The Girls season 4 finale was last week. Because of various reasons, I am finally putting pen to paper about it now. However, my response is mostly one of exasperation, because frankly, I’m sick of fans and recappers insisting Hannah finally grows up on that episode because she doesn’t.
Let’s examine the facts, shall we? Hannah starts her day by running out of a class she’s teaching because she’s overwhelmed by her dad coming out of the closet as gay. She must then be comforted by a male co-worker.
I get that life is really hard. I get that families are complicated and maybe it might take a while to adjust to the fact that your dad isn’t really attracted to your mom the way you thought he was; however, is it really a sign of character growth when Hannah still lacks the sense of responsibility to know that, if she doesn’t feel up to supervising minors, she should call in sick or take a personal day?
Next, Hannah does attend a home birth, but um, she isn’t exactly useful. Jessa is the one who convinces Caroline and Laird that sadly, because Caroline is giving birth prematurely to a breach baby, they’re going to have to go to a hospital where they have incubators and things. Hannah just sort of sits there and snarks. In the end, Laird and Caroline seem grateful to Hannah, but the show never demonstrates how she contributed anything meaningful to the whole exercise.
I guess people think Hannah grows up on this episode because after the birth of his niece Jessa-Hannah, Adam asks to get back together with her, and she says no.
We then cut to a scene where Hannah and Cute Teacher From School are walking hand in hand in the winter and kissing. Cue the chorus of people declaring: Ah! She finally has a nice boyfriend, so she must be an adult now!
I take issue with this idea that the passage into adulthood for a straight woman is marked by finally dating a nice dude. Hannah is still the girl who abandons the students she’s paid to look after because she doesn’t feel up to it. No, I don’t fault Hannah for being emotionally distressed, but I do think perhaps she didn’t have to accept the offer of supply teaching that day if she felt so on edge she couldn’t pay proper attention to her students.
Hannah has yet to find what she really wants to do, or at least cares enough about to be competent at. Teaching is something she’s doing, but the way she’s doing it, it seems to be a way for her to make friends with 16-year-olds more than a career path. Not only this, but she still has her love/hate toxic relationships with her best friends. That’s something I’d like to see her get over too.
Why, for some people, does having a nice boyfriend eclipse all the other things Hannah the character has yet to figure out? It’s because we live in a heteronormative sexist society that tells women the most important thing they can do is find a stable relationship.
Another frustrating thing is that in terms of providing evidence of character growth, the rest of the finale was little better for the show’s other girls.
Shosh does take advantage of a great new job opportunity in Japan, but only because an old white dude quotes Sheryl Sandberg to her. She literally is convinced to further her career because some man she doesn’t even know tells her to, not because she realizes herself that it’s the best move for her future.
Marnie also manages to separate herself from Desi. When he doesn’t show up for their gig like the douche he is, Marnie doesn’t break down. Instead, she takes advantage of the opportunity to return to being a solo performer. She goes on with the show and gives a lovely performance; however, she does so because Ray stands there while she’s making the decision, telling her she can and should take the stage alone. Yay for male-dependent women!
The sad part is, I think the show wants me to see this finale as evidence of character growth. But is it real growth if all the major female characters’ revelations are either about men, or straight up given to them by older white dudes?
Part of growing up is learning to be a self-sufficient and independent person. I’m not saying that it’s bad to care about what older white men you care about think, I’m just saying they shouldn’t be telling you what to do. I’m also saying that having a decent boyfriend in no way automatically equates to becoming a grownass woman.
I kind of hate the show for suggesting otherwise.