Lacan and Girls

After our class discussion on Thursday, it was hard not to stop thinking of this scene from Girls (also one of my absolute favorite shows on television, but I digress):

Here we are presented to a fragmented Hannah (Lena Dunham).  The clip begins with Hannah stressing the severity of the situation of her going on a date: “I have been dating someone who treats my heart like it is monkey meat.  I feel like a delusional invisible person half the time.”  Hannah’s character is framed as completely incomplete; she is in a state of vulnerability.  As she so accurately states, “I need to learn what it’s like to be treated well before it’s too late for me.”

The clip then cuts to a scene of Hannah in preparation for this date, and we are presented with the Lacan-esque mirror scene.  Hannah looks in the mirror and gives herself a pep talk: “You are from New York, therefore, you are just naturally interesting.”

In her pep talk, Hannah begins to convince herself of her Ideal self.  As an audience, we know that the repetition of these proclamations Hannah says to herself are not true.  In fact, we are exposed to a process of her struggling to accept these ideals that she creates for herself.  Following her “New York” statement, we hear Hannah utter, “okay?”  There is an almost disbelief in Hannah’s voice as she questions the accuracy of her statements.  By looking at herself in the mirror, Hannah presents to herself an unfragmented version of herself.  Mirror Hannah has confidence.  Mirror Hannah does not have the responsibility to “fill in all the pauses.”  Mirror Hannah is “not in danger of mortifying” herself.  These mantras become Hannah’s best imaginative approximation of who Hannah hopes to be.  Mirror Hannah then becomes who Hannah strives to be on this date.  Mirror Hannah becomes Hannah’s Best Self.

Throughout the series, we are reminded that Hannah’s life is not in order.  In the pilot episode, Hannah’s parents cut her off financially, leaving a distressed Hannah resorting to getting high and sleeping in her parent’s hotel room, eventually stealing the money left aside for housekeeping.  While the audience is exposed to a vulnerable Hannah, Hannah still attempts to present herself as collected.    She has internalized this Mirror Hannah into what she hopes to portray to society.  Unfortunately, Hannah does not echo Mirror Hannah, and she stumbles as she learns independence and evolves throughout the series.

2 thoughts on “Lacan and Girls

  1. Derya, thanks for posting this! I think this is a really good example—especially with a character like Hannah, the ideal self is so important. Like you said Girls really follows Hannah’s struggles as she attempts to become the person she wants to be.

    After watching your clip, I thought of the scene at the end of season 2 when Hannah cuts her hair.

    You can find it here:

    At this point in the season, Hannah is “having a little trouble with [her] mental state,” which she tells a doctor who has to remove a q-tip she got stuck in her ear. Her personal dilemmas include: run in with ex-boyfriend who has a new girlfriend; a failing attempt at a novel, for which she has no pages; a best friend who has disappeared on her and most seriously, a reemergence of OCD, which she dealt with as a teen.

    These things do not embody the Ideal Hannah, but the Hannah she wants to grow out of. Hannah, struggling with these problems and in many ways avoiding them, sits in her kitchen flipping through a magazine, until she comes across a picture of Carey Mulligan with the headline “Short N’ Gorgeous.” Hannah takes out this page and heads to her mirror. She begins cutting her hair, looking back and forth between the image of “Gorgeous” Carey Mulligan and herself, scrutinizing the two images.

    After her first cut, she states, “I really didn’t want to cut that piece.” Hannah looks into the mirror, wanting it to reflect the Ideal Hannah that she wants to convey to the rest of the world, the image of a successful young woman. I definitely think we go the mirror to check if we are presenting the way we want to present to the rest of the world. Hannah tries on different looks, playing with the hair in multiple ways, and playfully putting on an accent, again attempting to convince herself this haircut has been a success, because if it is, it means she will look like and perhaps, then be the Hannah she wants to be.

    Hannah’s haircut is not the transformation she had hoped for. In this instance, unlike in your clip, Hannah does not see and cannot convince herself that the person in the mirror is also the person she wants to be. I think this is because she has an object that represents the ideal in front of her, the image of Carey Mulligan, which she can directly compare to her own image. If Hannah’s hair is not like Carey Mulligan’s, then she does not look like Carey and she cannot be like Carey—the success, the beauty, the poise and all of those other desirable things Carey Mulligan represents. Here we again see how image and self/sense-of-self are so intertwined.

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