During the end of season two of HBO’s Girls, main character Hannah had a severe OCD episode, which spanned around three installments. In my personal opinion, it wasn’t used like an adorkable quirk that most sitcoms would portray it. It seemed real. It made my skin crawl. It helped create one of the most cringe-inducing episodes of 2013 — and my second-favorite episode of any show of last year — in “On All Fours.” The Q-tip incident is still a visceral image lodged in my memory.
But there was backlash. There always is, especially with Girls. Some didn’t see it the way I did, but most thought that Hannah’s OCD was sprung up on us out of nowhere. Truth be told, there wasn’t much buildup to Hannah’s OCD, except for a one-off line that was treated like a joke season one’s penultimate episode. The rules of narrative in fiction were broken a bit when Hannah’s OCD episode came into the story, for sure.
In an interview published yesterday on Vulture, Gaby Hoffman, who is playing Adam’s sister Caroline, said, “We’re all a little bit mentally ill in our 20s and maybe into our early 30s.” Season three seems to be playing into that a bit. Marnie appears to be in the midst of an emotional breakdown. The same could be said for Ray, who seemed overtly saddened about his boss and Shoshanna. Jessa was in rehab for substance abuse. Newcomer Caroline is off the wall.
So could it be that we’re getting hints about Shoshanna having an actual disorder instead of just being the quirky, oft-quoted-on-Twitter personality? Episode two, in particular, had some eyes roll at Shoshanna becoming too much of a caricature, but I think there might be more to explore there.
Episode One “Females Only”
In this episode, Shoshanna talks about how she’s alternating days of academic prowess with sexual prowess. One day, she’s an erudite student, and then the next day she’s galavanting around town, so that she can get both proper college experiences by the time she graduates. She has everything under her control. But, as is often the case with Girls, she’s lying. That whole scene with Marnie, Hannah, Adam, and Shoshanna eating dinner was about all of them being in denial.
We see earlier in the episode that Shoshanna is annoyed with having to wake up in some different bed every other morning. Later on in the episode, she tries to study and decides to pass out instead. In control, she is not.
And back in that dinner scene, every character present is effectively shown talking with their mouths full at least once except for Shoshanna. In fact, she’s picking around her plate with a fork — when they’re eating tacos.
Episode Two “Truth or Dare”
In the second episode of the season, Shoshanna seems more erratic than usual. In the diner, she decides to not eat anything because “they don’t list calories here, so (A) I’m not eating and (B) that is illegal.” She buys Chex Mix but doesn’t eat them, because she’s allergic (to nuts? dairy?). (Of note, as well, was that Hannah ate whenever Shoshanna didn’t, as a stark contrast. She says she’s not hungry, so just order her a full breakfast, basically. She eats Shoshanna’s Chex Mix. She’s eating a burger after that scene in the car.) Who buys something they’re allergic to? When talking about Jessa being in rehab, she notes that rehab is “fun” and “a rite of passage.”
When they finally get to the rehab center, Shoshanna paces around frantically, which can be indicative of anxiety. Earlier in the episode, she says that she’s not freaking out about graduation, but it’s getting increasingly harder to believe her.
Afterwards, she’s seen awkwardly trying to smoke a cigarette, which, along with anxiety and personality disorders, has been linked with eating disorders. In this very short glimpse, she also looks like she wants to be seen as cool by group with other patients.
In episode three “She Said OK”, Shoshanna is still smoking at Hannah’s party.
Quite honestly, Shoshanna possesses a lot of qualities, from this very uneducated, non-qualified viewpoint. It’s clear that Shoshanna feels like the foundation beneath her is crumbling. She is not in control. And she is certainly scared about graduation. She is anxious, as evidenced by a lot of moments in “Truth or Dare”, including the pacing. Otherwise, that episode would have been a hackneyed, one-dimensional portrayal of her — quirky for quirkiness’ sake. She is obsessed with celebrity culture, in an almost unhealthy way, to the point that she thinks it’s cool to be one of the rehab patients.
I think a lot of elements could be pushing Shoshanna into some sort of illness. But I especially think this could have been the writers’ way of successfully hinting that something is to come, whether or not that’s a disorder specifically. If it is, it would most certainly help with what appears to be shaping up the theme of this season, and it would also aid in fleshing out Shoshanna’s character into something other than the person who thinks puffy clouds are a perfect utensil.