Lena Dunham is the writer, creator and star of the best show on TV, Girls. In a culture whose TV and movies are so completely based on fantasy, Dunham dares to write television that captures a reality. But it is Dunham’s reality that seems to be bothering everyone, because the fact of the matter is, Dunham is writing about privileged white girls living in New York. Of course, this seemed mighty OK when we had Carrie Bradshaw, the journalist who could somehow afford a nice apartment and designer shoes… but somehow it’s different for Dunham. According to critics Dunham is a racist fatty who writes about trivial, boring, whiney bitches. Yes, how DARE a 26 year old woman write, create and star in anything while not somehow managing to look like Megan Fox all at the same time. Rawr.
When defending herself against the ‘racist’ comment, Dunham basically states that she wanted to write what she knows. She grew up in a Jewish/WASP land and two of her characters are Jews and the other two are WASPS. She did not intentionally exclude minorities but she didn’t want to make ‘token’ characters either.
Of course she got criticized for this comment too, but I thought that was a pretty honest and fair answer to a hard critique. Why would we want Dunham to write a minority character? For the sake of political correctness? And let’s think about how many shows have several characters and one of them is the token ‘ethnic’ one. That doesn’t solve the problem with minorities being underplayed in TV shows… it just sets up formulas and it makes for boring television. There are plenty of shows that have all white casts that suck … and Dunham’s doesn’t, so why are we yelling about the one that is good?
Another critique seems to be how ‘unrealistic’ the show is because Dunham gets laid and naked and has sex with hotties (this critique, which has been voiced mostly by the pre-pubescent boys who write for Esquire and apparently Slate.) But what baffles me, is that it is actually very realistic for people of varying degrees of ‘good looks’ to have sex… because attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder – and that seems to be the real problem. When it comes to women in their 20s on TV, they are either the hottest of hotties, perfect 10 bod, etc. OR they are fat and sassy (AND USUALLY A TOKEN CHARACTER). Dunham is neither. She is actually quite average looking with the body of someone who doesn’t constantly diet or spend hours at the gym…. you know, like all us regular folks. And for whatever reason, critics can’t handle it. I think because TV and film in our culture tend to focus on elements of fantasy. If we want to watch a realistic movie with realistic looking people, we head to the foreign section. Popular American films tend to have fast cars blowing up and sex scene montages with Muse playing sexily in the background. Dunham threatens our world of fantasy and shows us honest realities – and sometimes reality is not TV pretty.
For those who don’t ‘get it’ – then guess what? She is not for you. Dunham’s characters are complex critiques on a generation – my generation, in fact. They manage to be unlikeable, sympathetic and relatable all at once. Clearly she’s studied up on her Woody Allen… who for the record, also gets criticized all the time for various bullshit reasons.
Dunham dares to bare her bod every week and get a variety of put downs for it. Few could handle that kind of treatment. She deserves to be applauded for it. But mostly, she deserves respect – here in front of you stands a twenty-something woman who is writing incredible television. If you don’t like what you see, then go away and get over it, because she isn’t for you.
But she is certainly for me.