Why I felt let down by the finale of GIRLS

GIRLS HBO title screen

From the beginning, GIRLS was a show I related to, first and foremost, because the main character, Hannah, was a writer. Or, rather, she was a young woman who aspired to be a writer but didn't quite know how to navigate the city’s creative ecosystem to get there— a plight I could relate to all too well.

This season after six years and a stint at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Hannah finally seemed to be making strides. She was sent on one of her first paid assignments. She published a critique of a famous author’s relations with women (namely his alleged sexual assaults), which led to a complicated conversation between the two. 

Although she was still floundering to make a mark with her writing, she was really trying to make things happen for herself. So when the plot shifted 180 degrees and suddenly Hannah was pregnant and about to become a mother, I felt duped. THIS was how Lena and Jenni and Judd were going to close this show that had been incredibly inspiring, albeit frustrating, for thousands of creative women? Hannah was going to become a mother and that would tie up her whole storyline with a pretty, little bow?

I realize this is often how things work in real life: You're finally making something happen in your career and you discover you're pregnant. It's not an unrealistic plot line. But here's the thing, on television you do get to decide whether your character is going to get pregnant or not; you do get to decide where the climax of her story arc will be. And by making these very specific decisions, you subtly (though sometimes overtly) convey values. You convey what you think female success looks like, by which I mean: you convey what particular milestones make a woman successful.

And here, in this show I loved so much for its female leads who craved creative professional lives, we see two characters’ storylines come to a “celebratory” close as they embark on traditional female tropes: marriage (Shoshanna) and motherhood (Hannah).

What happened to that drive we saw in Shoshanna when she was in Japan? Or the creativity we saw when she was helping Ray with business development? What happened to Hannah’s unwavering determination to be the “voice of her generation”?

The message the final two episodes of GIRLS seemed to convey was: Well, young lady, that ambition is all well and good but you've been at it six years and where has it really gotten you? It's high time you settle down and realize what's really important in life. Marry a nice man with successful friends—or become a mother—and then you can at least claim you've successfully done something. Then we can see that you've matured. Then we can write you off into our patriarchal happily-ever-after.

It's more complicated than that, I know. It always is. But much as I try to justify it to myself, the show’s jarring sprint to get one woman wed and another with a baby in her arms seemed like a cop out on the part of the writers. And I, for one, was disappointed.