Like Mad Men's Betty and Charlotte from Sex and the City before her, Marnie is flawless on the outside but neurotic on the inside.
Two weeks into the new HBO series Girls, one character has emerged as the most divisive: Marnie, the gorgeous, uptight roommate of the show's heroine, Hannah. In a discussion about the most recent episode, Slate's L.V. Anderson asked, "Does she have any redeeming qualities?" Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner echoed the sentiment, calling Marnie "a gallerina with overbearing mothering tendencies."
Marnie is not TV's first beautiful control freak: She fits squarely into a character type formed by Mad Men's Betty and Sex and the City's Charlotte, two stunning women with deep neuroses. Marnie, Betty, and Charlotte highlight a strange trend in highbrow television: With beauty comes a desire for control—which the character ultimately must lose in humiliating fashion.
Most television characters are physically attractive, of course, and Girls is no exception. But the other women on Girls have qualities that blunt their beauty in some way and make them seem "realer." Jessa has her ridiculously bohemian outfits and tough attitude; Shoshanna her laughably dated Juicy jumpsuits and tense, eager-to-please smile; and Hannah her well-documented arm and tummy fat. Marnie, however, is basically physically flawless. She has beautiful hair, clear skin, and a long lean frame, and she wears classically fashionable clothes that fit her well. She has no obvious outward flaw to signal to the audience that she's "just like us."