positive caveat concerning Dunham’s treatment of these changing
scenes is that, from what I perceive, they are not shot to cater to
the male, sexualizing gaze. Such a tight focus on the bodies of the
women throughout the show, however, moves us away from
considering them and their experience of womanhood as defined
by something other than their bodies, a theme that becomes more
pronounced during the final season of the series when Hannah
becomes pregnant from a brief affair with a man with whom she
plans no continuing contact.
In “Bad Friend” from the second season, Hannah and
Elijah use cocaine to fuel a night out at a club together as a way to
inspire Hannah’s freelance writing project. This episode features
extended dance scenes in which Hannah is wearing nothing on her
torso but a mesh tank top. In these scenes, Hannah is presented as
free and empowered, if also high. The exposure of her breasts (of
her explicitly female body) contributes to this aesthetic of freedom.
In the episode “Hello Kitty” from the fifth season, Hannah is
working as an English teacher after several bumps in the road of
her never-quite-there writing career. She is reprimanded by the
school’s principal and, in what seems to be a panicked reaction to
the potential of losing her job, flashes him her vagina Basic Instinct
style to avoid disciplinary action. Dunham exposes her body in
both instances as a power move of sorts. In both instances,
however, her power and credibility are undermined: in the first,
through her use of drugs and in the second, through the
disagreement that Hannah and Fran have over her behavior.
Hannah is not the only character whose body contributes
to manifest postfeminist perspective in Girls; Jessa embodies a
Venus-like hyper-femininity, and her body (the sexuality that
seems to permeate from her) often dominates the screen when
Kirke is on camera. There are repeated references to Marnie, her
conventional beauty, and the opportunities it affords her in both
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