“I am taking my meds!” Hannah shouts to her parents over the phone, as she counts to eight in her head in as many different ways as possible.
According to Hannah, the protagonist of the HBO series Girls, her condition (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) has led her to do various things (for instance, shake her head, snap her fingers, or gurgle water) in multiples of eight. She tells her therapist about having to check on her parents’ door in the middle of the night eight times, about having to walk back and forth in the hallway eight times, and about having to move around her toothbrush in the cup a whole sixty-four times. Her obsession consistently gets in the way of her everyday life, and it gets increasingly worse as Season 2 of Girls progresses.
Writing from a ‘write-what-you-know’ standpoint, the mastermind behind Girls, Lena Dunham, bases Hannah’s OCD issues off her own experiences with mental health. “I was obsessed with the number eight,” says Lena Dunham in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “I’d look on both sides of me eight times, I’d make sure no one was following me down the street…I’d imagine a murder, and I’d imagine that same murder eight times.”
Dunham’s brutal honesty and capability to portray some of the most awkward yet most realistic situations has led her series to be a major television success, especially within the late-teens to early-twenties demographic. The show portrays real-life situations, and focuses on relatable issues that many young people face nowadays (an issue that earlier T.V. shows such as Degrassi have failed to do).
In a society where the awareness of social stigma surrounding mental health is growing rapidly, Lena Dunham makes a significant statement by openly sharing her past problems with mental health via the character of Hannah. The characteristics that Dunham uses to create Hannah make her seem incredibly life-like (at least for television standards), and is what makes her the character that everyone can relate to.