Why the World Needed Hannah Horvath

Recently HBO and show creator, Lena Dunham bid a final farewell to the girls of Girls.  I started watching this show 6 seasons ago with the hopes that it would perhaps fill the void that the ladies of Sex and the City had left. In a way it did, but not exactly. It filled a void I didn’t even know I had.

As each season ended I found myself saying I was done and would watch it no more. These girls frustrated and infuriated me without end. Their narcissistic, self-centered shenanigans with Dunham’s Horvath at the center made me glad each week to no longer be in my 20’s.  Was I ever that delusional and self-absorbed? God, I hope not.

But come back each season I did, and I slowly began to understand the importance of Hannah Horvath and why she was exactly what the world needed.

It was rare that an episode aired without Hannah showing a little skin – usually a LOT skin.  She beautifully owned her nakedness, embraced it, and had absolutely no problem sharing it with the rest of the world.  She didn’t hide behind blankets or loose fitting clothes to  disguise her body.  She didn’t quickly turn the lights off before sex.  She was real, with real flaws, and real perfections.  Hannah Horvath had no boundaries, no filter.  She really only cared about herself, and at the end of the day didn’t really even do that so much.

“I worked very, very hard to overcome the challenges of my non-traditional body type.” — Hannah Horvath, Girls

Lena Dunham single-handedly stripped down to nothing and gave the collective world the finger if they dared to criticize her for it – and of course, they did.  Over and over again.  Lena Dunham became the voice of her generation, one that desperately needed to be heard.  And what did they have to say? Well . . .something we kind of already knew: that adulting is hard.

Hannah would drive me crazy to no end with her bad decisions and life choices,  but within them there was a genuine honest truth to it all.  Life is messy and dirty and not all rainbows and sunshine.  It’s a beautiful, ugly thing.

The body positive conversation this series started and on a such a huge public platform was poignant, necessary, and long overdue.  Hannah was not a size 0 and yet lived a sexual life.  Was the sex always good? No, but such is life.  The idea of someone plus-sized being attractive and  ::gasp::  having sex, good or bad, was never heard of before, much less normalized the way Girls did it each week.  Women of a certain size weren’t supposed to be naked, having sex, being desired.  Hannah’s  was never an issue so much on the show – Hannah was just Hannah in all her naked, glorious, insane, hot mess.  Of course, the fact that women’s bodies of whatever shape and size had to be ‘normalized’ at all is ridiculous, but that’s a topic for a different blog.

When asked by a reporter once what the purpose of the nudity was on Girls, Dunham replied without missing a beat, “It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think, and I totally get it. If you are not into me, that’s your problem, and you are going to have to kind of work that out with whatever professionals you’ve hired.”

Hannah Horvath gave female millennials a voice, but she also gave the rest of us a relative, meaningful glimpse into their relationships, dreams, choices, and world.  We were able to relate, whether we loved them or hated them, because they were real.

:::spoiler alert:::

A lot of people have taken issue with the way the series finale played out a few weeks ago when we finally got to see Hannah’s baby, Grover.  Single mother Hannah had walked away from her Brooklyn life as we knew it, moving to the burbs – a new job, a new house, and a new role: mother.

I think the show did a beautiful job of representing the reality of becoming a new mother: the non-stop bleeding for 6 weeks that nobody tells you about, forgetting to eat or shower, feeling like you’re a failure as a mother or a wife or a woman in general (sometimes all three at once), clothes and shoes not fitting, stressing over formula or breast milk, and that lost feeling  where you find yourself separated from the person you used to be as you transition into the person you were always meant to be.  Eventually you find your groove and figure out that what’s best for you and your baby may not be what’s best for someone else – and that’s okay.  We leave with a sense of acceptance that Hannah will eventually figure this all out as well.  She’s not alone out there.

This episode is one that has kept me thinking.  When I first watched it, I honestly wasn’t sure if I liked it or hated it – not unlike my reaction to most episodes of Girls.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the reality and the fantasy of it, the more I’ve come to know that this was the perfect way to end this story.  The episode was moving and brought me to tears.  Saying goodbye to Hannah was harder than I thought it would be.

Hannah had finally transitioned from a girl to a woman.  Will Hannah still be the self-loathing, self-centered, filter-free narcissistic we’ve all come to love and hate? Absolutely.  That will never change for Hannah. It’s ingrained in her DNA, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.  The series finale stayed true to itself and to Hannah, and we were all better for it.

 

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