Postfeminist Narrative Tropes
Postfeminist media is associated with a set of narrative
tropes. In her 2009 book What a Girl Wants? Fantasizing the
Reclamation of Self in Postfeminism, Diane Negra lays out the following
plot points as salient among postfeminist movies and televsion:
“return to hometown,” “hyperdomesticity and self-care,” ”time
crisis,” and “working girls” (usually) with under-paying, less-than-
ambitious jobs (Negra). Vered and Humphreys (2014) argue,
building on Taylor (2012), that the “inevitable heterosexual
coupling of the independent woman” should be added to that list.
Girls contains episodes that utilize each of these narrative tropes.
Exploring them individually, it becomes obvious that they are each
built upon longstanding, gendered stereotypes that undermine
Dunham’s feminist goals for the show.
During the first season episode “The Return,” Hannah
returns to her hometown in Michigan for her parents’ 30th
anniversary. By leaving the city and engaging in a one-night stand
with a classmate from high school, she questions her decision to
leave home in the first place. Her ambition to exit the more rural,
domestic space of her hometown and pursue the professional,
ambitious plan of living in New York City and attempting a career
in writing begins to seem like a mistake in light of the comfort of
her parents’ home and the normalcy of the town’s residents.
Hannah ultimately decides to return to the city, but it is only a late-
night phone call from Adam (Adam Driver) that solidifies that
Self-care and an emphasis on one’s personal home space
also appear throughout the series. Much of the plot of the first
season is centered on the two-bedroom apartment that Hannah
shares with various characters, and as the series progresses, that
apartment becomes a safe space for Hannah as she faces failures
in the public world. After being unceremoniously dumped by her
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