5 Things Lena Dunham’s Publicist Needs To Tell Her To Stop Saying In Interviews


The Lena Dunham media love and defensiveness fest continues today with a long, adoring cover story in Entertainment Weekly. Reading it, I can’t help thinking what interviews with her always make me think: for someone who is so smart about some things, Lena Dunham is really dumb about others. Namely: her own privilege, and not sounding like a huge asshole when discussing topics relating to it. You’d think her publicist would have pulled her aside and had a little talk with her by now, but clearly they haven’t, so I am going to do it for her. Here are some things she should be more mindful of in the future.

1. Do not brag about being a person of modest means after you buy an apartment in one of New York’s most expensive neighborhoods for $450,000. Just because you did not spend $5 million doesn’t mean you aren’t still totally ballin’. Congratulations, you are not a wildly extravagant douchenozzle like Nicole Richie, just your run-of-the-mill wealthy New Yorker! Here is your medal.

2. “Wanting some space to think, she went to her family’s [second home] in Cornwall, CT.” It is fine for your family to have a second home in a ritzy part of CT. It is not fine to say that in the same article in which you are trying to pretend you are not inordinately privileged.

3. “Off screen she’s living the famous person lifestyle that Hannah wants but is too lazy to work for.” This might be directed more at journalists, but do not tell me that Lena “worked for” her famous person lifestyle, and then follow it with a sentence about how Zac Posen was her babysitter. Support your thesis!

4. “I did go to private school in New York, and I did know a lot of rich kids, but–” no, stop right there. Anything you say after that “but” will make you sound like a jerk.

5. ECONOMIC CAPITAL IS NOT THE ONLY KIND OF CAPITAL. All the arguments about whether she was born really rich or only kind of rich are really a red herring to this issue. (Although I hold that “getting to live in New York for free” and “never having to support yourself through non-creative means” are two very big things Lena has on her Girls character that are not acknowledged here. Also: the uncontrollable x-factor of talent.) Here are some definitions from French sociologist Pierre Bordieu (via Wikipedia, the authority on everything):

  • Social capital: resources based on group membership, relationships, networks of influence and support. Bourdieu described social capital as “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.”
  • Cultural capital: forms of knowledge, skills, education, and advantages that a person has, which give them a higher status in society. Parents provide their children with cultural capital by transmitting the attitudes and knowledge needed to succeed in the current educational system.

Going to private school, knowing a lot of rich kids, being raised in a creative environment, and growing up with access to experiences that have been deemed interesting by the people in charge of book deals and TV shows are all advantages Lena Dunham will always have, even if she loses all her money in the stock market. This doesn’t make her a bad person; she has zero control over this. But it would behoove her to stop getting so defensive about it, because then, yes, she will look like a jerk.

She is not unique in this, of course; statistically speaking, almost nobody in America’s increasingly rigid class system gets to live their own personal Horatio Alger story. (If you did, good for you. You are an impressive anomaly!) Opportunities for success are not meted out evenly. I, myself, am not under the delusion that I got to go to a good school and become a writer solely through my own hard work and determination. But it’s also important to understand this about the world, and the sooner Lena Dunham gets over her Dan Humphrey syndrome and realizes that, the better it will be for her image.

(Via ONTD)

Photo: Entertainment Weekly

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    • Arielle

      This is so well-put… Also, did you hear her on Alec baldwin’s podcast? She basically says that the social leg-up/nepotism argument that people make regarding her is just jealousy. Homegirl just doesn’t get it.

      • aftertherisotto

        Should she not make art and tell her story just because she has successful parents? “Oh I’d love to be an artist but my parents are already so well off, it wouldn’t be fair.” No.

      • http://twitter.com/DeniseIvanoff DeniseIvanoff

        Missing the point. She just needs to acknowledge that there are many young people just as talented and hard-working who will never have an opportunity to do work they enjoy or share their creativity, and acknowledge that she is where she is because of a lot of lucky breaks.

      • Lisa

        Why does she “need” to acknowledge that? Maybe she is defensive of how she grew up because people keep asking her to defend it. Maybe she talks about it in interviews all the time because people ask her about it constantly. Just because she grew up privileged does not make her work invalid and it doesn’t mean she doesn’t work hard.

