Like 887,000 Americans, I have now seen Lena Dunham naked.
Ms. Dunham, as I’m sure you know, is the creator and star of the HBO Series “Girls,” and she likes to appear naked on the show. A lot. Or so I’ve read, although I never actually laid eyes on her unclothed bod until this week, when I saw “Girls” for the first time. More on that below.
Ms. Dunham’s nudity has been controversial because she doesn’t look like the typical Hollywood starlet who disrobes on camera. She was recently asked about this by a critic at a TV critics’ association panel. His query was “I don’t get the purpose of all the nudity on the show. By you particularly. I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you say no one complains about the nudity on Game of Thrones, but I get why they’re doing it. They’re doing it to be salacious. To titillate people. And your character is often naked at random times for no reason.”
Lena didn’t like the question and suggested the critic should visit a psychiatrist to deal with his issues regarding the female form. Judd Apatow, the often sensible Executive Producer of “Girls,” called the remark sexist, misogynistic, and hateful. Another Exec Producer said the question sent her into a “rage spiral,” which may still be spiraling out of control into full-on, diva derangement.
This is all old news, but I’m writing about it because Andrew Klavan recently addressed the incident at the Truth Revolt website. He said nudity always appears on-screen for a reason, and some of those reasons – beauty, excitement, pity, realism – are valid. The critic was only asking why the girls on “Girls” are naked.
I believe Ms. Dunham missed an opportunity. If she reacted with more self-awareness and less defensively, she could have explained what her show is trying to achieve. Although I’ve only seen two episodes, Ms. Dunham’s character (who is probably similar to Lena Dunham in real life) is apparently a literary ingénue, stumbling through life and romantic relationships and writing about her experiences. The physical and emotional milieu of her life is permeated with naturalism and the kind of rawness usually associated with gritty crime dramas like “The Wire” rather than romantic comedies.
In fact, I believe “Girls” is an example of naturalist literature, although it is a particularly narcissistic, pampered, millennial generation version of naturalism. Still, it’s clear that Ms. Dunham is trying to expose the seamy underbelly of today’s romantic landscape and the fractured, broken lives it is leaving behind. In this environment, being “naked at random times for no reason” is a natural consequence of often random couplings. Showing naked girls who look more like the typical girl on the street than Hollywood bombshells further illustrates this bleak, unglamorous reality.
Imagine the firestorm and “rage spirals” this response would have generated.