It was the most brilliant episode of HBO’s fantastic new series, “Girls,” which aired a little over a month ago. Protagonist Hannah Horvath (played by Lena Dunham, also the show’s creator and writer) visits her hometown in rural Michigan, which can best be described as passing out half a mile short of the finish line in the laborious marathon of life (or at least Hannah’s perception of it). She trampled it, striding past, all the way to New York City where she “lives” as a struggling writer (AKA working mindless jobs that don’t require a college education and bitching about it in a few bedside journal essays).
She meets with a childhood crush. They sit in a kind of awkward silence that’s only comforting when you know it’s only a matter of minutes before you’re in the other person’s bed (or, they’re in yours), moving your hips instead of your lips, using your tongue to titillate their genitalia versus engaging in any sort of meaningful conversation.
At once it’s a scene that captures the delicate, almost fully-blossomed awkward pre-sexual encounter that’s standard for most developing young adults during college. While that’s a very difficult thing to capture for an audience, the scene also makes it very clear that these people are young beyond their years, maturing sexually far prior to having any sort of grasp on the “real” world that’s pounding on the other side of their raging hormones.
It’s also an expertly constructed encapsulation of one of the most potent things any recent college graduate will live with for the rest of their young adult life; fear.
“So, you’re a writer in New York City?” he says to Hannah.
“Yeah,” she replies coolly, clearly enjoying the astute impression that phonetic combination affords her, knowing it impresses him. The city turned her into quite a catch.
“So that’s how you make your money?” he asks.
“No, I don’t have any money.”
The revelation is obvious, staking a clear divide between passion and sense, a divide which hits far too close to home than I’m comfortable with.
You see, the first airing of “Girls” was in late April of this year, a week or two prior to my own college graduation. I could barely wrap my head around the slew of last-minute final analysis papers (Hitchcock…Haneke…headache, is more like it) that I’d put off. The daunting workload perfectly outlined on the syllabi I’d been given at the start of the semester, its edges now yellow and crinkled where crisp, pure white once sprawled. A fitting metaphor for my last semester at the University of Pittsburgh…four years ago, the excitement I felt upon making the decision to dedicate an entire college career to studying the medium of cinema, one that I loved so much and wanted so desperately to be a part of. Now, it’d become a routine. A task. A landslide of busywork no different than an onslaught of algebraic equations and organic chemistry assignments I would have no doubt endured had I chosen a course path that would lead to a fruitful, marketable major. There were times, I admit, that I hated film over the course of the past few months. It was something routine, something I “had” to do versus something I “wanted” to do. At times I felt like if I’d known studying something makes passion an afterthought, I’d have buckled down and studied something “normal.”
But, instead, I’m a Film Studies major. I have a Bachelor of Arts, and what to show for it after graduation? The usual anxieties flood my mind on a daily basis. When can I move to New York? Am I going to feel “old” going out with my friends still in school? Will I be able to find a job with my major? I think, at least for me, these reasons are why “Girls” was like a shining beacon of hope for every doubt I harbor about my own post-college career. The show celebrates a sort of blind delusion with regards to one’s own talents and abilities. Are we each made to carve our own artistic path and succeed in fields which are basically impossible to find steady work in realistically? Or would we find the most comfort in working a job unrelated to what we love because it’s easy, satiating our wallets but starving the creative side that forced us to go for that liberal arts major, ultimately leading us to the nine-to-five desk job we’re at right now?
Hannah’s cluelessness in relation to her own talents is, I supposed, meant to function as a mirror to all of us “creative” college types. She’s good at what she does (her former professor obviously thinks so), but is she somewhat delusional about just how far her abilities will take her? At that, is being somewhat delusional actually a good thing? Is there actually beauty in resisting what is the “best” way to go about paying bills after college and pursuing a dream full time? The beauty of my generation (yes, I realize I just used a positive adjective to describe us) seems to be an unflinching sense of uncaring. No job? No money? That’s fine, as long as I can make it to an unpaid photoshoot for a local magazine or have one of my articles published in the newspaper for a mere $120 (before taxes, mind you). That seems to be something my generation doesn’t fear; persistence. We definitely don’t stray from it. And if we have a goal in mind, we’re going to work ruthlessly (sometimes selfishly) in order to get it, even if that means living off of mommy and daddy for two years after college graduation (I’m looking at you, Hannah).
While I seem to be merely musing here and not making any real points, I guess what I want to take away from a show like “Girls” is a sense of pride in being fearless. Some might call the writing major Hannah studied “artsy” or “careless” because it yields little potential for financial success after college. Some might say (and have said) that the Film Studies major is a one-way ticket to the unemployment line. Three months after graduation as I write this, staring out my window at the gently pouring rain I’m forced to come to terms. Do I have a “real” job? No. But do I know a hell of a lot more about something I’ve felt passionate about my entire life? Yes. I’m equipped to analyze and write the medium. I guess now I just wait for my “Girls” to happen.