This post discusses the Girls finale It contains spoilers so read on at your own peril.
So, the Girls series finale. Last month I was at a conference at which there were a couple of papers on Girls and during the discussion someone pointed out that because there has already been a baby on the show, they were not convinced that the series would feature another one. Maybe that comment stuck, or it was just my perception of Hannah’s character but I kept waiting for her to have an abortion or miscarry even as she kept getting bigger and bigger, right up to the penultimate episode. The idea of Hannah having a baby seemed kind of unreal, especially since she didn’t seem to have made any arrangements in particular or had a stable source of income. In fact, this is true of the series as a whole; even as the girls seem incapable of holding down a job, they always seem to make rent… in New York! To be fair, their struggles to make rent are portrayed, but considering this is New York, you’d think it would be an endless anxiety for people who don’t have a stable income, not a random problem. Anyhow, with a baby on the way, the question of financial stability seemed even more pressing – there were people like Elijah and later bizarrely Adam – who offered to help, but with time not really with money. So maybe Hannah’s parents would pitch in, though that wasn’t mentioned either. Or maybe I’m the only one who things about these things.
Anyway, the show resolved the financial question by having Hannah move away for a job in the penultimate episode, but again that’s happened before with the writing workshop thing, and although it seemed like that was the series finale (it wasn’t), I continued to wonder how Hannah and motherhood would play out. Well, the finale episode delved into that.
And I found myself somewhat disappointed. Not because of the fact that the episode was anticlimactic, which it was intentionally in keeping with the show’s ethos, but because of the depiction of the trials of early motherhood. Which were pretty on point actually. But almost in a cliched and tired way. Breastmilk vs formula, baby won’t latch, gosh I’m so tired, noone understands. These are so familiar and so old, do they bear repeating? Or maybe I am on the moms Facebook page too much where we hear this ad infinitum from actual mothers. I get that portraying this ordinary reality might be groundbreaking television, but is it? Really? I feel like it’s been done before (or maybe just in my own life)? Am I not appreciating the innovation of depicting raw new mother frustration on TV just because I’ve been-there-done-that (by the way, I have lots of sympathy for actual new mothers) and that it all might seem gritty and novel for millennials without kids?
Oh, and a lot of people are upset with Hannah’s yet-again display of self-centeredness in fighting with her mom when she came to help. First of all, the idea of just Hannah and Marie going it alone while very sweet was also very stupid. When I realised that that’s what was happening, I was like um. I suppose this is an American thing but it is so stupid. Did Hannah even try to solicit help from other people? Where is Elijah who was so supportive throughout the season (though admittedly he did say he’s not going to leave New York and his career took off). You’d think Hannah’s parents, knowing their daughter would have the sense to be there. Well. Kudos to Marnie although she seemed to morph – not surprisingly – into the kind of partner who is all about the gyan without actually having to put her raw boobs on the line. I was impressed with how calmly she dealt with Hannah’s meltdown though.
Okay, so back to Hannah’s mom. Yes, Loreen was awesome. But about Hannah being a bitch to her, while in character, it was probably the one time it was/is okay. When my mom came to help me out after I delivered Nene, she at one point mentioned to me that her oldest sister-in-law had counselled her to not be offended by anything I said to her, that new mothers could be like that. And I was. And Hannah was. Hannah shouting at the very people who were helping her, because in the end they couldn’t really help her feeling of helplessness and utter total exhaustion, was very realistic and in fact normal. Okay, so maybe this episode is about something after all.
I think was killed it for me was the very end. I wish they could have fed the baby formula and moved on. But no, the culmination had to be about Hannah getting the baby to latch. And okay, this is about a narcissistic person who as her mom said gives up when the going gets tough deciding to come back and follow through. But it just felt like such a betrayal of all those women struggling to breastfeed, who cannot breastfeed (like Hannah’s mom incidentally) who had to watch the triumph of the series being getting the baby to latch and thereby proving redemptive for the central character. And I get that this is only redemptive in the context of Hannah, but given that the whole breastfeeding dogma has become sooo oppressive (I saw one post on an FB Moms group about how a baby was actually dehydrated by the insistence on breastfeeding, and of course, event though this post is a drop in an ocean overflowing with the endorsement of breastfeeding, you had to have a lactation consultant butt into the say “I am sick of this…breastfeeding is hard, if you can’t do it, get over it”. Like if you are sick of all of three women sharing their distress, move on, don’t while pretending to help tell people they didn’t try enough), you’d think that they would have gone a different direction. I don’t know.
So after the season finale of Girls, I started Big Little Lies which is also critically acclaimed. Hell, one of the feminist blogs I read which is against everything (this is not to say all feminist blogs are against everything, just this one tends to be quite critical) endorsed it.
But this post has gone on too long, so I will discuss that in a separate post.