Girls is about a group of college friends who move to New York and, with plucky determination, do nothing but relive their college dramas. One wonders why they didn’t all decide to save some money and live in their parents’ basement for a couple years. Every time they reach outside their insular circle, it ends in disaster — either for the main characters or (especially) for their unfortunate new friends. The season finale gave away this secret when it showed the single line Hannah had typed of her book: all she had to say was about the unique bond between college girls.
The midwestern background of most of the characters is crucial. They are not exploring the city and moving into the broader cosmopolitan world — they are continually attempting to force their interactions into the framework of midwestern assumptions. For Hannah, this takes the form of seeking out and cultivating “gritty” experiences. For Marnie, this takes the form of trying to live according to midwestern values of practicality and monogamy in a setting where those values don’t often work. Marnie’s approach is often self-destructive (though one feels she is likely to destroy the life her on-and-off college boyfriend who had managed to become a successful tech entrepreneur once he got away from her), while Hannah’s is destructive of others, particularly Adam.
The subplot about Adam’s new girlfriend is particularly revealing and revolting in this regard. At first, Adam likes her clear messages about what she wants and doesn’t want sexually, but after a chance meeting with Hannah, he sexually assaults the new girlfriend in an explicitly pornographic way (complete with a cum-shot, the aftermath of which is actually shown on-screen). He feels guilty and ashamed at what he has done at the end of that episode, but by the next episode, the new girlfriend has become a mood-killing nag, micromanaging every aspect of sex. How much easier, it seems, to stick with Hannah, who is actively seeking to be sexually degraded!
As Phil of Dear Television has suggested, the new girlfriend represents a real adult person — the type of person Hannah’s social circle actively rejects at every turn. She presented Adam with the opportunity to grow up. I assume that we’re supposed to gather that Adam has, like many young men, watched way too much porn and assumed that’s how sex really is. What he needed was a strong woman to tell him that’s not really the way to go, but what he got was Hannah. What she thought was gritty, edgy sex was just the product of a young man’s sexual immaturity, and by indulging or even insisting on that, she actively made him a worse person.
If the show is fundamentally about how the midwest collides with the city without ever being truly open to it, then a lot of questions are answered — above all, the insularity and lack of racial diversity is a feature, not a bug, because the show is not about New York, but about the midwest. The urban setting is a way of making the midwest strange, of showing it to be pathological in a new way now that the standard suburban plotlines have all been exhausted. This doesn’t make the show any more pleasant to watch, but for me it at least makes it interesting.