Hannah Horvath And Dan Humphrey Are Basically The Same Person
The lead characters of Girls and Gossip Girl are self-obsessed soulmates.
Note: Potential spoilers for both shows, depending on how up-to-date with television viewing you are.
We all know Lena Dunham has become “a voice of a generation” thanks to Girls, but before Hannah Horvath and her quartet of Brooklynites burst onto HBO screens in 2012, there was another ‘girl’ setting the tone of millennial New York City TV: Gossip Girl.
Hannah, being a woman writer in NYC, has tended to conjure up comparisons to Carrie Bradshaw (because we all know that women who write aspire to that Manolo-wearing, financially irresponsible, sex columnist caricature), but she actually has more in common with ‘Lonely Boy’ Dan Humphrey than “the woman who lived in her shoes”.
Once upon a time, on the mid-to-late ’00s Upper East Side, ‘Gossip Girl’ was “your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite”. A year-and-a-half after the CW show’s culmination, we now know that it was [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT if you’re still not up-to-date] the alter ego of Brooklyn outsider, Dan Humphrey.
While the similarities between Dunham and the actor who plays Dan, Penn Badgley, are fleeting (Dunham created and writes for Girls; Badgley had no creative control over Gossip Girl), their fictional characters have more in common: both are writers, both become increasingly and insufferably self-centred, and both are hailed as the ‘voices of their generation’ by themselves and others, respectively.
On the current season of Girls, Hannah has used her numbness at her editor’s death to manipulate people into giving her attention; invited her ex-boyfriend Elijah and his buddies to gatecrash a girls’ weekend away organised by Marnie, only to then regale them with stories of “how she bruises more easily than other people”; and made her interview with Patty LuPone all about her and Adam’s relationship problems.
Dan carries on in much the same way (after all, if the height of self-involvement isn’t masquerading as the bane and simultaneous axis of your peers’ existence, I don’t know what is) as he morphs from invisible but likeable social pariah to the judgmental “ultimate insider” with the publication of his book, Inside, and the revelation of his extracurricular activities.
While Hannah is ostensibly unenlightened to her selfishness (even though she does receive reality checks from her frenemies Marnie and Shosh as the series continues), Dan actively climbs the social ladder, stepping on whoever he has to on his way to the top, while sociopathically telling everyone what they want to hear. In a moment of self-awareness, he explains that in his fictionalised memoir, Inside, the character based on him is “a judgmental dick who can’t even look at himself in the mirror. My character comes off the worst of all of them… He puts off his writing, misses job interviews, ignores his grades…” Strangely, this is apparently rewarded in UES society (or badly thought-out CW soaps), as Dan eventually gets the girl and the glory.
Dan’s monologue throws shades of Hannah’s colossal “you are the wound” argument with Marnie: “No one could ever hate me as much as I hate myself. Any mean thing anyone’s going to say about me I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half hour.” Hannah’s also been known to sacrifice her creativity in favour of snack rooms and napping in the wake of her advertorial job at GQ. (In this week’s episode, Hannah got fired from GQ, just as Dan did from his internship at W.)
Dan hurts his friends and family with the publication of Inside, as does Hannah with the unsolicited appropriation of her diary as lyrics for Marnie’s boyfriend Charlie’s band. Both storylines deal with privacy, artistic license, and writing what you know (albeit one more poignantly than the other).
In the realm of “Manhattan’s elite”, Dan was once considered highbrow, satirically chronicling the sordid lives of Serena, Blair and gang at the risk of being shut out of their world forever (FURTHER SPOILER ALERT: this doesn’t come to fruition. Instead, Dan marries Serena!). In real life, Gossip Girl is a show that began as a guilty pleasure and culminated as anything but, making way for Lena Dunham and Girls to place their fingers squarely on the cultural pulse. Given their similar character traits, let’s hope Hannah doesn’t go the way of Dan Humphrey’s fictional dignity and once promising career.