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HBO's 'Girls' has a lean-in problem

HBO’s Girls ended its fourth season last night with an episode that culminated with a series of births. There was, of course, Caroline (Gaby Hoffman) giving birth to daughter Jessa-Hannah Bluebell Poem (what a name, right?). But there were also other new beginnings for our favorite female Williamsburgers: Marnie finally strikes out on her own (musically and probably romantically speaking), and Shosh decides to move to Japan for her dream job

But what’s interesting about these two big moments for Marnie and Shosh is that both of their decisions to make these career moves didn’t come from themselves, each other, or even Sheryl Sandberg—but from what the males in their lives told them.

First, there’s Shosh. She finally lands a job she wants, and it’s in Japan. While it’s many time zones away from her life in New York, it’s a job she’d want to do (something involving social media), and it would be a new adventure. There’s nothing really holding her back. Except for Scott (Jason Ritter), the new guy in her life. After Shosh tells him about the opportunity over dinner, Scott pleads with her to stay because he’s going to be in love with her soon (apparently, you can put a timetable on love). Shosh doesn’t know what to do, and instead of going to Hannah, Jessa, or Marnie for guidance, she heads to Ray’s, where she runs into Hermie (Colin Quinn). There, Hermie tells her what everyone is thinking: Don’t listen to Scott. Do your own thing. Or, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “lean in.” Shosh listens and decides to pursue Japan after all. (And she didn’t even have to buy the damn book.)

Then there’s Marnie. She and Desi have an important show coming up, where a lot of music bloggers will be clamoring to review this up-and-coming talent/She & Him knockoff. But when Ray lays out all of his cards in front of Desi, basically telling him he’s not good enough for Marnie, Desi doesn’t show up for the sound check—or the show—humiliating Marnie. Instead of saying “F— it” and going on stage alone, Marnie is ready to pack it in and quit, until Ray shows up and tells her otherwise, becoming the wind beneath her wings for her terrible music.

There’s something peculiar about both of these scenarios. In them, the Girls are faced with difficult situations, but instead of turning to each other or even to somewhere deep within themselves for guidance, they turn to the men around them, who end up acting like their knights in shining armor by providing words of wisdom. And what’s more troubling is that this has been a common theme throughout the whole season.

Fans will recall that the start of the season began in Iowa, with episode two showing audiences Hannah’s new life as a (short-lived) graduate student. At first, Hannah wallows and languishes. But then Elijah (Andrew Rannells) shows up like some sort of fairy godmother (pun very unintended) and makes everything better, getting her to socialize and meet people. Then, in episode three, “Female Author,” it takes more advice from Ray for Marnie to realize that Desi just views her as a side piece (“You are 100 percent the mistress”). Later in the same episode, Jessa and Adam get arrested for peeing in a public place. When Adam tells Jessa that she’s a bad influence on him, Jessa responds with: “You’re an adult man. I can’t be an influence.”

This is troubling. For a show that conjures up a lot of ideas about female empowerment, especially with its Jill-of-all-trades creator/director/writer, the theme this season made it seem like these female characters need assurances from men in order to make important life choices. The only exception is in the “Sit In” episode, when Marnie tells Hannah to move on from Adam—a piece of advice our heroine desperately needed to hear, especially from a female friend. Rarely do the Girls offer each other sound advice on the show (Jessa set up Adam with Mimi-Rose, for Christ’s sake). What’s even more disturbing is that it takes one of the more obscure male characters on the show to bring up Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book.

That’s not to say that male characters can’t offer good advice. There’s enough to go around for everyone. But it seems that in a show about lost 20-somethings mining their way through relationships, careers, and friendships, these young women rely more on their male counterparts for advice than each other.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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