I’m incredibly jealous of Lena Dunham. I’m also incredibly proud of her.
She’s a year older than I, almost to the day, and she’s accomplished some phenomenal things. She made her own movie, Tiny Furniture, and she made her own TV show, Girls. Both are excellent, both tell different versions of her story, and both have secured their spots in the current pop culture dialogue. So you can see why I might be both jealous and proud.
It’s not often that someone so young rises to the top. It takes talent and luck and ambition, and a perfect storm of something indescribable, and for that reason, I probably shouldn’t be so jealous or proud of her, because she’s an outlier. But I’ll use her as inspiration anyway. She’s given a voice to herself, and she’s given a voice to a lot of the girls out there who didn’t think our stories were interesting enough to tell.
Tiny Furniture and Girls are about very specific struggles. Most people won’t relate to them. In Tiny Furniture, Dunham’s character moves back home after college. In Girls, her character decides to stick it out in New York instead of moving home. In both cases, her character ends up sacrificing a great deal of her personal happiness, and has to deal with the consequences of a slightly-less-comfortable life. I can see why so many people broke out their miniature violins upon hearing these premises, but the thing is, this happens to a lot of people. The struggles of an upper-middle-class white girl may not be as dire as most people’s, but they are as valid. I can’t say my life parallels Aura’s, or Hannah’s, or even Lena’s, but I can say that I saw many versions of myself in all the characters in the movie and the series, and more accurately so than in other post-college coming-of-age stories. As cliche as it might sound, before watching Tiny Furniture and Girls, I didn’t really think there was anyone out there who might understand my life, even a little bit. Now I know that’s not true.
Both works put a harsh, whiny, sometimes glamorous, mostly unflattering face on the lives of twentysomethings. In other words, they mostly tell the exact truth, which is that if you are born into a nice family, are lucky enough to attend a nice college, and then decide you don’t want to be a doctor/lawyer/other lucrative profession, post-graduate life can be very disorienting. Being some sort of an artist doesn’t mesh well with the only lifestyle you’ve known. I can remember reading all the criticisms about Girls, especially, when it premiered, many of which complained that Hannah had no right to complain about her life, that she lived in a white liberal arts college bubble, that she was afforded every possible opportunity, that her drama isn’t real. But it is real. Dunham wasn’t trying to garner sympathy for herself, or anything like that. She was, quite simply, showing how bratty some of us can be when we’re forced out of our comfort zones. That’s what the pilot of Girls was about. Over the course of the season, we saw her and her three friends make loads of mistakes, exemplify twentysomething FOMO behavior, and act generally idiotically. But I also think these girls didn’t give themselves enough credit for being smart where it counted. The four girls had abhorrent taste in men throughout the whole season (which I’ll get to in a second), but they also have this unabashed, if slightly disillusioned, confidence in themselves. And in New York, they sort of need it to survive. Even if they aren’t that great, even if Hannah’s memoir doesn’t pan out or whatever, she believes that it’s a masterpiece, and that’s going to get her somewhere. They haven’t been jaded by the city or their lives yet, and in a cutthroat location like New York, blind confidence is a treasure. In the case of Lena Dunham, if she actually had that blind confidence, it got her to a pretty great place.
Now, let’s go back to those men. Adam Driver, wow. I would never date his character, but he and Dunham were a pleasure to watch together. Same goes for Christopher Abbott, who played the very vaginal Charlie to Allison Williams’ Marnie. I only wish Marnie had gone for Jorma Taccone’s Booth instead, because, well:
That’s how you talk to a lady, amirite?! Moving on: Jessa (Jemima Kirke) started the season with an intriguing, bohemian bent, but then ended it with something really stupid: She married a stranger. Normally I love Chris O’Dowd, but his character on the show is creepy as shit. I suppose that’s the point. But I felt it a little too shock-valuey for HBO. Anyway, Shoshanna (the brilliant Zosia Mamet) played her V card with the weird guy from Tiny Furniture? Okay. Fine. I suppose he was nice. I didn’t get most of these decisions, but the mere fact that I’m this irritated by these fictional characters’ lives should say something. I was so wrapped up in the show that I forgot they weren’t real.
I really can’t wait to see what else Lena Dunham does with her brutally honest talent. If the rest of her life’s work is as semi-autobiographical as what she’s done up to now, I’d be fine with that. I just hope the rest of the world is, too, because she really does lead an enviable life. Maybe I’m disillusioned in thinking so, but then again, I’m a girl, too.