It’s hard to figure out what will most fuel the post-“Girls” talk this week: Hannah’s inability to express any kind of emotion following the surprise death of her editor David (John Cameron Mitchell)? Or the digs at Gawker and Jezebel? We’ll probably have to go with the latter.
Perhaps this crossed your inbox or social media stream, but in case you missed it, Jezebel recently went on a misguided and very personal mission to “expose” the Photoshop work Vogue did on Lena Dunham for their latest issue. The site offered up a $10,000 bounty for the original, un-retouched photographs in an effort to try and make some kind of point about the fashion industry’s perpetuation of unrealistic body images. Not only was this whole thing completely tasteless (nothing says feminism like digging up unauthorized pictures of an actress and putting them on your website), it turns out their prediction that the “images got more than the basic adjustments for lighting and shadows and errant flyaway hairs” was completely wrong. Dunham herself had the perfect final word, telling Slate: “A fashion magazine is like a beautiful fantasy. Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women, Vogue is the place that we go to look at beautiful clothes and fancy places and escapism and so I feel like if the story reflects me and I happen to be wearing a beautiful Prada dress and surrounded by beautiful men and dogs, what’s the problem? If they want to see what I really look like go watch the show that I make every single week.”
So here we are, back at the show Dunham makes every week, and obviously “Dead Inside” was written well before this “controversy.” But one can’t help but feel the irony dripping from the argument between Hannah and Adam (Adam Driver), when the all-feeling boyfriend raises concerns about Hannah’s lack of remorse over David’s passing. Hitting up the internet to get details on his death prompts this testy exchange between the pair.
“Gawker? You’re getting your news from Gawker? When you die, how would you feel if a bunch of judgmental creeps, celibate against their will, snarkily reported on every detail of your body decomposing?,” Adam asks. “Those are a bunch of jealous people who make a living appealing to our basest desire to see each other kicked while we’re down.”
But Hannah comes the defense of the site, claiming that their roundup of what’s happening suits her, and then this: “And its sister site, Jezebel, is a place feminists can go to support one another, which we need in this modern world full of slut-shaming.” Zing.
But back to the episode at hand—yes, David is dead, and Hannah has one focus: “No one will tell me anything about my book.” As Adam explains, he isn’t mad at Hannah for her absence of any caring about the man she worked closely with, but “scared” about how she might react if he were to die. Hannah concedes she’d be “extremely sad,” but also turns around and makes it about herself too, adding that she’s already fantasized about the kind of eulogy she would give, and yes, she would be worried about how to make rent too. It seems death brings out Hannah’s practical side.
Ray (Alex Karpovsky) is also alarmed that Hannah can’t take a moment to see David’s death from any other perspective than how it affects here. “Hannah, why don’t you place just one crumb of basic human compassion on this fat-free muffin of sociopathic detachment,” he asks. But Ray can’t follow his own advice. He winds up getting caught by Marnie (Allison Williams), showing Hermie (Colin Quinn) her “What I Am” video, and furiously winds up quitting her job at Grumpy’s. “Do you know what kind of work I am qualified to do out in the world? Fancy people want to work with me, so I’m going to give them that pleasure, so I’m going to go work with them. So fuck you both, have a nice day.”
But that’s a slight detour to an episode that keeps its focus on death. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) decides to track down Season (Melonie Diaz), her former best friend who she thought had passed away—there was even a funeral. But not only is she alive and well, she’s living in a brownstone in Brooklyn, the mother to a young baby and happily married. It turns out Season, a former drug addict, faked her death to get away from Jessa, who was a continual bad influence on her life. Ouch.
And then we wind up back with Hannah, hitting a graveyard with Laird (Jon Glaser, mourning the loss of his turtle) and Caroline (Gaby Hoffman), where the latter serves up a test for Hannah. She tells a touching story about Adam caring for their sickly cousin when they were younger, taking the dying girl to his prom to help fulfill her one last wish. Laird is reduced to tears, while Hannah’s only comment is about the size of the girl’s outfit. This leaves even Caroline astonished that Hannah couldn’t express one thought of consideration and reveals that she made the entire story up too. But the tale does give Hannah a way to make up with Adam—or at least convince him she has some kind of feeling within her. After shedding some crocodile tears for David, explaining it takes her time to process emotions, she recounts her story of Margaret, a neighbor who had muscular dystrophy…
So, is Hannah a monster or, at the least, completely self-involved? Certainly the latter, but that’s not really a surprise. One could attribute her supposed thoughtlessness to just being young, where death is still somewhat abstract because it’s so far away from being a personal reality. Then again, Hannah’s ability to manipulate Caroline’s tale for her own ends to re-connect with Adam is a bit astonishing, but is she just supposed to let David’s death come between them? “Dead Inside” is a tricky episode because it’s one of the few times where Hannah’s actions are inscrutable, not just to the characters in the show, but the audience as well. And though that’s likely half the point, it leaves the episode unbalanced in a way “Girls” usually isn’t, and somewhat unsatisfactorily. It’s not helped by the Jessa subplot, which seems a touch on the side of ludicrous and hard to believe. It’s an off-center episode, one that already starts rather jarringly with a surprise death. But luckily for this season so far, it’s just a minor bump in the road. [C]
Songs in this episode: Sleigh Bells “Bitter Rivals”; Avi Buffalo “One Last”; Eleni Mandell “Girls”; Jake Bugg “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It”; Nancy Sinatra “Sugar Town”