, you are the official Girls archivist of The Atlantic. James Russell Lowell would be so proud.

JAMES: Yeah they've hit the most common side effect of this stuff, which is acting obnoxious. They included a recovering addict, too. I think it's fair. If someone does coke for the first time because they saw it on Girls and thought it looked awesome, they're impressionable enough that they were going to try it anyway.

ASHLEY: Totally. This episode made coke look fabulous! At least in the early stages, with the Icona Pop happening.

ELEANOR: Yeah, agreed. Girls is not an after-school special, so it has no obligations to be "responsible" about drugs. Though ... I may be more impressionable than I'd like to admit—the Shoshana crack plotline from last season has made me seriously consider putting myself in a situation where I could accidentally smoke crack. Don't tell my mom I said that.

The return of Booth Jonathan: What's Marnie doing messing around with a weirdo/sleazeball like Booth Jonathan?

JAMES: I'm not a psychiatrist, but I guess it's one of those situations where she's into people who treat her like she (subconsciously?) feels she deserves to be treated, which is to say, locked in a box made of TVs.

ELEANOR: Yeah, this seems to be the latest humiliation in Marnie's long fall: losing her job, having unsuccessful sex with her best friend's ex-boyfriend, starting a new job that requires her to wear short shorts and suspenders. Now, she's discovered that the mysterious artist she became infatuated with last season is in fact a controlling, pathological weirdo (not to mention a terrible lover) ... but she's so far down the humiliation spiral that she can't even see him for the disaster that he is.

"Maybe Marnie's into people who treat her like she feels she deserves to be treated. Which is to say, locked in a box made of TVs."

ASHLEY: Yeah, there's not a great defense for getting with someone who locks you in a creepy TV box and then borderline forgets you're in there. Generally that's pretty uncool, and it's a testament to how confused Marnie is that she doesn't recognize it as uncool.

What's maybe worth noting, though, is that Marnie isn't as sketched out by Booth Jonathan as we, the people of this roundtable, are (or at least isn't yet—and I bet she'll get there). Right after Booth releases her from the creepy TV box, she tells him, "You're so fucking talented." In other words, he's weird, but she's into that. And even after her not-so-mindblowing sex with Booth, Marnie still humblebrags about it to Hannah via text. At this point, she may be messing around with Booth simply because, despite (or maybe because of!) the disturbing TV box antics, she still finds him mysterious and captivating and, yes, talented. And let's be real: She wouldn't be the first person to sleep with another person for those reasons.

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