The ever prolific Lena Dunham has a featured interview in the newest issue of Esquire in which, let's hand it to the girl, she comes off as nothing but charming, bold and hardworking. We can hash all we want over the faults in Dunham's work (as we should), but the fact of the matter is that Lena Dunham — love her or hate her — isn't going anywhere. She's earned an interesting platform to speak her mind and, thankfully, she's using it in a way that makes us think about social and financial advantages, youth, womanhood and the way those things interact with the media and culture at large.
As Esquire's Ross McCammon puts it:
Dunham is a force right now. She is the emblem of something - it's just that no one's sure what. Of young women? Of young men, too? Of the post–Sex and the City archetypal female friendship? Of privilege? Of New Yorkers? Of the overconfident? Of the self-aware?
To claim that Dunham is an emblem of any of the things listed off by McCammon is sure to make certain people immediately defensive, but why? Dunham chalks it up to her youth, saying:
"People are ultimately threatened by young people taking positions of power. But there's also this feeling of I could do that, too. People don't feel rabidly jealous of Larry David or Salman Rushdie because they don't think, I could do that. And with what I've done, I think a lot of people think, I could do that in my sleep. If I'd just met one person along my path, I would have that TV show."
While there's certainly other more legitimate reasons that people don't like Lena Dunham, there's definitely something to her I could do that theory. The fact of the matter, however, is that most people couldn't do that. At 26-years-old, Dunham is writing, directing, editing and starring in her own TV show as well as writing a book. Again, we can argue all day about whether or not she deserves that TV show or that book deal, but it's a moot point. She has those things. We do not and — in most cases — probably should not. Blame her success on her privilege all you want, but, in the end, there are lots of people from similar wealthy backgrounds who have tried and failed where Dunham has succeeded.
Of course, it remains as important to keep a critical eye on Girls just as it's important to keep an eye on any other successful artist's work. Girls needed to be called out for whitewashing. It needed to be called out for a lot of things, but the hatred Dunham seems to inspire in people goes beyond your usual cultural commentary and into hateful attacks on her personality and looks, especially her weight.
While Dunham admits that it doesn't feel good to be constantly attacked for her appearance, she does have her way of coping. She says:
"If I was directing this much vitriol at people who hadn't like committed a war crime, I don't know how I'd sleep. Sometimes I think, Boys were mean to me in high school, so I can take whatever. Of course that doesn't mean you can handle five thousand commenters saying you're fat, but it does prepare you for feeling like a weirdo."
It's kind of sad in a way, but with her success and easy acceptance into the celebrity elite, Dunham is becoming less and less of weirdo every day. She does remain unique — unfortunately — as one of the few young women who, though a part of the Hollywood machine, is willing to call out how fucked up it can be. And that, if nothing else, makes Lena Dunham commendable.
Lena Dunham Is Building an Empire [Esquire]