Defend Til’ the End: Lena Dunham

I love Lena Dunham, but for some reason, there is a population of people out there who do not. The internet has enjoyed picking on her for years and today I have decided enough is enough. I don’t love things for no reason. Much thought is put into my obsessions.  So I know why I love Lena Dunham and I completely believe I can defend every argument there is against her.

For those of you that don’t know Lena Dunham the writer, director, producer and an actress for her show Girls on HBO, as well as a writer of a great book titled Not That Kind of Girl, the producer of the podcast Women of the Hour and the creator of many other projects that are too plentiful to list. She is a big target for internet hate but I do not think she deserves any of it. Here’s why.

Argument #1: She is racist/sexist and her show Girls is too. 

The four main characters of Girls are white. Of course it would be cool if there was more diversity on the show. I adore the wit and writing of Girls and if it could reach a wider audience that would make me much happier. But the thing is- she was supposed to write a show loosely based on her Jewish, white-girl life. It’s semi-autobiographical, and that’s just what happened. It probably would have come off as inauthentic to try and tell someone else’s experiences. It’s a shame there aren’t more people of color on the show. But why, why, why is Lena Dunham’s show the show that is attacked for this?

Almost every show on television has a white protagonist-from Game of Thrones to American Horror Story to Mad Men. There are a handful of shows breaking the mold (Empire, Jane the Virgin) but in 2015 there were more than 400 scripted, English-speaking shows on television. These shows may have a sprinkling off POC supporting characters but an overwhelming majority keep the main characters white. It’s a terrible truth that should be changed.

But why is seemingly only Lena attacked for this? No one ever talks about how the main characters of the Big Bang Theory are all white except for one Indian, and the fact of that is the entire joke of his character. Why is Girls always hated on for not being racist or feminist enough?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because she’s a woman. And women can’t make any mistakes. Women account for only 26% of total writers on broadcast TV and 14% of directors. Lena Dunham’s show was high-profile because she was a young woman who was writing, directing and starring in her own show…Something you don’t hear of very often. Woody Allen does that, sure, but you don’t often hear about young women having that much creative direction and control.

When Lena’s show sought to be liberal, free thinking and feminist, people harped on that immediately saying she was doing it all wrong and not enough. I believe it is anti-feminist to scrutinize everything about Girls. I know the only reason people are doing it is because it’s made by a woman. People think, oh this woman thinks she’s doing everything perfectly and writing for her generation. But Lena never said she was perfect or writing for everybody-that’s actually much of the joke in Girls.  I don’t understand why Lena couldn’t create her story and her truth and be treated with respect like every other man in show business.

Discussing representation in television is an important thing to do. But don’t attack Lena Dunham. As Rebecca Traister put perfectly in her article on Lena, “No one should be immune from scrutiny about the narrowness of their vision, but I’m also not sure that a handful of figures—often those who diverge from an oppressively narrow norm in some other threatening way—deserve to shoulder the burden of representative critique while peers and elders get off scott-free.” Don’t hate on Lena Dunham. Don’t ‘hate’ on anybody. But if there is anyone you should nag, how about all of the men in charge of Warner Bros? Or the guys who even pitched the show being about her life? I don’t see it as her fault.

Argument#2: She’s a child-molestor and assaulted her younger sister. 

There is a chapter in Lena Dunham’s collection of essays Not That Kind of Girl about being a sister. In this chapter she recalls when her younger sister Grace was born and the curiosity she held for having a new sibling. She mentions touching her sister’s vagina and trying to peep inside. She was seven years old when that happened.

People were horrified upon reading that part of the book. I hardly batted an eye. I’m not sure if these critics have any siblings but as someone with two younger sisters I found that detail in her memoir relatable and amusing.

I remember my sister and I sharing the toilet when we went to the bathroom, both of us sitting on the seat naked. I remember my sister and I touching our tongues together to see what a tongue felt like. We were basically French kissing. But that’s not what happened. It was a playful,  sweet nothing.

Seven-year-olds can not be held accountable for that kind of behavior. It doesn’t mean anything to a kid. It might be strange for Lena to write about it but Lena is strange. That’s one of the great things about her.

Argument #3: She’s fat and ugly and shouldn’t be showing herself off on TV.

It boggles my mind that people complain about Lena Dunham’s lack of representation on Girls but simultaneously don’t want to see someone without a size zero body on the show. Haters on Lena’s body essentially believe that someone who looks like her doesn’t deserve to be happy, sexual or receive any attention. I hope anyone can realize how terrible that is. Most women have a body like Lena’s. For some reason it’s believable that pudgy Seth Rogen or Adam Sandler land hot chicks in a movie but “impossible” to imagine Lena Dunham’s character having sex with men. If it’s okay for Daenerys of Game of Thrones to have a sex scene on HBO, why not Hannah on Girls? Simply because people are assholes.

On the contrary, I once heard someone say they thought Lena Dunham’s show didn’t do ‘enough’ to show other body types. They said that Lena’s body was just one type and she could have shown people with different shapes. (Part of me thinks they never watched Girls because Jessa, Marnie and Shosh have very different body types). I just scratch my head at that. I don’t think Girls’ subtitle is “a show about you”. I don’t know why some people think this show of all shows is supposed to cover everything. Again, I think this person was over scrutinizing Lena Dunham with backwards feminism.

Argument #4: She’s narcissistic, spoiled and bratty. 

It may be possible that people are confusing Lena for the character she wrote, Hannah. Lena is obviously aware that Hannah is narcissistic, spoiled, and bratty. She created her. And the show is about a person like that realizing real life won’t hand you everything on a platter. I think there’s a little Hannah in all of us, and the realism of Girls is even though Hannah is self-absorbed and clueless most of the time, there are also things about her we like and think are funny. Just like all of your friends. We’re all teetering on the edge of difficult and amusing. That’s the way it is.

I believe she worked incredibly hard and for a long time to get where she is now. She wasn’t a child star who was signed up for an agent by her parents and now has a movie and a record deal. She’s the real thing.

I know nobody is perfect and blindly loving a celebrity I’ve never met makes little sense. But Lena Dunham brings me such joy and I wish other people could put down the hate and enjoy the things she creates too.

Even after all I’ve said you may still not be a Lena Dunham fan. But that’s okay. Don’t watch Girls, don’t listen to her podcast, it’s fine.

If there is any kind of grudge you still hold against Lena, let me know and I will address it.

Stay tuned for next post in which I defend my idol Lana Del Rey and her ‘problematic’ lyrics like “I’m not afraid to say I’d die without him”. I’m so ready.

 

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