The Taming of the Douche

Image Credit: HBO
Image Credit: HBO

If all you had to do to get a male New Yorker to commit was ask him to be your boyfriend, NPR wouldn’t have just run a story about the ever increasing number of never-married females populating the five boroughs. Which is to say, I don’t buy Girls’ transformation of Adam from a never-returns-a-text canoe builder to the fantasy boyfriend who professes his loves and wants to cohabitate after three weeks. I dated the canoe builders when I was younger (in my case, it was a potato farmer), and they didn’t magically become commitment enthusiasts after spending a few weeks having sex and listening to my gender studies theories. They transformed into ex-boyfriends.

Adam Driver demonstrates great comedic timing and a unique ability to use his body to delineate character, and I’m glad Dunham is giving him material beyond amateur porn monologues. But where did the douchey, shirtless Adam go? When did he grow a vagina? Why so much plaid? Even though I appreciate the climactic Bushwick scene in which Adam slams Hannah for her self-absorption (after she slams her own nose into the pavement), I don’t believe the show earns their final brawl. Hannah obviously needs to end the season pushing away a man so Dunham can highlight Hannah’s inability to view individuals as more than creative fodder, but she elides the arc of the Hannah/Adam relationship to arrive at this conclusion. So I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it any more than I buy the surprise wedding between Jessa and that guy from Bridesmaids.The last genuine moments in the Hannah/Adam narrative—outside of the delightful “You’re peeing on me!” scene—are the call during Hannah’s Michigan sojourn and the aftermath of the Bushwick “crackident.” When Adam finally returns Hannah’s call and semi-sweetly expresses his interest, Hannah clumsily attempts to make him jealous while relishing these brief bits of attention. Hannah later sees Adam at the Bushwick party and realizes that her unanswered texts are not the result of his unfortunate death, so she declares that she will not speak to him. And then walks directly toward him. This is honest, awkward, and completely in line with Hannah and Adam’s apparent one-sided, masochistic “relationship.” I applaud the show for immediately troubling this neat dynamic by revealing Adam’s alcohol problems and anger at Hannah’s self-involvement and creative exploitation of his neuroses; however, I don’t believe these revelations would lead Adam to become instantaneous boyfriend material. He’s still a good looking twenty-three-year-old with a penis. I’m sorry—no—it would never happen. There is a better chance Mr. Big would spend a year penning love letters to Carrie Bradshaw.

The first oh-hell-no moment of their improbable dating adventure occurs when Adam apologizes to Hannah for screaming at a driver (and peeing on her leg) by plastering a building with “Sorry” signs in the middle of the night. Outside of the matching onesies, this scene would fit perfectly into the newest romantic comedy featuring Katherine Heigl and a blandly attractive Irish actor. It is obviously supposed to be quirky and represent Adam’s budding comprehension of his immaturity and impulsiveness, but it feels hackneyed. This is a critique rarely lodged at Dunham’s work. She should know better.

But wait, he peed on her leg, you say? He is still clearly showing his latent douchiness. But someone like Adam likely would pee on his girlfriend’s leg not because he’s a heartless misogynist but because (a) it’s kind of funny and (b) it happens a lot in porn. He has clearly watched a lot of porn as evidenced by his sexual proclivities, so this behavior seems more symptomatic of immaturity than cruelty. However, in real life, he wouldn’t just pee on her leg. He would also insist they keep everything casual and refuse to introduce her to his friends and continue reminding her that he might be leaving for Austin if this week’s theater project doesn’t work out, so she shouldn’t get too attached. Then he would flirt with her best friend and finally break up with her when she is still lying naked beside him. He would not plaster a wall with apologies. He would not proclaim his love during a wedding reception. It. Would. Never. Happen.

Not only are we supposed to buy that Adam has fully committed to Hannah simply because she asked, but we are also expected to believe that Hannah—who has been chasing Adam all season—would shy away from living with him. Here’s the thing about cohabitating in NYC. We move in with people REALLY quickly because it’s REALLY cost effective. I’m not saying this is good relationship advice (and the author of that recent book about how twentysomethings are destroying their lives would chastise me for saying this), but it’s simply what happens when studio apartments cost $1,800. I’m not entirely sure how Adam or Hannah would come up with even half of the rent, but, nonetheless, it would be an appealing option if only because they are both broke. But in what heterosexual universe would Adam suggest this? Adam is a Brooklyn hipster who has been dating a girl for a few weeks. Perhaps he could be a secret femme—the type of guy who appears über-masculine but actually chokes up at the we-need-a-plot-contrivance-to-bring-all–the-characters-into-one-building wedding, but I doubt it.

If Girls had offered its viewers a full twelve or fourteen episodes (and cut a few of the weaker early episodes), we could have witnessed Adam’s affection develop instead of simply being told that—ta-da!—it has. Girls could then have earned the final blow up—except the part where Adam gets hit by a car. No one in NYC walks backward into traffic, except that creepy guy in the first season of Felicity. We may walk directly into traffic while texting, but we don’t have arguments while backing up. But I digress.

During this well-scripted fight, Adam is correct to point out that Hannah enjoys seeing herself as a victim because it serves her creatively when, in reality, she is not exactly Precious (despite what Leslie Arfin would have you believe). Hannah is so used to being alone—self-loathing, self-absorbed, and unhappy—that she engages in self-sabotage to perpetuate her sad but safe existence. She needs her life to be challenging because her art derives from personal experience, and as Tolstoy taught us long ago, only unhappy people are interesting.

While Hannah’s fear of losing her hipster edge is more plausible than Adam’s rapid transformation into a funnier, snarkier Charlie, I still find it difficult to believe a writer who has been trying to break out of her creative and romantic rut wouldn’t mine a difficult relationship rather than abandon it. I know very few women who are scared of commitment—even self-absorbed writers who need personal conflict to sustain their work. Women don’t commit to men when they don’t like them (or find them boring), not when the relationship is ripe for drama.

Nevertheless, Hannah must end the season alone, eating cake on an empty Coney Island beach. Dunham probably conceived of this shot before writing the show. Although the beach shot alludes to countless movies and television shows that have used water to signify rebirth, this particular iteration troubles this reading by highlighting Hannah’s inability to break free of old, unhealthy habits. This season featured Hannah’s slow development from an entitled post-undergrad to an awkward young adult attempting to mature as a woman so she can become a writer worth reading. While Hannah’s solo walk may seem callous when Adam is convalescing alone at Maimonides, I don’t believe we should take this image to mean that Hannah has returned to the spoiled child of the pilot. She’ll visit Adam. She’ll continue her “job” at the coffee shop. Something has shifted even though she still can’t quite fit the pieces together.

Although I have not personally fallen asleep on a train, I have heard friends tell of waking up at the end of a line so disoriented that they felt they were in another world (usually the Bronx). Although the Girls finale was not one of the strongest episodes and often felt contrived, I’m still willing to follow Hannah and the rest of the cast into this new world of difficult relationships and petty jobs. I just hope the new world is populated by the Adam who calls Hannah a monster and not the hipster fantasy.

 

 

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