Skip

Not that kind of girl.
December 8, 2012 9:38 AM   Subscribe


 
Gawker's snide attitude about this is basically anti-human. I want to read Lena Dunham's book, which seems smart and funny and honest, and I want the reviewer to get off the internet and never come back.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:46 AM on December 8, 2012 [26 favorites]


Yup.
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2012


I think that was Gawker's way of complimenting Dunham. You can tell because they included a dig at Julia Allison, Gawker's first-ever manufactured microcelebrity, who became famous because Gawker wrote articles about how much they hated her and then became an advice columnist or some shit.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:52 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lena Dunham published a short article about a failed relationship in the New Yorker a few months back and I am absolutely getting this book. She is a brilliant and funny writer, and she is also completely self-aware as to how pretentious and privileged her stories are. I mean, short of Memoirs of My Horrible Life In Terrible Circumstances (an admittedly popular non-fiction category, if not the most popular), what stories about people in their mid-20s aren't? Basically, all the stuff I see lobbed against her as to why she isn't interesting is explored in the writing itself. And in all of the complaints about the content, I've yet to see anyone deride her as a writer. I suspect this is because few people who gripe about her bother to actually read her writing and instead and just feel need to complain about how a rich white girl has the absolute gall to speak honestly about her existence.
posted by griphus at 9:54 AM on December 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm so tired of her.
posted by timsneezed at 9:55 AM on December 8, 2012


how can you be tired of her season two of girls is not even a thing yet
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:57 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Gawker's way of complimenting Lena Dunham is for shit. They just normalized that kind of stupid behavior / made the world a little bit worse cause it's their house style. good job, folks.

There's like thousands of people out there beating up on Lena Dunham because she's a woman, but they cover it up by pretending like they're beating up on her because she's rich. And, look, as a dude who grew up poor — and who has trouble reading, say, Jane Austen because I spend every page hoping the servants murder all the main characters and then march on London waving torches and red flags — I am highly, highly sensitive to writers that fail to acknowledge rich-person privilege. Lena Dunham isn't one of them.

Passing off misogyny as fake class warfare is the worst thing. And "pretending" to be misogynist cause that's how your Internet magazine rolls is right up there with telling the sandwich joke, but worse cause you're doing it for pay.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:59 AM on December 8, 2012 [52 favorites]


We are in complete agreement there.

Derail aside, I'm halfway through this proposal and it's really fantastic: well-written, hugely intelligent, and somehow familiar, like I've known all these thoughts and memories all along. There's something to that aspect of Dunham's work: she's not just clever or funny, she's intimate, but in a really weirdly offhanded way.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't past Dunham's disgusting, difficult to repeat remark about the Obamas. I'm sure she's very talented and she didn't mean it (in that "I'm offensively crude but also an ironic intellectual hipster so it's cool" / The Awl -ish kind of way) but I can't get past that. I'm even the type of person which normally isn't sensitive about that kind of thing.
posted by Bwithh at 10:05 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you be a bit more specific? The only thing I can find on Google for "Obama" and "Lena Dunham" is the "first time" ad.
posted by griphus at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


At 24 I felt like an old maid....

you're making me feel things it's too early in the day to feel :(
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2012


I can't past Dunham's disgusting, difficult to repeat remark about the Obamas.

Can you maybe repeat it so we know what you're talking about?
posted by lalex at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


She is a brilliant and funny writer, and she is also completely self-aware as to how pretentious and privileged her stories are.

I agree. Loved her paean to Nora Ephron.
posted by lalex at 10:11 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish I'd realized I could link around gawker directly to scribd.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:11 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]




Have you ever spent any time with a Gawker writer? They're about as much fun as you'd expect someone who thinks they're the world's hottest shit because they've found a way to be professionally unpleasant to be.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


She is a brilliant and funny writer, and she is also completely self-aware as to how pretentious and privileged her stories are.

I have a hard time understanding how a writer can be described as brilliant and funny yet pretentious and privileged in the same breath. Either you're one or the other, unless you're Oscar Wilde.
posted by blucevalo at 10:22 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


As a whole the Gawker network is a mixed bag, occasionally running great stuff, occasionally awful. This is definatly at the awful end of the spectrum.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on December 8, 2012


Bwithh, I think you're confusing Dunham with Lesley Arfin, a writer for Girls, who Tweeted that her term for shitting was "taking the Obama's to the White House". Arfin also responded to a well-reasoned critique of the whiteness of Girls with something along the lines of "Well, I didn't see myself represented in Precious, but do you see me complaining?"
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lots of brilliant, funny, pretentious, privileged writers in the world. Wodehouse. Fran Lebowitz. Rick Moody.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a hard time understanding how a writer can be described as brilliant and funny yet pretentious and privileged in the same breath. Either you're one or the other, unless you're Oscar Wilde.

