When females direct, female nudity advances the plot

On Salon, Daniel D’Addaro writes:

In the run-up to Sunday night’s “Girls” season premiere, the old repetitive war over the show’s content took on a new dimension: Radio shock jock Howard Stern attacked neither the youth nor the perceived entitlement of showrunner/star Lena Dunham, but her display of her body. Stern called Dunham “a little fat girl who kinda looks like Jonah Hill and she keeps taking her clothes off and it kind of feels like rape … I don’t want to see that.” New York Post TV critic Linda Stasi took a similar tack, calling Dunham “a woman with giant thighs, a sloppy backside and small breasts … compelled to show it all.”

In trying to figure out why so many are offended by Lena Dunham’s nudity, D’Addaro interviewed people from editor Jane Pratt of xoJane (“It may not be that she’s driven to show us her body however that body looks. It may be that it’s just part of the story line”); to SF nude activist Gypsy Taub (“Nudity in our society is associated with sex, and a nude woman is automatically considered a ‘slut’ and someone who is asking to be disrespected or raped.”)


In an interview with Metro on January 8, director Sarah Polley expressed what appears to be a similar view on female nudity to Dunham’s. Here’s the question and response:

There’s a scene featuring a forest of female pubic hair: a bunch of women showering at the gym. We don’t see that much in Hollywood films. I know. Women’s bodies in films are either highly objectified and sexualised or, past a certain age, made fun of. In North American films, there’s no sort of routine nudity so I wanted something that wasn’t particularly eventful for them in that moment.


Famous art critic John Berger said: “Men watch. Women watch themselves being watched.” In Hollywood,  over 90% of directors are male. We’ve all grown up saturated with those images. Could it be that all of us, women and men, have almost no idea what women look like through women’s eyes or from the perspectives of women’s experiences? What does that vantage point show us? Anyone know? Hopefully, more female directors will get the courage and opportunity to give us their best guess.


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.


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.