Hannah Horvath and The Field Guide for the Urban Male


In one of the best episodes of GIRL’S Season 3, Hannah Horvath lands a job as an advertorial writer at G.Q. Hannah knows the difference between real staff writers and advertorial writers, not as blatant as that between staff writers and fact checkers at The New Yorker, but clear enough. Yet she lets herself be seduced by a job that gets her a generous salary, health insurance including dental, a corporate gym membership and even free snacks. At this point in her life anything would be better than cranking out frappuccinos and designer donuts for Ray. Deep down Hannah knows what she’s signing up for. Ray doesn’t  have to remind her in his gratingly self-righteous manner as she leaves his coffee shop that “It looks like a real article so they trick you into reading it, and then you find out it’s a paid advertisement which is both morally and creatively bankrupt.”

On her first day, Hannah learns that her writing group is tasked with developing The Field Guide for the Urban Male which is sort of like something you’d find in a birdwatcher’s manual; funny, not corny funny but smart. The group needs to define eight lifestyle segments for the guide with unique looks or images; men who appear to lead glamorous lifestyles and use upscale merchandise that can be easily found in store windows and catalogs. Thus far, the group has come up with three segments:

The Millennial Man’s Man

Mr. Midnight, and

The Gowanus Yachtsman (for those of you not from New York, the Gowanus Canal is a poisonously polluted. super-fund site.)


Playground for the Gowanus Yachtsman

Bravo, Lena Dunham and your team of writers!

At her first writer’s group meeting, Hannah, in a surge of creativity, comes up with two additional segments for The Field Guide for the Urban Male:

Cool Dad, spelled Kewl. The kind of dad who’s not trying to be the coolest dad in the world but embraces networks where cool people hang out. He has a kind of Bill Cosbyish coolness that makes him cool. He’s a natural for embracing a whole range of sophisticated, upscale products that enhance his kewlness.

How would the real Bill Cosby react to Kewl Dad? I can imagine him facetiously editing in retro packages of Jello in a Kewl Dad advertorial. Or expressing how outraged he is by the very concept of Kewl Dad, as an authentic real Dad on Charlie Rose.

Imagine the real Kewel daddy sneaking in packets from an old Jello commercial

Then Hannah comes up with The Cabbaler, a dissident who’s a little sleazy, out looking for sex but he’s also spiritual. He’ s like “I’m gonna fuck some serious enlightenment into you!” Of course he has a widows peak and wears Yoga draw string pants. Can’t you just see the Cabbaler in a G.Q. inspired lifestyle piece puffing on a an e-cig? He gives you a menacingly seductive look that says I’m gonna fuck your brains out!

Cabbaler puffing on a high priced blu e-cig

Have any of the women reading this post ever heard of James Dean, the one way back from the 1950’s? He’s even more menacing and may even be a better fuck than the Cabbaler. And he smoked real cigs!

James Dean

Hannah is on a high after her first writer’s group meeting. Karen a member of the group, tells her as she munches contentedly on Sun Chips, that she’s really talented and predicts she’ll wind up getting their boss’s job

Karen compliments Hannah

But Hannah doesn’t want her boss’s job. She tells Karen and the others in the group that she’s not a corporate advertiser, working for the man kind of writer, but a real writer. “But we’re all writers,” Karen answers. And Hannah learns that Kevin won the Yale Series for Younger Poets award. Karen had some great pieces published in N + 1, a digital magazine of literature. And Joe had a talk piece in The New Yorker, barely a year out of college. And they all write, from time to time. Karen is kicking around some ideas and so are the others. But they’ve all been at G.Q. from five years to forever, hooked on the free snack as it were.

Hannah's writerly colleagues at GQ

Hannah has to recover from these revelations by running to the ladies room and soaking her head in the sink.

Hannah soaks her head in a GQ sink to recover

What are Lena Dunham and her team of writers really dramatizing in this episode of GIRLS 3? They’re spoofing the Millennial Man’s Man, Mr Midnight, the Gowanus Yachtsman, Kewel Dad and the Cabbaler as idealized fantasies that say nothing about real men. And by implication, are these lifestyle segments anymore real than the millions of images put out on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and, let’s not forget profiles on the ubiquitous dating websites? Do these images authentically describe the people who upload them? Or are they doppelgangers, idealized fantasy doubles, glamorous stand-ins for the real people with physical and emotional blemishes who dream them up?

Ray is right at the beginning of the episode when he tells Hannah people are being brainwashed by advertorials. But a clever advertorial writer at G.Q. – one not nearly as talented as Hannah – could easily write a whole piece on Ray casting him as a Cabbaler, starting with how frustrated he gets when he tries to fuck some sense into Marnie. Or is it visa versa? Imagine Marnie in a Cosmopolitan advertorial in The Field Guide for the Urban Female revealing how useful Victoria’s Secret thongs are when she tries to fuck some serious enlightenment into Ray.

Marnie caballer 1

The real truth is that Ray and Marnie are two decent, empathetic new millennials struggling to get validation and empathy from each other.

If he were alive today, Aldous Huxley in an updated edition of Brave New World, would surely expand his definition of soma – a hallocinogen used in the future that takes users on enjoyable, hangover-free holidays to escape the truth of life – to include advertorials, Intagrams, Facebook posts, Tweets, dating website profiles and news reporting as entertainment. Today’s high tech soma. What Lena Dunham and her team of gifted writers do in GIRLS 3, much better than in earlier seasons, is spoof these mind numbing soma with biting satire that dramatizes what life is really like today for new millennials.










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