Watching "Girls" with girls: Hannah sells out

This week, we discuss insecurity, idiot boyfriends, and the virtues of having a corporate job

By Neil Drumming

Published February 10, 2014 2:08PM (EST)

On the surface, last night's episode could seem to about settling. Hannah, unable to get her book published, settles for a job with benefits and a fully stocked break room. Marnie settles for a crotchety sex partner who questions her intelligence at every turn and with whom she can't stand to be seen. Jessa has settled for a job she doesn't care at all about, and Shoshanna is ready to settle for, essentially, an idiot boyfriend. But considering the ages of these characters, maybe this episode is more about negotiating for what you need or want right now and planning -- hoping -- to attain your dreams at some unspecified later date. It sounds grim and unlikely, but compromise is so obviously a part of growing older. In that way, maybe this episode is as close to real life as this show has ever come. My guest this week seems to think just that.

This week’s “Girl”: Marie Castiglione, 27

Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.

Job: Design manager

Adam or Ray: Adam

Favorite “Girls” girl: Hannah

Episode watched: “Free Snacks"

What is your dream job?

I’m really doing exactly what I wanted to do. I guess continuing on this path.  I really love magazines. If I could be a design director at a magazine that would be amazing, but I have no idea in 10 years if magazines are even going to be alive.

But unlike Hannah, you feel like you’re on track. So, since you work at Bloomingdale's I guess technically you work in corporate America, which is her problem: She doesn’t want to work in corporate America. Do you understand that fear or is there nowhere else for you to go?

You know, it was funny the way they spun it and the episode as kind of, like, such a negative. I only have positive things to say about my job. I’ve never really looked at corporate America as negative, [a place where] you lose sight of your dreams. I’ve never looked at it like that. So it was kind of funny to see her so terrified.

Do you think it has something to do with the field she chose?

Probably. I mean, being a creative, you know, you just naturally like to be able to express yourself -- however that may be. And sometimes when you have rules and restrictions on that, you might not feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. So I can kind of understand.

This dilemma of hers feels a little like inside baseball, in the sense that I don’t really know how many people differentiate between editorial and advertorial, or value one over the other. I understand her perspective as a quote-unquote “writer’s writer” or a traditionalist or a purist. But I think, as far as the rest of America is concerned, the reason advertorials exist is that most people can’t tell the difference or don't care. 

Right. Yeah. Actually, I had never even heard of the difference until this episode. I had no idea there was an advertorial and then an editorial.

Yeah. Years ago, advertisers got smart and started designing advertisements that look like a piece of the magazine, like a piece of writing, and are thereby more convincing. I worked at a magazine for years, so I find the practice a little slimy but that’s just because I’m part of the business. But I feel like most people don’t care. It’s one of those things about the show that is very -- I could say New York -- but it’s certainly very publishing, and publishing is based in New York for the most part. So I could see a lot of people not necessarily relating to it.

I went to high school in [Buffalo], and any time I go home for Christmas I constantly have to kind of explain what I do at my job. So I do agree that the show is very New York.

I’m a little confused as to why Shoshanna suddenly decided that she wanted a full-time more permanent boyfriend. I was hoping you could provide some insight on that.  

No. It kind of seemed like it was out of nowhere. Maybe it was just one of those insecure moments women always seem to have (laughs). But I do agree. I thought it was left field that all of a sudden she wanted a boyfriend. And then when she started talking about Ray in such a positive light I thought it was going to take a turn and she was going to start liking him again.

I’m really biased toward Ray because he’s the oldest man on the show and I’m an old man watching the show. You saw the episode before this, right? Did you think that he was going to follow up with Marnie -- that he was going to call her?

It didn’t shock me that much, to be honest. I feel like that’s kind of like his undercover character is that he does care deep down inside. So I wasn’t that shocked, no.

What I like about Marnie and Ray together is that they have an old-school, traditional romantic comedy kind of chemistry where there is a lot of, like, push and pull. He pushes her buttons and she pushes his. It feels a little grown and a little different than the other relationships. What do you think of those two together?

Well, I’m not the biggest fan of Marnie, but I do love Ray. So it’s interesting. I, naturally, just think of how Shoshanna’s going to react when they all find out because Marnie already has that reputation: She slept with Hannah’s ex-boyfriend. But the two of them together? I’m definitely interested to see where it goes, but I’m not Marnie’s biggest fan at all.

You are not the first person that I’ve spoken to for this column that has a big problem with Marnie. Could you just break it down for me: What is the issue with Marnie?

You know, I’m just going to sound like a hater so I’m afraid to speak my mind.

Go for it! Sound like a hater. I sound like a hater every single day of my life …

I don’t know, I think she’s just really insecure. The thing is, she reminds me of all my girlfriends in New York. They come from broken families and their mom kind of lives through them … just insecure. And then they run into the next relationship hoping a man will make them happy. I mean, not that that’s what happened with her boyfriend, how he kind of just disappeared off the face of the planet. But, I don’t know, there’s just something about being a woman that you need to be a little more independent, especially living in New York, that if something like that were to happen, your whole world shouldn’t come to a complete halt. You should be able to pick up the pieces and not be a huge complainer or hurting your friends. I don’t know. There’s just something about her that’s weak and I don’t feel bad for her. That sounds so mean.

