I really want to hate Lena Dunham and her show “Girls.” The success of her annoying but not horrible movie “Tiny Furniture” and the critical acclaim over this new show immediately puts her in my bitter hipster sights.
But the truth is, she’s really young (25) and shows genuine talent even if it’s kind of compromised by her limited experience. Now she’s deep in the maw of the commercial media complex and I almost feel bad for her.
Like the show, which is about a bunch of smart and self-aware girls who are just a little too limited to gracefully navigate their post-collegiate challenges in the big city, I fear Dunham may get eaten up by stardom. She fits the suit: edgy enough to package but still affirming the status quo and what she does with that gift/predicament remains to be seen.
It may be a “careful what you wish for” scenario as the Hollywood Apparatus is basically looking for people to fit into slots. But as she matures she could eventually do something genuinely edgy and subversive as opposed to voicing the usual bourgeois complaints. It may ultimately come down to how she solves her (characters’) predicament. For now, let’s call that predicament “white immaturity.”
As for the “It’s Just More White People Problems” criticism — it’s true. “Girls” is a show about the problems of a particular set of privileged white girls. But Dunham is a privileged white girl (with problems) writing honestly about her life and I’m not going to hate on her for it.
Her writing is courageous, funny and self-aware. Even though the show suffers from predictable casting and borders on glorifying the characters’ self-obsession, I know women like that and the show feels familiar. So I don’t expect her to misrepresent her life for the sake of white liberal guilt. Lena’s just doin’ Lena.
But I wish I could introduce Lena to a group of (kind of rich) girls I knew in college. There was a Hispanic girl from New England who was an aspiring poet but looking for love in all the wrong places, an Asian Holly Go-lightly type, who was fun, wise and unknowable, a Greek movie addict more comfortable with make-believe than actual people, (and, of course, the black comic book geek tortured by them all). These people really do exist!
For some reason the powers-that-be don’t want us to know that, or at least don’t feel comfortable promoting those images. I wish I knew why that is, but I don’t blame Lena Dunham for it. (I think her corporate overseers may be afraid of trying to package that “more challenging” conception of otherness.)
I hope Dunham meets the millennial versions of those girls and puts them in the series, which may require her to leave her comfort zone and/or make an effort. I bet she’s up to it, though. She’s definitely on the way to amassing enough power to make it happen, so I say more power to her.
Speaking of 20 years ago — weren’t kids kind of edgier and cooler back then? What happened? Is it the Internet?
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