Girls Will Be “Girls”—Season 3 Through A Feminist Lens

The third season of HBO’s Girls premiered Sunday night with two new episodes and a whole lot of millennial self-absorption.

Hannah (Lena Dunham), now back with Adam (Adam Driver), is getting her life back on track, while her best friend Marnie (Allison Williams) is single again after being ceremonially dumped by Charlie (Christopher Abbott). Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is enjoying her newfound sexual freedom and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) reappears in rehab.

Below, I chat with an anonymous woman friend about the new season.

Jennifer: I was actually pretty happy to see all the ways Girls touched on feminism in the first two episodes. I did feel, though, that they kinda hit us over the head with this definition of female friendship as one where you stick it out no matter what: the good, the bad and the ugly. As Hannah explains to Adam “I don’t care what my friends have to say! That’s like the whole point of friendship!”

In contrast, I think the show definitely nails both Adam and Charlie for pulling a disappearing act when they break-up with their ex-girlfriends. The show is critiquing a type of overly sensitive but basically irresponsible 20- and 30-something New York man captured in Adelle Waldman’s new novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which I think Dunham mentions in your Salon interview, right?

 Anonymous Friend: Yes, she said,

I loved it. It was the first novel I’ve read that was taking place in the same world as Girls. It was cool to see how fiction could deal with that differently. You get an internal monologue, and that was cool.

If I had to dilute the first two episodes down to one moment, it would be the scene in the coffee shop when Adam’s ex-girlfriend tells Hannah “You know that you have an off-the-wagon Neanderthal sex addict sociopath who’s gonna fuck you like he’s never met you and like he’s never loved his own mother. And then you’re gonna cry, because that’s what you do. Does he like to eat you out from behind? Does he bite your neck? Does he sound like a dying dog when he’s fucking you and he shoots his cum all over the place like it’s goddamn confetti? F*cking in my hair I had to get a goddamn blowout after I left your place.” I envy Dunham for getting to write lines for and about Adam, the feminist nightmare in rehab. He is often the worst thing ever, but his moments of truth keep us rooting for him and for their growth as a couple.

Jennifer: It was so dirty, and I think I laughed partly because it was so excruciating to hear.

Anon: Dunham exploits every stereotype possible, especially with the closeted black lesbian (Danielle Brooks, who plays Taystee on Orange Is the New Black) who gets outed by Jessa for supposedly wearing clearly identifiable lesbian clothing. During a rehab meeting, Jessa tells her, “I feel like you are using being molested as an excuse. I’m really sorry that your uncle fucked you, but at the end of the day we’ve all been fucked a lot.” Later, Jessa offers her an oral sex apology. Although Dunham has been criticized for the show’s lack of diversity, I’m not sure that this scene will appease any of her critics.

Jennifer: Well, I think what’s more interesting than the “is she racist?” conversation is the way Dunham and executive producer Jenni Konner threw in a pretty graphic multi-racial lesbian oral-sex scene complete with Jessa’s face being buried in the other girls’ lap.

Anon: Boom, that was amazing. How often has lesbian oral sex been shown on television?

Jennifer: Exactly. So, I guess it’s impossible to talk about Girls without some mention of Dunham being full-on naked … again. I would say she is quite literally on top in this Season 3 premiere. Of course, it begs the question reporter Tim Molloy recently asked Dunham, “I don’t get the purpose of all of the nudity on the show … your character is often naked just at random times for no reason.” Is this scene gratuitous?

Anon: Imperfection and nudity: two things we all live with and try to hide. Dunham challenges the idea that a woman’s body has to achieve male standards of beauty to be worthy of nudity and to enjoy sex. Her body is useful, and she loves it and sex and life.

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Jennifer Mattson reports on arts, culture, politics and women’s issues. Her writing and reporting have appeared in, USA TODAY, The Boston Globe, The Women's Review of Books,, the Women’s Media Center and You can follow her on Twitter @jennifermattson.