I wish Lena Dunham would hold still long enough for me to figure out exactly what it is that bugs me so much about her. Just like one of those holograms that changes depending on which angle you look at it from and how the light catches, I find my opinion on Lena changes from day-to-day and from self-involved interview to self-involved interview.
So like in this new interview that she gave Marie Claire for their twenty-fifth anniversary issue, she talks about body image. Which she absolutely should! She’s an authority on the subject, and I actually don’t even mean that in a snarky way. When I first started watching episodes of Girls, I was blown away by Lena’s open, refreshing portrayal of her naked body in such a nonsexual way. She didn’t feel the need to diet, futz with the lighting to make it more flattering, use a body double, or any of the other Hollywood tricks typical of a nude scene. She just busted it out the way she would if no one was watching, and I was blown away by it. What a victory for women! And television! And feminism! And HBO! I was feeling very liberal with my kudos.
…until it started happening in every episode. Until they ran out of typical, honest issues that entitled white girls (a category I sadly fit into as well) would go through, and they had to start inventing stuff. And everything they were inventing was bad sex, and neuroses, and naked bodies eating cake on toilets, and just like…avoidable stuff. The nudity was turned into a gimmick instead of an element; into a device instead of an occurrence. It stopped being genuine, and in that moment it became just as annoying as every TV show that casts impossibly sexy women with perfect bodies and never shows anything more risque than the small of the back.
So anyway. Back to this interview. It exemplifies exactly that niggling thing that bothers me about Lena, because it stomps all over the line between confident and right into the realm of cockiness. In trying to be real and honest, she tumbles down that slippery slope into humblebrags and self-obsession. Just like when she wrote that question about being a nineteen-year old virgin and sent it to that sex advice columnist. And then posted it on Instagram at age twenty-seven. Disingenuous. Feels weird.
‘My parents both have really healthy attitudes about their own bodies but also about the range of things that can be beautiful. But they also just always made me feel pretty and cool and smart, even in the moments when I have known – and still know – that my body wasn’t fitting into a traditional Hollywood idea of the female body. This could very easily be taken out of context, and I think it’s funny now, but I remember looking in the mirror as a kid and it would be like for an hour at a time, and I’d be like: “I’m just so beautiful. Everybody is so lucky that they get to look at me.” And of course that changes as you get older, but I may have held on to that little-kid feeling that was me alone in my bathroom.’
Looking at yourself in the mirror as a kid and thinking you’re beautiful? Confident. Doing so for an hour? Cocky. Telling a magazine about it years later? Cockfident. You may be as self-confident as you seem, and I really hope you are, Lena, but all these interviews are just so much, y’know? Methinks the lady doth protest too much. But what do I know? I always kept my mirror-musings to forty-five minutes or under.
(Image: Alexei Hay for Marie Claire)