Lay off Lena Dunham

My husband and I watched Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” over the holidays. I loved the movie and love that a twentysomething woman wrote and directed her own film. I felt appreciation and gratitude for Lena Dunham, that she has the talent, guts, drive, and luck to get her perspective out into the world.

lena

I have been kind of amazed by the level of vitriol hurled at Dunham from young people, old people, men, women, internet bloggers, print media and on and on for her show “Girls.”

On Reel Girl’s FB page, I posted the latest deluge, the horrific comments from Gawker mocking Dunham’s memoir. How dare she write a self-absorbed memoir! WTF? How long have women writers been mocked for being “confessional.” Is Phillip Roth “confessional?”

Did Jerry Seinfeld get shit for being spoiled? As I recall, he was admired for it because it was funny. His show was a comedy. What about “Friends?” What about most shows on TV?

Lena Dunham, like all writers, is influenced by her own life and experiences. She is a middle class white girl. But for some reason, people expect “Girls” to be some kind of ethically pure representation of, what, I don’t even know.

I get the frustration with the lack of diversity in the media. My whole blog is partly inspired by the nonsense that one narrative and one perspective dominates. But the solution to that myopic view is not to burden the one young woman who finally gets her own show on national TV, who gets to write and direct it, with representing everyone else’s narrative.

And then, on top of that, to get mocked for her body type? I LOVE that Lena Dunham doesn’t look like everyone else on TV, especially when it comes to how young women are almost always portrayed, regardless of ethnicity. Young women on TV are skinny, unless they are the fat girl, or the fat friend, never the protagonist, as Dunham is, never the girl with a boyfriend, or many boyfriends. Too many, obviously, Dunham’s character is a slut with no self respect…

In the New York Post, Linda Stasi writes:

“It’s not every day in the TV world of anorexic actresses with fake boobs that a woman with giant thighs, a sloppy backside and small breasts is compelled to show it all.”

 

You can read the whole bitter review here.

Today, on Slate, Alyssa Rosenberg responds:

If critics are going to turn against Lena Dunham, I want to know why they aren’t mad at Louis C.K.’s sloppy backside, too.

 

I recently blogged about Louis’s fantastic representation of fatherhood. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before on TV. “Girls” is not like anything I’ve ever seen on TV either. That’s a good thing.

I hope that Lena Dunham gets more power, influence, and money (yes, through product placement to make her show economically viable, she should be doing that) and uses her position to help to get other people’s stories out into the world. But shitting all over the occasional person who manages to defy Hollywood’s cookie cutter stereotype to tell her own story in mainstream media only helps to keep all “alternative” stories repressed. I suppose that’s the point.

7 thoughts on “Lay off Lena Dunham

  1. I would guess the “spoiled” thing comes from the sense of nepotism and privilege people get from Dunham and her co-stars. I don’t know the particulars of the situation or how much truth there is to that assumption so I won’t comment on it further. I do think that all types of media that seek to portray the truth about living in a certain environment need to be held accountable for their level of accuracy. As you’ve said, if you are making a fantasy film, then you should be able to have more gender equality if you’re OK with magical creatures. But if you’re trying to tell a realistic narrative, people have a right to take an issue with a white-washed cast in an urban environment. But I think the problem surrounding Lena Dunham’s show is that it is called “Girls”. Because of that, and because of the media spin, she’s suddenly been tasked with more than one person is equipped to handle and more than she ever wanted to do. I do think people have the right to tell their own stories. I just think the conversation is a little artificial and the balance isn’t quite right. As with all things, people praise her for the things they like and criticize her for the things they don’t. Either she is the representative of all women (which is absolutely ridiculous) or she isn’t and we shouldn’t expect her to be. Actually, I’m kind of more offended at the media’s idea that one woman could somehow speak for all women regardless of age, race, nationality, life experience, etc.

  2. Young women on TV are skinny, unless they are the fat girl, or the fat friend, never the protagonist, as Dunham is, never the girl with a boyfriend, or many boyfriends.

    Ugly Betty. Also, the Mindy Project which I happen to really love.

  3. People amaze me with the depths that they will sink too. And also, at the same age and attending film school, I’m emboldened by progress Lena Dunham has made so early in her career. I really need to check out Tiny Furniture.

    • Hi Bridget,

      Dunham uses some of the same actors in Tiny Furniture, if you like Girls, you’ll like this movie.

      MM