“I don’t even want to talk to the people I like.”
Learning not to care can be tough. Especially when it comes to how people view you and the decisions you make—do you follow the rules or not? Stay clothed or get naked without a care? Are you nice enough to consider everyone else’s feelings? Apparently, Lena Dunham’s casual body positivity is radical to some and that’s never more apparent than in this installment which shows off the actress’s body with great abandon, without judgement or gratuitous stylization. It’s just there, like life—like silence. What are you really gonna do about, because it is truly old and trite to keep bashing Dunham’s body. And that’s the center of this episode—how to be an unapologetic individual, or more specifically how to be a badass woman—a queen—who doesn’t think twice about being her raw self. Turns out, that the world certainly makes it hard for women to do just that. “Queen for Two Days” reminds women (and Girls) that they don’t need to be nice, nor “ladylike”, but what happens when that seemingly sage advice has its own prickly rules, regulations, and restrictions?
It’s a weird question to posit, especially when there are so many perspectives out there for women to consider. The “F**k nice” ideology feels authentic, but what then—when the women put their foot down? Isolating everyone who doesn’t complement their soul, lonely nights with wine and a book to keep them warm, and the rare humiliating sexcapade that culminates in sexually-transmitted diseases. And maybe a random lesbian hookup. There are pros and cons, but as far as Hannah and her mother, Loreen are concerned, they’d rather not tempt fate with the cons. They have quintessential nice men, but what does that even mean, really except complacent stagnation.
Just because everyone keeps saying these men are nice doesn’t mean they aren’t a**holes and can’t hurt the women they are with. If the shoe was on the other (male) foot, I doubt the men would hesitate as they walked out the door feeling like they could take the world by the throat and build something new with someone else. Adam did, no problem. Twice. First with Mimi-Rose. Now he’s shacked up with Jessa. Even Tad is getting back out there in the dating game. Why is it that Loreen lacks the confidence to do so? Is it really that she’s just too nice?
These are the philosophical queries that the women wrestle with on the hippy-dippy women’s retreat. Hannah, Loreen and the other women are admonished for standing around “fearful and helpless” waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Hannah interrupts, as she is apt to do, and is again admonished for speaking out of turn. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What does the world really want of women, and more so what are the expectations women create for themselves and others like them? Always stifled by some rule of how to be at peace with herself, cellphone in hand or not. That is the clever irony of this retreat storyline. Hannah and company are still being told how to be even when they’re not—the apparent pinnacle of inauthenticity.
Hannah’s lesbian experience exemplifies this beautifully. The yoga instructor flirts shamelessly with Hannah, even pushing for her to break up with Fran through an e-mail. So when she and Hannah finally get their alone time together, Hannah eventually becomes overwhelmed in the heat of the moment. After Hannah bails, this unnamed young woman ends up crying to herself after reaching her orgasm. This can be interpreted in a number of ways, but what seems most apparent is that Hannah didn’t like the “f**k nice” ideology when it was used against her. She fought against it in that moment and even when the yoga instructor gets what she wants, she ends up ultimately unsatisfied and isolated as Hannah looks on in pity and bewilderment—an expression of judgment at how needy (greedy?) this woman is, which is contrary to what that sacred space for women is all about. Hannah sees just how conflicting her newfound philosophy is and how harmful it can be to herself and everyone around her.
After a chat with some of the women, Loreen decides to stay with her husband, Tad because apparently, she can do much worse. And Hannah ends the episode in conflict. Is this a declaration of defeat? It might look that way, but it doesn’t have to be. Loreen is still unsure, barely punctuating her decision by asking herself, “If I had known twenty years ago…”
Shoshanna’s Japan storyline takes a reductive turn all too quick that it feels like a sentence fragment. Unconvincing and unfinished—a misstep. What is really the motivation behind this sudden switch? We don’t really get much other than Shoshanna coming to the realization that the honeymoon phase of her Japan trip has worn off—which, at this point just comes off as the poor naïve American white girl falling prey to her own wanderlust. The place she romanticized for its foreign qualities has faded and that apparently drained Shoshanna of her new independent go-getter spunk.
Shoshanna does not have much to be homesick about. All she has back home is a bunch of whiny “friends” and a boyfriend who surely doesn’t want to see her right now. It doesn’t quite match Shoshanna’s previous motivations, and while the presence of Abigail (Aidy Bryant) brings some great humor, this development rings as false and convenient—basically a rehashing of Hannah’s Iowa story from Season 4.
It’s not like the show could stay in Japan for the rest of its run, but noticeably, we’ve backtracked at least three spaces and we didn’t even arrive at a climax. This feels unearned. This feels like time wasted. Shoshanna will be kicking herself after this decision. Or maybe, Shoshanna is on the course of learning to let someone be nice to her. She isolated Scott and her friends by escaping all the way to Japan. Maybe she is in need of the lesson her cousin, Jessa learns in this installment.
Part of being in a relationship with another person, specifically with a man, is learning how to let that man be kind to you without expecting some sort of stifling trap to eventually spring. Rare, I know, but it can happen. Still, as a woman, the possibility of what that means must stir some kind of paranoia every now and again. The development of Adam and Jessa’s relationship in this episode feels like a question of how a woman trusts what it means to let a man do something nice for her, especially a woman like Jessa. The Jessa we know isn’t keen on letting a man do things for her—to her this is a trap waiting to be sprung. And she’s usually the one laying the traps.
So, when Adam offers to pay for Jessa’s therapy schooling after her sister, Minerva denies her, Jessa leans into trusting a man’s nice deed. This is telling, because Jessa begins the episode sheepishly asking if Adam wants to meet her sister. As if asking anything of a man in her life will require a piece of her soul that she’s apprehensive of handing over. Besides their mutual appreciation of taboo sex roleplay, Adam and Jessa are beginning to fill in one another’s insecurities, like two frenzied puzzle pieces. Both Adam and Jessa are making significant strides to be better people while also disregarding what Hannah’s feelings might be of their bond. It is adult responsibility and indulgence with an added layer of betrayal for dramatic effect.
This is a standout episode of the season and I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing. It’s largely a winner minus the latest Shoshanna development. However, one can’t help but feel like this lesson of “letting someone be nice to you is a good thing” is a message that we’ve seen played out before, namely with Marnie and Charlie. The story we have here is however, portrayed by positing a more pressing and unanswerable query concerning a woman’s ability to just be, without thought or apology. Maybe the Girls don’t have to be nice, because the men in their lives are. It’s hard to pose that as a question, but it’s one that ends with three massive question marks. We get no answers here. “Queen for Two Days” gets 4 out of 5 stars!
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe and leave a comment!