The 'Girls' Gut Check: Deep Down, Aren't We All Babies Holding Hands?

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

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The men of Girls stole the show this week, as Ray valiantly forayed into the weird world of Adam's apartment to retrieve a book, and became his surprise companion on a dog-returning mission to Staten Island in the process. Booth Jonathan asked Marnie to host a party with him—not as a girlfriend, but as an employee—which abruptly led to an unpleasant conversation about the nature of their relationship. Hannah, meanwhile, got offered a book deal (well, an ebook deal), but her end of the agreement requires her to write it in one month.

Below, a panel of millennials from the Atlantic staff—Lindsay Abrams (editorial fellow for the Health channel), James Hamblin (editor of the Health channel), Chris Heller (social media editor), and Ashley Fetters (editorial fellow for the Entertainment and Sexes channels)—discuss grown-up love, the boys on Girls, and whether one month is an acceptable window of time to complete the Great American Ebook.

The other half: So, this Adam-, Ray-, and Booth-heavy episode of Girls is called "Boys." What'd we learn about boys?

ASHLEY: What a question. Well, let's first put it out there, just for fireproofing purposes, that we'll learn about as much about boys as a gender from watching an episode about three boys called "Boys" as we we'll learn about girls as a gender from watching a show about four girls called Girls—which is to say, nothing conclusive, really.

We did certainly learn that these boys in particular have more feelings than they usually let on. Booth's meltdown in his wine cellar, Ray and Adam's man-to-man heart-to-heart—both of those happenings revealed some inner monologues we haven't had access to before, since we've always seen the story unfold from the girls' point of view. The reveal that surprised me was Booth Jonathan's rant about how he knows none of his friends like him; I think I underestimated his self-awareness. Jim, you're our resident Booth Jonathan apologist. What did you make of his wine-cellar implosion?

JAMES: I'm only a Booth Jonathan apologist in that I found him especially compelling ever since we met him in Season One and he, with one sentence, compelled Marnie to run to a public bathroom and masturbate.

But his Wine Cellar Confession was kind of heartbreaking. In this crazy fantasy world, I wanted him to stay terrible and invincible, and see what happens.

Usually you have a sense that people who act as brazenly as he does are actually depressed and empty and alone in their deep dark center, but there are people out there who are genuine psychopaths, through and through. No appreciable self-doubt or loathing. They're fascinating. Frank Underwood is the reason I watched House of Cards. I thought Booth might be one. But he's just a manipulative narcissist, like so many common manipulative narcissists.

ASHLEY: I agree on the "heartbreaking" part. First time I've felt sad for him. It sucks when your friends don't like you, even when it's your own fault. Poor ... Booth?!

LINDSAY: I'm not sure how sincere his meltdown was. It felt like he was putting it on a bit—"Oh, everyone just wants to use me because I'm sooo talented, I'm too good for all these boring people who flock to me." He saw right through Marnie, but was happy to use her as a living doll/personal assistant/adoring fan anyway. We did get what felt like real insight into the inner workings of Ray and Adam, though, which I definitely appreciated. And I loved that their version of Shoshanna's "Which Sex and the City character are you?" references Little Women instead.

CHRIS: Enough Booth Jonathan for a minute. Let's consider how "Boys" is a significant step for Girls—it's the first time, I think, that the show has developed the interests of its male characters against one another. (The whole episode, it seems to me, pokes fun at three very different, but all very foolish, ideas about masculinity.) For all of the things that Girls does well, I've been disappointed more often than not with how it depicts men. "Boys" changes that.

You're doing it wrong: Everyone in this episode seems to think everyone else is deluded about romance. Booth accuses Marnie of being attracted not to him but to the idea of him; Adam says Ray and Shoshanna aren't adults in love but rather babies holding hands; Ray's skeptical that Adam ever liked Hannah at all. Empty insults or actual insights?

JAMES: Insights. Babies holding hands seems appropriate for every relationship on the show. Everyone's a walking id. Which is of course wonderful to watch. Either because it makes their relationships childish and funny, or, in the case of observations like this, disconcerting. Kind of like if you saw real-life babies holding hands.

CHRIS: Babies holding hands. Isn't that a show on OWN?

LINDSAY: What would make for a mature relationship on this show? Jessa proved that even subverting her social world's mindset of putting off marriage until your 30s doesn't really work (though we can probably argue that she wasn't so dedicated to the whole endeavor), and the rest are trying to navigate a string of casual hookups, or casual relationships that have the potential to be become more serious—but become boring once they do.

"Babies holding hands. Isn't that a show on OWN?"

ASHLEY: Booth's accusation—that Marnie likes Booth Jonathan: The Lifestyle more than Booth Jonathan, the guy—seemed particularly spot-on. Especially because we saw that one coming.

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