IN A RECENT INTERVIEW about her 1978 film Girlfriends, Claudia Weill cites the final sentence of Eleanor Bergstein's novel Advancing Paul Newman (1973): “This is a story of two girls, each of whom suspected the other of a more passionate connection with life.” Weill describes this as “kind of what Girlfriends is about.” As such themes of suspicion and envy run through literature on female friendship — especially when it involves two girls — to say that last night’s Girls was also kind of about Bergstein’s story is perhaps redundant, though the fact that Weill directed the episode, and made the fracturing line of jealousy between Hannah and Marnie increasingly palpable, makes it also one we can’t ignore. Instead of Anne and Susan (an uptight writer and frenetic photographer) of Girlfriends, we have Hannah and Marnie (a frenetic writer and uptight curator). Further, that Dunham had not seen Weill’s film when she created Girls speaks to the exchangeability of those roles, or types — Dunham and Weill’s girls, over three decades apart, take each other up, they try each other on. Just as with Anne and Susan, so it goes for Hannah and Marnie: when one girl suspects another of having a more passionate connection with life, she often overlooks how similar and similarly frightened the other might also be.
While last night’s episode, titled “Boys,” made note to focus on the guys of Girls (Ray, Adam, Booth Jonathan), it was also a version of Girlfriends in miniature. The episode ends with Ray, but its centerpiece is the scene of Hannah and Marnie speaking over telephone, neither willing to admit to the other that they’re less happy, less passionately involved, than they’d like to appear. Each makes an effort to lie to the other — a backyard party, an excited project — which only works to compound the amount of guilt and loss felt by each. Envy of another cannot exist without projection from the envious, and the scenes of Hannah writing for herself (compared to those in which she talks animatedly about writing to others) show how an unmediated relationship to herself is almost too difficult to maintain. Alone in the kitchen, Hannah tries to write, but doesn’t get very far before she’s interrupted by Jessa. Then there’s some texting, followed by four desperate sips from her mug. (In the later writing scene, Hannah is lying in bed with her laptop in an all-too-familiar position, before she calls Marnie, almost on an impulse.) Forget nakedness or sex: Hannah is never more vulnerable than when writing, her most tragic and lonely state.
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