Full disclosure: I wrote Shoshanna Shapiro off as my least favorite character on “Girls” early in the series. How could you not? Jessa was carefree and British, Adam was handsome and charming, Marnie was beautiful, Hannah was quirky and strange, but lovable all the same. Shoshanna, on the other hand, annoyed me. Her problems seemed trivial and I hated that she spoke in new-age tech lingo. I assumed she was an afterthought to even out the threesome and provide some sort of comedic representation of the young millennial.
Then something changed. Shoshanna, played by Zosia Mamet, fell in and out of love gracefully, grew into her own skin, and graduated college late (with no solid ground to stand on). With nothing in her life going according to plan and friends that are, at best self-absorbed pre-teens, Shoshanna has cemented herself as not only a pivotal character on the show, but as a crucial female role model for our generation.
She’s the best friend (and the worst enemy) you’ll ever have.
Shosh is fiercely loyal to her mostly-absent friends. She navigates her young life without the support of Marnie, Hannah, and Jessa, who are all completely absorbed in their own lives. She calls them out when they’re being selfish, delusional, and unpleasant. She is also the first to go to bat for them. When she first learns about Adam’s new paramour, Mimi Rose, Shosh tells Hannah, “We need to find out every possible detail about this rando hussie immediately.”
She is woman, hear her roar!
In the age of feminism, Shoshanna stands out as an empowered advocate for women without being gaudy or judgmental. When she loses her virginity, she proclaims, “I may be deflowered, but I am not devalued.” She knows that her worth does not lie in the hands of whatever man she’s with. This is in stark contrast to Jessa, Hannah, and Marnie. The other girls, especially Marnie, mold their identities around the men in their lives, and derive all of their self-worth from how men perceive and treat them.
She’s wise beyond her years.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Shoshanna is the way she approaches her relationship with Ray in the messy aftermath. Even after he sleeps with one of her best friends, Shoshanna offers some incredibly eloquent insights on love. “I was in love with you,” she tells Ray, “and people always talk about how love is like, you know, the strongest emotion, but I was scared, and sometimes that’s even stronger for some people. Like, people like me.” Being in love is both a beautiful and terrifying thing, and Shoshanna is young but manages to be self-aware and mature about her love for Ray. Shoshanna still admits, even after heartbreak, that loving Ray was the greatest thing she’s ever done: “I like knowing that I did love you because it makes me think that I might be capable of something else great someday.”
She’s just like us.
We first meet Shoshanna while she’s still in college, equipped with a 15-year plan and very particular goals in mind. As most of us know, life usually gets in the way of our plans (or delusions of grandeur as it turns out). With all of her setbacks, including failure and heartbreak, Shoshanna graduated college and now we’re following her through her job search. Shosh is getting an ugly dose of reality, but she isn’t giving up on (some of) her dreams and she remains composed and prideful, unlike her friends who give up when they’re met with any roadblock.
In popular culture women who are powerful, intelligent, beautiful, but also grounded and relatable are nearly nonexistent. Shoshanna has seen failure, heartbreak, and betrayal, but she is the unstoppable heroine of her own story. She is intelligent, self-aware and mature. Shoshanna began as an annoying, garrulous younger cousin, and transformed into a confident, elegant, and incredibly realistic portrayal of a young twenty-something who doesn’t necessarily have it all. She provides an authentic, believable, and relatable female character on a show that at times crosses the line into absurd. While it’s easy to want to emulate Jessa’s brazenness or Marnie’s undeniable beauty, Shoshanna should be the real object of our collective idolization.