Thursday, January 17, 2013

'Thin for, like, Detroit.'

A lot of digital ink gets spilled over Lena Dunham in the feminist blogosphere: about her privilege, about her considerable talent, about her HBO show, which is either dismissed as a product of the former or praised as a shrine to the latter. There is also a lot of talk about her weight. I have not seen the show, but I do know that Lena Dunham gets naked a lot, and that her body doesn't look like the bodies we normally see in limited clothing on TV. Howard Stern was the most recent person to crack jokes about her weight, calling her "a little fat girl who kinda looks like Jonah Hill, and she keeps taking her clothes off, and it kinda feels like rape." There are a lot of troubling things about that sentence, so Lena Dunham called into his show to right some wrongs. Here is what she said:
I don't mean to take major issue with you about this. I'm not super thin, but I'm thin for, like, Detroit.
I really want to support Ms. Dunham. It seems like she's bringing to TV a fresh and nuanced perspective about being young and about being a woman and about being an artist. At the very least, she presents on the screen her naked, "fat for New York" body frankly and without apology: unfortunately, there is something revolutionary just in that. Actually,this is my problem: this sound byte sounds like an apology. I can be naked on TV because I'm actually thin compared to people in places like Detroit. That feels a lot less revolutionary to me.

Additionally, her comment is vulnerable to much of the criticism the show was getting about Ms. Dunham's blindness to her racial, class, and social privilege. I am inclined to cut her some slack: nothing along these lines has been said about her show that could not have been said about nearly any other show on TV. Why should we expect this one young woman to swim against the undertow? But it feels like lost potential. She comes so close to getting people to think differently about body diversity and how we represent and view women in the media, and then undercuts herself with a tone-deaf statement like this. Whydoes she think, are people so fat in Detroit? There are a lot of theories, and none of them has anything to do with Lena Dunham.

Ugh, I do not enjoy jumping on the "rag on Lena Dunham" bandwagon. Let's end on this hilarious scene from her show and put this incident from our minds.

1 comment:

  1. I found Dunham's comments very disappointing. You'd think that someone who's been accused of class and race myopic would be a bit more deliberate.