Emmy Nominee Lena Dunham Unattractively Defensive About Charges Of Nepotism

As we reported yesterday, Lena Dunham‘s flawed-but-beautiful show Girls was nominated for an impressive four Emmy Awards after only one season. Pretty impressive for a show that’s been so universally criticized.

While I’m a big fan of the show and happy it got the nods, an interview Dunham gave to The New York Times yesterday gave me pause. And this pause was especially surprising, considering it concerned a topic Girls seems determined to deconstruct and explore. It starts with a “P” and it ends with “having the resources necessary to fulfill your human potential.” That’s right, I’m talking about privilege.

When asked about the various criticisms leveled at the show, Lena said this:

“The nepotism one, I was always pretty good at ignoring because it seemed so rooted in basic human jealousy and dislike of other people’s success. There’s just no other way to read that one.”

Slow down there, pal. Each of the four primary cast members is the daughter of someone famous. How does that not bear examination? This “anyone who criticizes my decisions is just jealous” stance veers quite a bit away from the careful, equivocating language—”I felt so lucky to be part of something that was opening that dialogue”—that comes later in the interview in reference to the explosive subject of race.

Lena Dunham, let me tell you something, upper middle class kid to rich kid. “Nepotism” is not just about someone at HBO consciously saying, “these are the daughters of famous people, so let’s pick up this show.” It’s about all the covert and overt ways privilege operates. Just because you’re smart and hardworking, doesn’t mean you haven’t benefitted from immense privilege. You have written a fine television show. But you also got to go to private school and private liberal arts college (I’m guessing you weren’t work study), where you got to study something you were actually interested in instead of something designed to put food on the table. And then you got to live at your parents TriBeCa loft, for free, while working on your creative projects. You happen to occupy a demographic HBO is interested in courting. And the actresses you cast were not a result of open auditions which every talented girl from miles around was invited to. They, too, moved within your rarefied world, and were in the right place at the right time when opportunity knocked.

Yes, you have talent. But so do a lot of other people, people who will never get the chance to realize it because they are too busy trying to survive in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Admitting these things does not, and should not, take away from your own achievements. In fact, it only makes you look like a more empathetic, socially conscious, and clear-eyed person. I.e., someone I want to pay attention to. Nepotism rules the entertainment industry, but no one ever talks about it. Why not be the one to do it? You know enough to try to be sensitive on the topic of race and omission, so please don’t be so naive about privilege. It looks bad on you, and I want you to look good. Because there are many other things that I like about you, Lena Dunham. Honest.

(Via The New York Times)

Photo: WENN.com

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    • Chrystal

      VERY WELL SAID!

    • Cara

      Who are the parents of the other girls? Please tell me because I’m far too lazy to IMDB this shit.

      • Isana

        shoshanna is played by zosia mamet, as in daughter of playwright and director david mamet and an actress whose name i have forgotten but is really wonderful, co-starring for example as a nurse and witness in the central trial in sidney lumet’s the verdict. marnie is alison williams, daughter of tv newsman brian williams. jemima kirke’s dad is some british drummer in a famous band.

      • Cara

        Thanks! Wow, I can’t believe Brian Williams’ daughter is on the show. Loveee him.

    • yourlittlebrother

      what? you’re a crazy lady. everything in the world is unfair why are you writing an article about it, then using this obvious fact to blame someone who might have a more privileged life who produced quality work – sure get angry if she’s privileged and produced bad quality work but girls is a great show. Universally criticised? that’s so inaccurate. i’m behind what she said completely.

      • Maria

        Actually, she keeps reproducing the same story, over and over and over again. Ever see “Tiny Furniture”? It’s basically the same story about a rich white girl problems.

      • Yourlittlebrother

        Yes I have! Whats your point? So many great artist write what they know and so use the same themes.

      • BusterVibio

        Quality work?

        Sure the real world is unfair but money and privilege create a completely made-up unfairness because it’s not based on muscular power and bloody survival-based rage. Questions of fairness don’t enter into the equation where the variables are child and rich parents and struggle, etc.

    • Jules

      Bravo Jaime!…absolutely fucking brilliant. I wonder if Lena Dunham ccould possibly be more out of touch if she tried. You know, it seems that Crushable, Max Kaiser (RT TV), and Yves Smith (Naked Capitalism),Bill Moyers are the ONLY people who have the guts to tell it like it is.

    • AnnH

      Girls a lot of things, but “socially conscious” is not one of them in my opinion.

      • Lillian

        Well it’s not a term paper or a movement, it’s a TV show. Is entourage socially conscious? Is friends?

    • PeachesPit

      This article should be titled ‘Crushable Journalist, Slightly Bitchy about Lena Dunham’s success’ – “It looks bad on you, and I want you to look good. Because there are many other things that I like about you, Lena Dunham. Honest.”: urgh this is the worsttttttttttt.

    • Ken

      I worry that my generation is not getting a real chance to cultivate out voice — the spoiled rich kids are hogging the mike.

      • lockers

        if you could write something better than Girls trust me you’ll be heard.
        In the mean time, sure hide behind the fact that they came from creative parents to make you feel better about yourself.

      • BusterVibio

        Wrong. There are many people who are writing or who have written pieces of literature, etc., and are much more talented and creative than Miss Denham and will never be heard. Money and privilege open many doors. The real question is: why do you apologize for the rich and privileged? Do you believe by grovelling they will see you as an equal? Maybe invite you into their world?

      • Isabelle

        No but mostly talent has more lasting power

    • Jessie Sammler

      This is all very strange to me, because when I’m watching a show I seriously do not care how the show got made or how the actors got their roles. I care about the product and whether I enjoy watching it. Maybe those small details shouldn’t be so important to me.

      • james

        but the 110 thousand actors who worked their ass off for their sag cards and got cut in line by these rich kids do care – darling –
        get a clue

    • guest

      Great article, well said, agree completely

    • Isabelle

      I think most of Hollywood has had some type of connection to the industry before they hit their fame. I would guess about at least 75%, it’s just not as obvious as say Bruce Willis and his daughters. I think it is far more rare to have someone really, genuinely picked up from out of nowhere.

    • Lina R

      Well written article. I agree completely. There are many of us writers out there who keep ploughing away but we don’t have the connections and we have to work long hours to pay the rent (which drains the creativity). Lena has talent, but it is also talent which has been nurtured, supported and she has had access to forward her work to the relevant people. No one with her average looks would get to star in an American show without coming from wealth/connections.