Four Atlantic staffers sound off on whether the portrayals of their generation's quirks in the fourth episode of Season Two of Lena Dunham's HBO show ring true.
If last week's episode of Girls felt like a field trip into uncharted territories of weirdness, this week's episode felt something like a mass airing of grievances. For once, though, Hannah wasn't at the epicenter of the pettiness: Jessa and Thomas-John declared their hate for each other, the awkward truth about Ray's living situation finally surfaced between Ray and Shoshanna, and Hannah's (mostly) civilized dinner party stayed polite until a girlfriend-vs.-ex-girlfriend showdown erupted. Unfortunately, until Hannah and Jessa's snot-fueled sisterly bathtub antics at the end of the episode, happy moments were scarce for the girls and guys of Girls.
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 insults, homemade pad thai, and accidental cohabitation.
Sticks and stones: This episode had the various Girls characters partaking in some ugly name calling—with "jerk," "Stepford psycho," "ridiculous person," "hipster munching my hay," "some scared guy who didn't get laid until they were 16," and two uses of "cunt" among the insults. Which one cut the deepest?
JAMES: Everything Jessa said to Thomas-John about him being average. ("No one liked you in highschool and no one likes you now. I'm embarrassed when we walk down the street because you're so fucking average.") She turns an argument into an attack. Especially because he's the type who's worked really hard not to be average. I mean, the guy won a Humie.
CHRIS: I think you're getting it backwards. Jessa's insults certainly cut deeper than Thomas-John's, but he's guilty of igniting the hatefest. (See: "You don't seem so fucking disgusted when you're spending my money" and "You're just some fucking dumb hipster who's munching my hay.") He's just a much more vulnerable character than she is.
ASHLEY: Everybody was so mean in this episode! And I agree with Jim on this one. The awful things Jessa and Thomas-John unleashed on each other are the high point for actual hurtfulness—the low point being Charlie calling Booth Jonathan an Ewok.
ELEANOR: Booth Jonathan deserves every conceivable insult that anyone could lob at him. He gets no sympathy from me. To me, the most cutting insults came from Thomas-John's WASPy, passive-aggressive mom, precisely because they were delivered in such a WASPy, passive-aggressive way.
JAMES: Eleanor's indictment of Booth Jonathan is now the deepest cut. He's just lost. I could fix him.
"Do you live with me?": How plausible did it seem for Shoshanna to accidentally end up living with Ray? And is Shoshanna right to get mad at him about it?
ASHLEY: Living together by accident is plausible, sure. If you have enough consecutive sleepovers and leave enough of your necessary, everyday belongings at your girlfriend's or boyfriend's place, it's totally possible to wake up one day and say, "Whoa, I think we're sort of living together." But that realization goes down easier when one person doesn't have to admit he or she doesn't have anywhere else to sleep. Something tells me Shoshanna wouldn't have objected to Ray staying with her, even if he'd admitted his homelessness, but she's justified in feeling a little bit used.
Also, if my count is correct, Ray is actually the third character on Girls to "end up" living with Shoshanna (Jessa crashed with her first, then Marnie did after her falling-out with Hannah). All that apparent extra space at Shoshanna's is like a black hole or something, sucking in all the tired/poor/"in-between-places" characters of Girls. Speaks to how much our generation really does move around, too.
ELEANOR: Agreed that it's totally plausible for people to accidentally start living with their significant others (and I don't think it's a millennial-specific thing, either—the original edition of The Rules, circa 1995, warns readers against the lure of accidentally moving in with a boyfriend). Shoshanna's reaction puzzled me, though, because she is someone who analyzes everything to death ... it surprised me that it didn't dawn on her that Ray was living with her until Hannah brought it up at dinner. The Shosh I know would have noticed—and started asking "What does it mean?!—after just a few days of him staying over.
CHRIS: Isn't it more likely to happen to young people, though? I suspect that's when crappy living conditions, unaffordable rent, and emotional neediness are most likely to cross paths. (Also, as we've seen with Hannah, roommate drama doesn't help.)
Ray and Shoshanna's "accident" seems plausible to me, if only because we've seen Ray change so dramatically since he's been with her. He was wrong to move in without talking to Shoshanna about it, but I think it ultimately reflects: 1) the shame he feels about his life, and 2) his love for Shoshanna. She's totally right to get upset about it, too. Their scene in the subway was my favorite from this episode because it captures the complexity of their relationship—from both perspectives.