While I don’t relate to or want to be friends with Hannah Horvath, I am somewhat compelled by Dunham’s willingness to play such a repugnant character. Hannah repels other characters and the audience as well. Every season ends with the suggestion that she might change, and yet each new season shows that she cannot. I am not sure if I’m rooting for her to finally receive a substantive therapeutic intervention and change, or if I want the show to fully embrace the nasty suggestion that the characters suffer from an arrested development that cannot be cured.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Issa Rae has finally found a network home on HBO just as Girls departs. Her webseries Awkward Black Girl always seemed like the woman of color’s alternative to Girls. The shows had similar themes, but there is always a sense of personal growth and futurity in Rae’s humor about the narcissistic, struggling millennial that’s missing from Girls. In just one season of Insecure, the protagonist has shown more self-reflection and growth than Hannah has in five. If Girls depicts a character trapped in a narcissistic purgatory, Insecure offers the promise of hope in the struggle. In these times, I certainly prefer a sense of possibility over hopelessness.
Rebecca Wanzo is associate professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St Louis.