'Girls': Hannah Horvath Exists in a Lena Dunham World

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From the Gawker-Jezebel fight in last week's episode to the Mindy Kaling conversation in the most recent one, it's more and more clear that Girls' Hannah Horvath exists in a Lena Dunham world. That or Dunham just likes to make inside jokes. 

When Girls started, the conversation revolved, to an extent, around how "real" the show was. Is this how girls, today, in Brooklyn are really living their lives? With all that bad sex? The show, this season, has strayed far from the real. Shoshanna is a cartoon character. Hannah is something of a monster. And while Hannah's sociopathic tendencies seem light years away from the Lena Dunham we see poised and eloquent on red carpets and in interviews, Dunham's off screen persona is still very much a part of the show's identity. 

So that's why it's can pull the viewer out of the moment of the show itself when her character has an awkward argument with her boyfriend over the merits of Gawker and Jezebel, considering Dunham herself has publicly sparred with those publications. Or when, in this episode,  which aired Saturday to avoid a Super Bowl conflict, Hannah goes into meet with a new publisher and they have a discussion about Mindy Kaling, a friend of Dunham's. "I love Mindy Kaling, she's terrific," Horvath says when the publisher brings up Kaling, and then they discuss how Hannah "takes it there" in a way Kaling doesn't. And it sort of makes one think: what would Hannah Horvath think of Lena Dunham? She'd probably completely resent her, right?

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I wish I could say that all these references mean something, that they do serve a purpose by positioning Hannah as a character that is influenced by ladyblogs or strives to be a Mindy Kaling type. But instead, they are made meaningless by the fact that they stick out like a sore thumb (or a winking eye) to an in-the-know audience. They make it seem that, like Hannah, the show has become too self-involved.

Not all the in-references are that obvious. Take for instance the speech Adam's sister Caroline gives Hannah about auditioning for the role of Alicia Casse in Independence Day. It's hard to imagine that's not a reference to the child stardom of the actress playing Caroline, Gaby Hoffmann. Alicia was played by Lisa Jakub, the girl from Mrs. Doubtfire. Hoffmann was the girl from Field of Dreams. In all likelihood, the story Caroline tells about losing out on the role was drawn from Hoffmann's own childhood. Why make Caroline a former child actor except to reference the fact that Gaby Hoffmann was a former child actor? 

There's a lot in this episode: how tone deaf Hannah is, yet how she's sane compared to Adam and his sister; how Marnie and Ray slept together; how Shoshanna's suddenly turned into an overachiever. So what does it matter that Hannah mentioned Mindy Kaling? Maybe because it feels one step away from a guest turn by Brian Williams. Girls should exist in Girls world not Lena Dunham's.  

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.