“One Man’s Trash” exemplifies the paradox that Girls so often inhabits and the reason it inspires so much ire amongst its viewers. The episode was a lovely departure from the norm and provided the closest thing to growth and development Hannah has ever seen, but the fantasy and the suspension of disbelief it took to get there is troublesome.
First, as someone who has worked in some form of customer service for the entirety of my working life, I can appreciate the fantasy of talking to a customer the way Ray talked to Joshua (Patrick Wilson)… when it feels warranted. Even given the loose parameters of a comedy, it is unfathomable that someone would respond to a customer complaint in that way. I get that Ray is a curmudgeon, but he’s also homeless and last time I checked was only the manager, not owner, of the coffee shop.
Second, it is highly improbable that if a man invites you into his house, has sex with you without asking your name and refuses to let you leave the next day that that man will be a doctor or look like Patrick Wilson. And it’s even more improbable that he will be both.
Both of these points are minor, but they are problems because they take you out of the narrative, which in this case was quite beautiful.
In the midst of the fantasy weekend, Hannah has a revelation; she wants to be happy. Joshua responds that everyone does. But Hannah never new that she did. And suddenly all of Hannah’s destructive, irresponsible decisions make sense. She had made the conscious decision to forgo her own needs in an effort of creating a life she thought would be interesting and inspiring enough to share with others. It takes a lot of self-loathing to come to the conclusion that the only way you can have something to contribute to the world is if you ask a man to punch you in the chest and then come in that spot.
But, after being confronted with, at least the pretense, of a loving, caring relationship, Hannah saw for the first time that happiness is a much better choice than a life of gathered experiences. Sure, she’s still as selfish and self involved as ever, but it’s an important moment when a girl can learn her own happiness is more important than appearing interesting.
Unfortunately, the previously mentioned quibbles and the overall secluded, isolated feel of the episode made the entire thirty minutes feel more like a dream than an actual breakthrough moment. Perhaps, that’s what Lena Dunham was going for, but in every previous episode, Girls has worked to cement itself as a harsh, unflinching look at the awkward coming of age of this new generation. They have prided themselves on the realness that the scenes and situations have depicted.
“One Man’s Trash” was an excellent episode and I enjoyed the side step from reality for a moment, but to make that transition less jarring, there needs to be some precedent. Much like the girls that inhabit its world, Girls is still trying to figure out who it is, trying on different tones and storytelling devices until it finds the one its most comfortable with. Who knows if this surreality will become a new facet of Girls’ personality, or if it will find the fit not right and cast it to the side in favor of a new device, but you can’t fault a girl for trying something new.