Why This Girls Episode is So Important (Spoilers!)

SPOILER ALERT: Whether you’re an avid Girls viewer like myself, you’ve never heard of the show, or you simply just aren’t a fan, one thing holds true: Season 6 episode 3: “American B***h” is an important episode. If you’re one of those mentioned above that have never even heard of the show, here’s a little background info: The show is created by Lena Dunham, who not only is a co-writer for the show, but also plays the lead role of Hannah Horvath. Girls follows the lives of four friends in their mid to late 20’s in New York City, through relationships, friendships, careers and everything in between, replete with unfiltered and unapologetic moments and witty dialogue that so naturally capture the naive and angsty 20-something mindset. While many have criticized Girls’s obvious lack of diversity for a show that is meant to shine light on what it’s like to tackle being a young, 21st century woman, this specific episode carries truth that women from all different sets of beliefs, religions, races, and sizes can find relevance in.

The entire episode, in similar alternate-reality style to that of Season 2 Episode 5: “One Man’s Trash,” focuses solely on Hannah (Dunham) as she meets with middle-aged renowned novelist Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys). She arrives at his Upper West Side bachelor pad to discuss a recent article written by a young college woman in which she opened up about her sexual encounters with Palmer while he was on tour, an article which sparked many other women to come forward with similar stories. The majority of the episode involves Hannah questioning Palmer about these actions, specifically pointing to his apparent manipulation of younger and impressionable women who, Hannah suggests, never truly chose to engage in sexual relations with Palmer but instead felt that they had to because of who he is. As Hannah says, “What’s she supposed to say? No? - Uh - she admires you.”

We see a power play emerge between the two as Palmer attempts to defend his actions through tactfully turning the entire situation around in order to make himself out to be the true victim. He states, “And all of a sudden, she has something to write about. She has a story, she has an experience, okay? She has something that makes her different from every other creative writing undergrad that was bussed in from Virginia.” And just like that, Palmer has successfully made the argument that these girls were simply using him, not the other way around. As the episode progresses, we subtly see Hannah — and perhaps even find ourselves — giving in to Palmer’s blandishments. He charmingly tells Hannah how smart she is, telling her, “You write sharply. Like you’re actually paying attention,” and harps on the idea that she’s too good of a writer to be spending her time on a story like this one. The two then spend some time getting to know each other after Palmer admits to Hannah that he feels guilty for not ever getting to know all of those other girls; by getting to know her, he would be “fixing” that. So, we see Hannah slowly let her guard down. The two laugh, share witty banter, discuss Pen/Faulkner award-winning Philip Roth and his alleged alternate book title for his novel When We Were Young (American B***h--cue the episode’s name), and we, as the audience, almost forget why Hannah is there in the first place.

And then Palmer asks Hannah to lie down with him. She agrees, and moments later, Palmer’s actions bring Hannah back to reality as she realizes that she has just been duped in the same way that so many other girls have in the past: through flattery and, ultimately, admiration. The episode ends with Hannah stormily leaving the apartment and walking down the busy street. With a flute rendition of Rihanna’s “Desperado” assertively playing in the background, the camera zooms out and we notice dozens of 20-something-year-old women walking in the opposite direction of Hannah, all heading into Palmer’s building.

So, what does all of this mean? By the ending, we can assume that this will not be the last time that Chuck Palmer will use his charisma and power to seduce a younger girl into getting what he wants. In this case, he was attempting to prevent a young booming writer (Hannah) from slandering him on the Internet where millions of users can easily access her thoughts. In the other girls’ cases, it could have simply just been sex that he wanted. Either way, what we see here is a familiar case of power play between a young, wide-eyed girl with dreams of success and an older man with the allure of providing her just that. Outside of this specific scenario, I think Dunham is also speaking through the lens of any sexual situation where a woman feels responsible or obligated to do something that she is not 100 percent down for, and all of the grey areas that take place in between. Dunham has used her own personal platform to basically say through her creative voice, “this is not okay,” and I think that that is the most we as women can hope for in any female voice of our generation.