Jessa Johansson: Bohemian and an Unpredictable World-traveler

Let us return to an issue that stood out at the very beginning of season three of HBO’s Girls. Jessa, one of Hannah’s close friends (supporting protagonist) is in rehab. This comes as no surprise when we sum up all of Jessa’s erratic and wreckless behavior. We all have a friend or know someone who is like Jessa, even if we take out the over-exaggerations in the show.

In general, the nature and the maintenance of friendship often causes ethical dilemmas. We consider questions like: what gives our friends ethical and moral priority over people who are not our friends? How must we treat our friends? How do we justify treating our friends differently than others? Some people would argue that partiality toward our friends is unethical, while others would point out that treating our friends differently or special is important to a recognizably human life. Throughout the series, friendship has been a central theme. The ethical issues concerning the treatment of friends becomes an issue that needs exploring when Hannah, Shoshanna and Adam (Hannah’s boyfriend) take a road trip to pick Jessa up from rehab.

Friends for Life

Friends for Life

In season one, Jessa just appears after a long unexplained absence in Europe. She was and still is living with her cousin Shoshanna in her studio apartment in Nolita. Jessa does not work and is overprivileged, which makes it easy to dislike her character. Jessa is introduced to us as she tells Hannah that she is pregnant. She eventually learns that she is not pregnant while just on the verge of having sex with a strange man in a bar bathroom. In season two, Jessa marries a man a week or two after meeting him. They get divorced after about a month of matrimonial bliss. The combination of these large events lands Jessa in rehab. Now, Jessa has been kicked out of rehab for “fraternizing” with another patient along with other behavior that was damaging to other patients during group therapy sessions.

For us, Jessa’s character comes with all sorts of ambiguities. Jessa Character Recap Video It is never clear why exactly she was in rehab in the first place. We learned in season two that she has a plethora of father related issues that never get resolved. She often disappears without explanation, has pushed other friends away, has romantic intimacy issues, and is not very good to her current friends. By the look of this season, Jessa is getting worse, although she has finally gotten a job.

The ethical questions that have arisen concerning friendship apply to all the girls. What principles or rules are there to guide how we ought to treat our friends? Ultimately, everyone seems to enable Jessa. It is only Adam who offers to go to AA meetings with Jessa. When a friend is not emotionally well, it seems that most of us would say that we have a duty to ensure the flourishing of our friends because of her relationship to us. For instance, say I have a friend who has a drinking problem. Often, she gets drunk, misbehaves and is regretful of her actions later. With a duty to ensure the flourishing of my friend, I would not drink with her nor would I support her drinking at all until she was well.  It does not seem that Hannah, Shoshanna and Marnie recognize this duty to ensure flourishing concerning Jessa (nor Jessa concerning anyone) or perhaps they are failing as  friends.


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