Is Lena Dunham Losing Weight Due To Pressure To Look Thin On Television?

Last night, Lena Dunham stopped by The Colbert Report to promote her obscure new HBO show, which is called Girls. The interview is delightful and certainly worth watching (he draws her a diagram to show how sex works!) but the thing that stands out most to me is that Dunham appears to have lost a significant amount of weight.

This comes not too long after Jemima Kirke said “Lena’s lost a ton of weight” in an interview, then put her foot in her mouth a bit when the interviewer showed interest in the subject:

Has Lena lost a ton of weight?
I think so. I think just because she’s been working really hard. I don’t think it’s much of an effort. I’m sure some, just because every girl wants to lose a little when they’re on camera, for their prom, or whatever. And, uh, yeah, she has a little. She looks great.

So basically, Lena Dunham lost weight “just because she’s been working really hard,” but also because “every girl wants to lose a little when they’re on camera.” The thing about weight loss, though, is that it’s really fucking hard for people who aren’t naturally skinny. Our fat-hating society being what it is, if it were easy to lose weight, everyone but hardline fat acceptance folks would be magazine thin already. It requires a concerted effort, calorie counting, frequent exercise, etc. And provided you’re not a manual laborer, there’s nothing about “working really hard” that automatically leads to weight loss. In fact, it’s often the opposite for a writer. Ask me how I know!

Lena Dunham is obviously entitled to do as she likes with her body, but I have to wonder how this is going to affect the show. One great thing about Girls is that it shows a female protagonist who’s not Hollywood tiny getting naked, having sex, and dealing with relationships, a true rarity on American TV. Furthermore, her character Hannah rightly believes that she has more pressing things to worry about than trying to lose weight. It’s an understandable reaction to being on TV to want to look more like the socially accepted ideal (you know, the one that’s wormed its way into your head and mine), but a resistance to normalizing this ideal is one thing that makes Girls more true to life than other shows. Not everyone in the real world looks like a movie star, and there are already enough conventionally attractive characters to stretch the bounds of realism. I think it’s at least a little bit ironic that the same world that let Dunham in because of her fresh, realistic take on things is now pressuring her to conform to their impossible standards.

Beyond that, Hannah’s weight has been built into her character arc, and how she relates to her “imperfect” body is a major theme of her neurotic musings. If she loses weight, the script is going to need to address that. Maybe Kirke is telling the truth, and Dunham really is working so much she doesn’t have time to eat lunch. But either way, a skinnier Hannah will change the show in ways that go deeper than her shrinking frame.

(Via The Colbert Report)

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