Lena Dunham is a very clever writer, a brave actress and an intelligent woman with some insightful things to say about relationships. Relationships between: parents and their adult children, bosses and employees, husbands and wives, friends, roommates, idol-worshipped heroes and their worshippers, and between romantic or hook-up partners. She is also a savvy businesswoman who’s adroitly navigating the entertainment business. For all of these things, I greatly admire Lena Dunham.
However, Lena Dunham is also a lying liar who lies.
In her breakout hit HBO series Girls, which Dunham writes as well as sometimes directing and producing, Dunham casts and writes herself in the role of Hannah Horvath: the Regular Girl, the Smart Girl, the Not-Hottie, if you will. Hannah is smart and funny, and prone to bouts of neurosis and narcissism, but no more so than anyone in their 20s who lives in New York (or L.A., or Chicago, or London, etc. etc.), is an over-analyzer by nature, and aspires to a career in the arts or entertainment. Physically, Hannah is a cute girl with beautiful skin, and she’s got boatloads of moxie.
Hannah also rarely wears makeup and has a plump figure with small breasts, and absolutely zero self-consciousness about either of those latter two things. Dunham appears fully nude in virtually every episode, and never hesitates to strip in front of a new paramour, no matter the lighting conditions.
So far, so good. “At last,” I thought for much of the first season of the show, “a heroine for the rest of us! For us arty, over-sensitive types who were never the hottest girl in our circle, who have bodily dimensions more human than supermodel, who screw up and make fools of ourselves over and over but never stop trying to win. Fantastic!”
I can buy that a girl like Hannah would be very appealing to a respectable swath of guys, despite the prominent “No Fat Chicks” sticker plastered all over the popular culture (personally, I think whether as herself or as Hannah, Dunham is a very pretty woman). I can even buy that sometimes, the Regular Girl gets the hot guy. And I can admire Dunham’s effort to make a statement by regularly putting her not-size-zero body on full display, and modeling how comfortable ALL of us females ought to be in our own skin.
But there’s just one problem with this otherwise totally role-modeling poster girl for typical young women everywhere: Hannah also dates and sleeps with some of the hottest men you’ve ever seen.
And this is in New York City, no less: fashion and supermodel capital of the United States, a city legendary for its surplus of single career women, and notorious for the difficulty those single careeer women have in finding dates.
That’s when Hannah stops being a believable character, and I start wondering if Lena Dunham makes her boyfriend/hook-up casting decisions for Hannah based primarily on who she, Lena Dunham, would most like to get naked with. So far, Dunham has picked the guys pictured in this blog post.
You may be thinking, “So Hannah draws an amazingly gorgeous physical specimen of beefcake every time, that’s not the point! The point is that all of her relationships have been dysfunctional in some way, and Hannah’s approach to romance and sex is sort of self-destructive.” Yeah, you win the philosophical debate. Hannah’s relationship with Adam (Adam Driver’s character’s name was “Adam”, too) was particularly humiliating and demeaning to her, and he was a borderline abusive dick to her. But that has nothing to do with what I’m saying here.
My point is simply that real girls and women in the real world who look like Hannah Horvath only rarely draw the interest of super-hot guys in the first place. And don’t gimme that, “Not all guys are shallow and superficial, there are guys who are good looking and still care more about who a girl is than what she looks like!”
Thanks for that, Captain Obvious. I’m just saying that there aren’t so many superhot men who care more about who you are than how you look in New York City (or anywhere else, for that matter) that a girl like Hannah would easily attract them, anytime she wants. In this show, Hannah is so swamped with hot men that she can afford to screw up every single relationship and never fail to find another, equally or even more hot guy in short order.
Now, if the entire show were a wish-fulfillment fantasy smorgasbord, I’d just go with it. But since nothing else about the show works for me as fantasy (ooh, you mean *I* can live in a tiny apartment I’m struggling to afford, work in a crummy coffee shop and endure a revolving door of squabbles with my friends as we take turns vying for the title of Most Self-Involved?!), I’m inclined to see this more as a writing/casting overreach than anything else.
Girls started out as a real “Normal Girl Power!” experience. It was nice to finally see a truly relatable young woman making her mistakes and getting up to try again, two steps forward and one step back each week. It was nice to have a heroine who was pretty, but wasn’t borderline anorexic with the face of a supermodel for once.
Usually, a girl who knows she’s not a “10” feels so lucky to have landed a guy who looks like Adam that she’ll put up with far more nonsense and hurtful behavior than she would otherwise, and since that’s how it looked like the Hannah-Adam relationship was playing out, her eventual decision to move on looked like a “Normal Girl Power!” move. You go, Hannah! Looks and abs aren’t the only things that matter, you deserve a guy who treats you right!
Then came the boyfriend played by Glover, whom Hannah picked a fight with because he wanted a more meaningful relationship and she only wanted the casual hook-up (and possibly to feel like a rebellious white girl for dating a black man). In tonight’s episode she impulsively kissed a handsome, handy doctor played by Patrick Wilson, then started babbling awkwardly, and his reaction was to grab her and passionately take her, right there on the kitchen island.
Okay, a 42-year-old separated guy could go for a quick bang with an attractive 24-year-old, even if she’s not Keira Knightly, but his next move was to ask her to move in with him and never leave. And she did stay overnight and into the next night, at which point she predictably blew it by overthinking and overtalking. But if it hadn’t been for that, for all we know she would’ve been showing up at his place with boxes and crates in the next episode. Because the problem here isn’t any lack of built-like-demigods men throwing themselves at Hannah’s feet, it’s Hannah.
So ultimately, instead of giving us normal women a heroine we can relate to and root for, we get the message that if we’re not alsodating from the local Hunk-O-Matic, we must be huge losers because even in New York, a woman as normal-looking and neurotic as Hannah has no difficulty whatsoever flitting from ab slab to ab slab.
Now that Hannah’s blown it with the latest super hot guy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her squired around by Johnny Depp, Gerard Butler or Brad Pitt in future episodes. Fine, it’s Lena Dunham’s show, and if I were in her shoes I’d probably be doing the same thing. But speaking just as a viewer, I’m saying: one more super-hot boyfriend and I’m out, Lena. Because at that point the show stops beingGirls and starts being “What Unbelievably Hot Guy Wants To Bang And/Or Live With Hannah This Week?”