The National Politics Of HBO's 'Girls'
March 26th, 2013 6:20pm EDT
I'm still reeling from the end of season 2 of Girls. How perfectly dramatic and raw was that ending? If you're not familiar with the show, then first off, tsk-tsk. Granted, its target audience is 20-somethings looking for a mature television show with relatable characters, but that isn't reason enough not to watch even if you're not squarely in their demographics. Oh, and "mature television show" is the politically correct term to describe unedited nudity, swearing, drug use, and other "adult" situations.
If you are familiar with the show, then you know the four main protagonists are Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna, each as different from one another as they are similar. Hannah must be the center of attention; Marnie is confident and sure; Jessa is simultaneously flighty and decisive; Shoshanna is bright-eyed if not naïve.
If we were to take each main character and equate them to something political in the United States today, it would look like this:
Hannah Horvath is played by show creator and head writer, Lena Dunham. Hands down, and without question, she is today's dysfunctional Republican Party. She demands to be the center of attention, can't fathom the idea that any of her friends' problems are larger than her own, and is stuck doing the same ineffective things over and over in her personal life, all the while expecting different results in the end.
Hannah, like so many conservative politicians today, demands respect she hasn't earned and is incensed when someone has the balls to call her on it. She's quite willing to go into debt to fund her own agenda, but seldom has a plan on how the money will be repaid or even if it will be repaid at all.
Hannah is also self-absorbed and has no empathy for others. If it hasn't happened to her, or doesn't apply, she sees no real reason to consider the plights of others who live differently from her. She also believes that policies, rules, and laws are more important than the circumstances of actual people, unless, of course, that person is her, in which case it all becomes relative and all bets are off.
And like today's Republican Party in the United States, Hannah is always willing to help those who already have the means to help themselves. She pays for other's meals, clothing, and nights on the town with money she doesn't have even though those people don't need her assistance.
Finally, Hannah is the ultimate nanny-state and insists on prodding and poking into everyone's lives to fix the things that bother her, all the while insisting she has no interest in doing said prodding and poking, and not taking kindly at all to being prodded and poked in return.
The character of Marnie Michales, played to perfection by rising television actress Allison Williams, is the complete package. Good looking from far and near, larger than life in many instances, exuding the confident swagger of someone who knows what they want and is clearly in charge, and a willingness to whore herself out in an attempt to get the results she desires.
Marnie is today's Congress. Dysfunctional at times with complex inner workings, internal battles with those supposedly on her team, and the power—when it's all said and done—to affect the most change possible in the shortest amount of time.
She's creative, ingenious, and driven to accomplish her goals. She isn't always in the mood for compromise, seeing no real reason to do so considering the sheer amount of power she wields; but she’ll give in if she feels like it will further her agenda.
She's quite willing to get in bed with the rich and powerful, often letting them dictate some of the terms and conditions of what's about to go down. She often exhibits contempt for those she sees as beneath her, including her peers.
Marnie sees nothing as impossible, knows she has the keys to the kingdom (which has a lot to do with her good looks, great body, and charming personality), and the knowledge that anything cool or otherwise important that's going to happen within her immediate group is likely to take its lead from her.
She holds all the real power and she knows it, which is why everyone in her life gravitates toward her at all times, for all reasons.
The show's creators found a real gem in Jemima Kirke, the British actress who's made the Jessa Johansson character her own. In terms of today's politics, Jessa is the President of the United States. She does what she wants, when she wants and she never asks permission. She comes and goes at the drop of a hat, seldom feels compelled to have herself held accountable to anyone other than "her people," which is always a moving target.
She makes bold policy decisions that always seem to have her interests at heart, which she is convinced that it’s also everyone's best interest, and believes the resulting outcome is the desired outcome. She's a natural leader who doesn't always exhibit the best listening skills, and who can, at times, rise to the occasion and be remarkable and respectable.
In the end, however, Jessa prefers the perks and benefits that come with the office and title of POTUS, and would rather be golfing, camping, or jetting off to some foreign country in first-class accommodations; certain everyone she's left behind will handle the nation's business.
Played brilliantly by Zosia Mamet, Shoshanna Shapiro is today's Democratic Party in a nutshell. She's naïve in her worldview and believes deep down that people are more important than silly rules and laws, and supports each person's desire to live any kind of life they can imagine.
She treats everyone like they're smarter than they are—as opposed to Hannah who treats everyone like they're dumber than they are—but this results in far more assumptions on her part rather than explaining things and speaking her mind to ensure everyone's on the same page.
She lives a life of debauchery, indulgence, and unfettered self-gratification, which she sees as her inalienable right as a liberal. She occasionally tells lies about her lifestyle but in the end always comes clean about what she's doing, but never offers an apology because she's not sorry for her choices.
She'd like everyone in the world to be just like her, and to see the world through her eyes. She gets quite frustrated when she feels like her good ideas are being discounted or otherwise not taking very seriously.
Whether intentional or not on the part of the show's creators, Girls is a representative slice of American politics with a little something for everyone. In a world where everything's politicized, Girls includes enough opposing views, opinions, situations, and outlooks to offend everyone who is watching.
Emiah is a writer for the Cable TV blog.
Photo Credits: HBO