‘Girls’ – ‘Vagina Panic’: We’re the ladies?

Senior Television Writer
04.22.12 82 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Girls” coming up just as soon as I make the continent of Africa on your arm…

While I was surprised with some of the reasons people hated the “Girls” pilot, I’m not surprised by the hatred itself. This was not a show I expected to be for everyone – and probably not for most people – for a variety of reasons, not least of which that it opens with such an unsympathetic view of its own characters. But I continue to love it and look forward to writing about it every week, for however many of you stick around to watch it.

And “Vagina Panic” doesn’t especially soften our view of Hannah and friends. What it does is sharpen what we can see of them and their world.

As the title suggests, this one’s even more focused on sex than the pilot. We open with back-to-back scenes of terrible sex, first with Hannah once again going along with Adam’s gross, demeaning role-play, then with Marnie having sex with Charlie that goes so far in the other direction (too slow, too gentle, too understanding) as to be just as mortifying to watch. And we close with Jessa being relieved when her period arrives much later than expected, ending her brief pregnancy scare (and making the “beautiful abortion” Marnie threw for her besides the point), while Hannah has an uncomfortable (in both the physical and emotional sense) gynecological exam inspired by her “‘Forest Gump’-based fear” of AIDS, and of the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms.

Good sex exists, both in the real world and the world of this show, and yet there’s a sense throughout “Vagina Panic” that the act in general is more trouble than it’s worth to these three women who are having it. Yet to Shoshanna(*), who’s still a virgin at 21, sex seems like everything, and even Marnie can’t come up with a good equivalent from her own life to make Shoshanna feel better about her lack of experience. (“I hit a puppy once with my car?”)

(*) Shoshanna gets much more play this week than last, and though she’s pitched more broadly than the other three, she’s funny enough that I’ll allow it for now. The argument with Hannah and Jessa over who the ladies are was particularly amusing.

Hannah unsurprisingly remains the most in-focus character, and Lena Dunham remains toughest on her alter ego. Even before Hannah embarrasses herself in front of the OB/GYN, we see her torpedo a job interview in spectacular, horrifying fashion by jokingly calling the interviewer a date rapist. What makes the scene so squirm-inducing, and yet funny, is that things were going so well until that joke. Hannah had the job in the bag. She’s not completely incompetent or unqualified. She can banter with a total stranger, and even make the slightly dorky older guy feel better about himself. But she just can’t stop talking, doesn’t know where to draw the humor line in this setting, and she ruins everything in under 10 seconds. It’s a “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!”-style horror movie moment, akin to Jon Favreau leaving all the messages for Nikki in “Swingers,” or Michael Scott trying to tell the Chris Rock joke to Mr. Brown on Diversity Day.

And yet for all Hannah’s blunders, all her panic, all her self-destructive choices, you understand Marnie’s loyalty to her when Hannah calms her down when Jessa predictably shows up late for the abortion, and even when she’s making an ass out of herself to the doctor, she gets the amusing, self-deprecating last word of the scene, and episode.

What did everybody else think?

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