Justin Peligri: What ‘Girls’ says about us

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Justin Peligri

“I’m an individual. And I feel how I feel when I feel it,” said Hannah Horvath, the lead character of the Emmy-nominated HBO series “Girls” on the opening episode of its second season.

In the show written, directed by and starring actress Lena Dunham, four 20-something Oberlin College alumnae try to make names for themselves – or at least earn regular paychecks – in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In an average episode, Hannah parties in a warehouse, performs interpretive dances to the Scissor Sisters and finds out from her ex-boyfriend, who came out of the closet a few episodes prior and has since become her roommate, that he has slept with her best female friend – all while both are high on cocaine.

And when she’s not out with her friends, she’s spending her time eating a cupcake and crying in the bathtub or trying to get a steady job as a writer so she can gain recognition as what she says is the “voice of her generation.”

On the surface, “Girls,” which is midway through its second season and was recently renewed for a third, seems somewhat generic. But what makes the show worth watching to my peers is its jarring relevancy: Whether we like it or not, it illustrates the naïve feeling of self-entitlement that nearly all college students feel upon graduation.

We identify with Hannah – though we are, at times, repulsed by her – because she is a comedic, wistfully unaware embodiment of our own experiences.

Hannah’s talent for writing moving prose might be as formidable as she claims in practically every episode, but so are the writing abilities of thousands of other college graduates. And, for the college-aged, this can be a frustrating concept to grasp.

As a result of the culture we live in, many of us feel the pressure to succeed and shine a spotlight on our own not-so-novel experiences.

Hannah sums up these feelings of self-righteousness well in the second episode of season two, when she is talking to her boyfriend about a piece of her writing.

“It wasn’t for me, exactly,” her boyfriend, played by Donald Glover, hesitantly explains.

“Well, I mean, it was probably for you. It’s for everyone,” she shoots back.

“Okay, for starters, umm, it was very well written,” he responds.

“I know. That’s the stuff I don’t need to hear,” she says, clearly frustrated that her boyfriend doesn’t understand her creative genius.

Hannah can’t comprehend why her personal essays would earn anything short of glowing praise. Accordingly, she breaks up with him at the end of the scene.

In today’s society, in which the mantra revolves around loving your work rather than inching your way up the career ladder, the lack of instant gratification is a tough adjustment compared to what many of us were raised to believe.

But Dunham and the characters she has created based on her personal experiences are not alone. I, too, am part of this idealistic world. When it comes to overzealous college students, I am the poster child. I begrudgingly admit that the journalism field is a volatile one with lots of room for people to “fall short.”

I’ll be the first to tell you that my career goals are vastly unrealistic, especially right out of college. It is fair to say that our society has an oversimplified and exaggerated idea of what we feel we are entitled to after obtaining a four-year degree.

This idea of infallibility is highlighted at GW by classes like “Physics for Future Presidents” and a rebranding campaign that insists that students here – by virtue of merely living in the same city as the president – have the power to shape his policy.

As spring rolls around and students prepare to look toward the future, there’s a sense of unspoken anxiety – especially for seniors – surrounding the concept of finding a paying job.

But there’s also a sense of stoicism. While it’s difficult to admit, we recognize that our dreams will just be dreams for a little while longer. Or, maybe, for the rest of our lives.

Because whether you graduate from Oberlin and move to Brooklyn or go to GW and live in The Avenue, the predicament is the same: We all want things that, at least for now, most of us won’t be able to have.

And whether or not this realization is an impetus for me to work harder or to accept that I’ll have to pay my dues, I haven’t yet decided.

But there is something strangely comforting about knowing that when it comes to post-college career plans, I’m not the only one swimming upstream.

Justin Peligri, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

This column was updated Feb. 11, 2013 to reflect the following:

A previous version of this column incorrectly referred to Donald Glover as Daniel Glover.

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