Lena Dunham, ‘Voice of A Generation’: But It’s Definitely Not Mine
Lena Dunham has been the poster child for feminism for a little while now. But should that be the case? Here’s why Sammy thinks her credentials are tricky, to say the least.
With all the child molesting and false rape accusing she’s been doing alongside her book writing and TV-show-writing-and-acting lately, there’s no denying Lena Dunham been busy. Never has there been a more troublesome feminist icon of recent times, and there’s about five miles of column inches (and comment sections) to prove it. But who is she a mouthpiece for, anyway? And as an audience, are we taking her far too seriously?
Before Lena lays on any advice, she puts a self-deprecating dip on it. Her book, ‘Not that Kind of Girl’ is subtitled ‘a young woman tells you what she’s “learned”’, with emphasis drawn to the quotation marks; in her #ASKLENA video series, she proclaims ‘limited knowledge’ before offering advice on mental health, relationships and bullying; in this interview she makes it clear that her advice is based on past mistakes, and for that reason her advice-giving is ‘very tricky ground to stand on’. She also talks about making ‘conscious choices’ as a ‘role model’. Right.
…her advice-giving is ‘very tricky ground to stand on’.
Criticisms Lena has accrued in her short time in the limelight have included: molesting her sister and then writing about it, falsely accusing someone of rape and then writing about it, whitewashing her TV series, and generally being an entitled, overpaid baby. It’s been hell of a year, but Dunham’s accolades have been piling up almost as quickly as the column inches. Season four of Girls started up on the 11th of this month and the fifth was confirmed even before it went out. Dunham won the Golden Globe for being a dead good actress in 2013, as well as a load of other awards for generally being excellent. Thousands of girls comment on her Instagram and Twitter, looking up to her as a sort of demi-god.
But do they really? Where is this assumption born from? Just because a series is aimed at girls, doesn’t mean it’s girls who watch it and worship it. I feel like she’s definitely a mouthpiece for someone, but that person isn’t me, and it isn’t really anyone I know, either. In Tiny Furniture, Lena’s first film, the events (a tiny paycheck which leads her to quit her job almost instantaneously; lusting after a man she works with then having sex with him in a pipe; being very mean to her old uni friend because… there’s actually no reason here) don’t exactly correlate with my worries (having no money, having no job, losing my mind and being eaten by a pack of wild Alsatians). I understand that these are characters built to point out and satirise entitlement, but what grinds on me is that there’s no learning, no character growth offered.
…lusting after a man she works with then having sex with him in a pipe…
This lack of actioning what she’s “learned” can also be highlighted in Lena’s real life. Despite calls for a more representative cast in NYC-based Girls, there’s been no movement from a story that speaks overwhelmingly about what it’s like to be a rich white girl. Another refusal of “learning”: her unthinking inclusion in her book of a passage about molesting her sister and wooing her like a ‘sexual predator’. This is a statement she says she was ‘aware… was insensitive’. So why include it? Complete thoughtlessness, the kind that only the rich can afford to have?
So why include it? Complete thoughtlessness, the kind that only the rich can afford to have?
Or is all of this just for attention? She’s obviously very clever, and her output is rooted in introspection- so why isn’t she palpably bridging the gap between her evident self-awareness and her content?
God, how much would I love to embrace Lena Dunham without having to think about all the things she’s done that would have ruined anyone else. But I can’t. Of course she’s done wonderful things- a young woman writing a massive HBO show about young women? Incredible. Speaking out about sexual assault, mental health and body image? Amazing. I’m not asking for perfection here, far from it- but what I am asking for is a tangible response to her criticisms. She’s not ‘one of us’- I can’t see it, she’s too out of touch. I don’t empathise with her, and unless I’m giving an extremely shallow reading- I don’t really think she cares, because she doesn’t have to.