Even after Ray kind of lit into her in the last episode and then said he still feels bad for her -- and then, of course, subsequently slept with her -- that didn’t redeem her for you?

No. Nothing. No, it doesn’t at all. I know that I sound super mean but, I don’t know,there’s something about her that is too needy and too complaining or just not grateful, and insecure. I don’t know, there's just something that I don’t like. Probably the fake part of her. I don’t like to put it like that, but that’s just myself.

I’m still trying to figure out whether I think that’s smart on the part of the writers to make her actually insecure or whether it feels a little predictable. You know what I mean? The notion that the pretty girl is actually the most insecure? I don’t know if I believe that.

When she first started out she was the pretty one. But now, at the office and stuff when we talk about the show with my bosses and my co-workers, when we talk about the show, never is Marnie even brought up in the conversation. And when we refer to the pretty girl people refer to Jessa. So it’s kind of like she even lost that title. Because I think the last season and the last couple of episodes of season 3, her insecurity kind of just took away her beauty.

I like that  there’s a debate about who’s nicer: Marnie or Jessa, when in real life they would both be considered horrible people. Like if you were to know those people, I don’t know that you would want to know them. I can’t imagine myself tolerating either of them. I find Jessa to be more reprehensible, honestly. At least Marnie is insecure as opposed to being -- as Jessa seems to be -- deliberately vicious. So, wait, what else happened? Shoshanna had sex while negotiating her relationship terms. That struck me as odd.

This is totally [something] I probably shouldn’t have even noticed, but — the song that was playing was Wale’s remix of Rihanna's “Bad." That was the last song that I would ever expect her to be listening to because she’s so sweet and so innocent. Then she lost her virginity and then she started sleeping around. I feel like her character is really sped up and now she’s sleeping around and she doesn’t even care. She has no emotional attachment to it. It just seems like that wasn’t who she was when they first introduced her.

I feel like there’s a certain amount of ambiguity to that character. It doesn’t feel that motivated or emotionally driven. It just feels like maybe it’s comic relief. I took that song playing as she’s just trying desperately to fit into contemporary youth culture and that’s what people her age would be listening to even if she’s not into it, you know?

Absolutely. Yeah.

I thought that her choosing a boyfriend who was kind of dumb mirrors the idea of Ray being interested in Marnie even though she’s clearly not at the same intellectual level that he is. Why do you think he’s interested in her?

I don’t know. Sometimes loneliness gets to you. I mean, she’s pretty. She’s vulnerable, so she might be attracted to a man that can come in and kind of, like, dominate it and help her. I still think they’re weird.

Why do you think she would be attracted to him?

Because he’s an ass. Girls always want what they can’t have when it seems bad for them.

So that’s true? Women want what seems bad for them. I’ve heard that before but I don’t know for sure.

I mean, I think you do when you haven’t figured it all out yet. When you aren’t sure what you want in life — the partner you want to be with — and you haven’t met that person yet. And then when they get their shit together then they wake up and, like, “OK, this isn’t going to fly.” But I do think in the beginning stages of dating in your 20s and your 30s, women are attracted to the things that are bad for them.

I found it sort of adorable that he told her straight up that she was dumb. She got mad and halfheartedly tried to leave but then sat down. I feel like in a real relationship, especially one that’s just starting out, if you said to someone, “I can’t understand why you are so dumb,” that that would be the end of the relationship, almost immediately. So I feel that they have some sort of natural chemistry or something that would keep her there. I don’t know. That’s my skewed way of looking at it.

If someone ever told me that, I would be like, “Adios.”

You are an Adam person and I’m still trying to figure out what women like about Adam. Especially, just now, the whole, “I want to be an actor but I don’t want to conform to anything that that entails.” I felt like he was something of a prick at that moment.

As a person I think he’s unmotivated, lazy, a sorry excuse for a man — but I look to him on the show, above all, for comic relief. I think that everything that comes out of his mouth is super funny.

You’re different than most people I’ve talked to about this because usually they say he’s so adorable. It’s like a Lloyd Dobler, “Say anything” effect. He’s so loving that they forgive everything about him.

The fact that he’s so sweet to her and kisses her ass now and is totally head over heels and stuff -- I mean, that is cute but you have to have a balance. You have to have your life and you have to have a job. Your girl can’t be your whole world because the moment that girl is gone, you’re going to crumble.

I’ve seen this episode twice and this time I found myself thinking what if Hannah just ends up in advertising? What if she just finds out that this could be her thing?

I don’t know if necessarily that is a bad thing. I don’t know why the show is spinning it as a bad thing.

You’re essentially in advertising, right?

Of course, we’re selling merchandise so you want to put the best product out there and say the best things about it, but … I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. I think it’s how you are true to yourself and then true to your work. I think there’s such a positive to working in a big corporation and learning and working with so many people that -- whether you like them or not, because you’re never going to like everybody -- but you’re going to learn or you’re going to take something away from every situation. So I think there is something very positive about working in those kind of environments in your youth and maybe you put in your eight to 10-something years, and you get that experience that you need. And then you go off and do your creative thing later in life. But I do think there is something very valuable about learning about other people and not just being this 24-year-old “I know everything and I’m just going to write my book and be done with it.” I think there is a lesson learned in getting up every morning and commuting into the city and working eight hours, taking your lunch break, commuting home, and then going to the gym.

Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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