      • oejit

        No it doesn’t mean she’s not talented or hardworking, but it does mean she’s likely a bit out of touch with the reality of what being 20-something means for most young women. It’s this ‘reality’ that has earned her all the acclaim so that is what makes it relevant to the production of the show.

    • Amy

      I hate that she keeps being described as the voice of a generation. I have nothing in common with Lena Dunham; she does not speak for me or my generation.

      • C.

        Thank you! I tried really hard watching Girls, given that it was supposed to “represent my generation” but it just made me uncomfortable. And not in a good way.

    • Daisy

      Not sure what’s so wrong with a $450 000 house. That’s just the price of a regular middle-class house in my city… Pretty much everyone I know whose parents have a university education live in a $300k-500k house. And I live in a pretty average, medium-sized Canadian city. If she’s living in one of NYC’s most expensive neighbourhoods, then a $450k place really probably isn’t very impressive.

      • …her?

        But at her age were they able to afford that kind of place? Plus other expenses in New York? My parents live in a house that expensive too, but they are in their late 50s and have been working their whole lives.

      • http://twitter.com/urbanMalek Malek

        $450k is less than the average price for an apartment in NYC. At half of her age, JB was spending millions of dollars.

      • oejit

        Plenty of people her age who’ve gone into lucrative careers (finance and engineering come to mind) will be able to afford apartments of that caliber, especially if they graduated without debt and had few expenses. It can be frustrating to see young people with more than what hardworking older adults have but I think it is quite common.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ECRTIU6E7RRGNJQDQ4OV5QLGHU nigerian_princess

        It’s an apartment, not a house. Huge difference.

      • NYCNanny

        No, it’s really not a huge difference in NYC. I think the average 2 bedroom in Brooklyn sells for like $600,000.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mark.kielbasa.1 Mark Kielbasa

      What a fake, self glorifying over privileged, delusional hipster nightmare..The more I read about this creature the less I like her. She is so hypnotized by her own navel gazing that she has no idea how she appears to anyone with a functioning brain. If I hear one more reference to her being ” Brilliant” I will hurl. I am sure that Miss Durham would be very surprised to learn that she is not quite as interesting or ” lovably quirky ” as she thinks…

    • aftertherisotto

      So… would people feel better if she bragged that she’s “totally ballin” in her bitchin new apartment? If she said, “Yes I’m privileged! Second homes and rich friends were just handed to me on a silver platter!” I have a feeling she wouldn’t win with people either. At least she’s contributing – there are thousands of people who are better off than even her and do even less with their days.

      • jamiepeck

        Actually, I have been known to do that. It’s important for everyone to remember that most well-off people did not get that way because they are inherently better than others.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Chris7Roberts Chris Roberts

      Alexander the Great, the Voice of His Generation, Conquered the World in His Twenties. Lena Dunham Has a TV Show. And a Twitter account. Reality check.

    • oejit

      I don’t think it’s her having money that irritates people, it’s that she has made a name for herself by portraying an ‘authentic representation of life as broke & confused 20-somethings’ when really she has gone to private schools all her life and grown up with much more than most. It’s hard to be sympathetic to certain struggles of privileged young people knowing how much opportunity they’ve had.

      • Lisa

        In Girls, she has rich parents who cut her off and her character, Hannah acts like a spoiled brat. I think she is poking fun at 20 somethings who have grown up privileged and are trying to make it on their own. Regardless, it a requirement that if you write about a lifestyle that you have to have lived it?

      • oejit

        No, of course it’s not a requirement, but the buzz around the show was built because it is a “for us, by us” portrayal of being 20-something that is more authentic than the major network shows written by people out of touch with what it means to be that age at this time. The problem is, I don’t know if she’s particularly ‘in touch’ with what it means to be 20-something for most people.

        In that first episode when they cut her off, I think she was quite frank about having a hissy-fit about it, but since she’s the show’s heroine you wind up feeling kind of sorry for her. My issue is SHOULD we feel sorry for someone in her situation.

    • Camilla Bech

      Ha I love you! It’s like you took the words right out of my mouth.

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    • Patrick Basoco

      The author owes her a couple bucks for the job security…