This isn't true at all, in my opinion. None of these qualities occlude the others. They are not oppositional attributes.
posted by distorte at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


I just went to some effort to transcribe a passage that hit me really deeply. The Scribd document is long and opens slowly, so hopefully this helps people see a glimmer of why people are hailing Lena as such a powerful writer:
Brian was almost ten years older than me, and inexplicably attractive despite his red hair and his FUCKING FEDORA (it was wool, which makes it slightly more OK? Maybe?)[sic] He was my overlord at a menial restaurant job, a cynical foodie whose maxims included "It would suck to live past forty-five." And, even though he kind of had a girlfriend, we flirted. The flirting consisted of him questioning my general intelligence and noting my lack of spacial awareness and occasionally winking to let me know it was all in good fun. No one had ever really spoken to me like that, except for one guy on the college newspaper which I quit anyway for mononucleosis reasons. Brian was absolutely impertinent and despite my "why I ought!" faux-consternation, I was melting. He was Snidely Whiplash and I was the innocent girl tied to the tracks, but I didn't want Dudley DoRight to come. What followed was almost two years of on-and-off ambiguous sex hangouts, culminating in the worst trip to Los Angeles ever seen outside of a David Lynch film. As my professional life began to unfold I thought his respect for me would increase, but all it did was provide me with more money to take cabs to his house late at night.

If I was writing this even a year ago I would have glamorized this whole story for you—told you how misunderstood he was and how, despite his American Psycho qualities, he was just sad and scared. I would have laughed as I described all the weird sexual liberties I let him take and his general immaturity (towel as bed sheet, cash in a cigar box, fridge flu of hot sauce and beer. The first night I want to his place all I could think of was that house where the molesters live in Ben Affleck's directorial debut Gone Baby Gone). I thought of myself as some kind of spy, undercover as a girl with low self-esteem, ready to bring back a detailed intelligence report. But suddenly and swiftly it stopped seeming very cool at all when I realized what I was doing and why.

I had a lucky little girlhood. It wasn't always easy to live inside my brain, but I had the best care and feeding (lots of ravioli) and we lived in a sun-drenched loft on Broadway and didn't worry about very much except what gallery to go to on a Sunday and whether or not my child psychologist was helping me with my sleep issues. When I got to college I suddenly had the sense that my upbringing hadn't been very "real." One night outside my freshman year dorm a bunch of kids were smoking and shrieking with laughter—it sounded like a really giggly crime was occurring and I rushed outside in my pajamas. "What's going on?" I asked. "Oh" said Allen Strouse, a weirdo from a Pennsylvania steel town whose little sister was about to marry a meth-addicted Marine. "Don't you worry about it. Don't you worry about it Little Lena from Soho." What a snarky jerk. (Obviously later I slept with him.) I felt I had some experiences to gain and some things to learn about the world.

That feeling was the crux of my whole relationship with Brian.
There's a slipperiness to the writing – funny when you don't expect it to be funny, sad when you're expecting a joke, with little details slipped in all over that either reduce a seemingly long story to a few words or spend a long time describing something seemingly very little that gives you a feel not for what happened, which is somewhat easier to write, but for how Lena experienced it, and it's that that gives it such tremendous intimacy. Like, I've never been in a relationship with a guy like that, or thought of my relationships that way. But somehow this feels like something I've lived, because I know that feeling of dwelling on certain details and memories and guilty thoughts that completely distorts the past, turns it into something almost surreal in how it breaks time and space to create a narrative seemingly untouched by linearity and entirely driven by the emotional landscape in your own head.

It's sloppy and precious and completely self-aware, but what matters is that despite that Lena knows how to goddamn write, and that talent shines through every possible thing that I'd find irksome about this (and sloppiness and preciousness usually piss me the fuck off). She's got a marvelous talent and I admire her tremendously.

My favorite detail, for whatever reason? The way she self-describes her childhood as "I had the best care and feeding", but finds it important to clarify "(lots of ravioli)". That's sublime. Funny and heartwarming and a little sad and tender and a bunch of other things mixed into a little, perfect detail, tossed off as if it simultaneously doesn't matter at all and is the only thing worth mentioning. Makes me think of William Carlos Williams's red wheelbarrow. I dunno. Some of this writing is just utterly perfect.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2012 [36 favorites]


>Gawker's snide attitude about this is basically anti-human.

That pretty much sums the entire site up.
posted by Catblack at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Either you're one or the other, unless you're Oscar Wilde.

Okay now name a woman author who can do it too.
posted by griphus at 10:32 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just re-read Pride & Prejudice. I read it every couple of years, and every time I understand something else. This time, I really noticed how much class anxiety and money anxiety pervades everything, how much terror there is, lurking just out of view about WHAT HAPPENS to women from respectable but broke families if they don't get married.

I just watched This Is 40, which I disliked pretty intensely and found to be an insane marriage of coming-of-age story where nothing happens (and is also about 40-year-olds who should have their shit together) with a complete refusal to acknowledge in any way that Apatow is writing about really rich people. "These are totally relatable people! Just like you! Right?" Um, no, they aren't, these people are rich.

Anyway, Lena Dunham wrote the foreword to the published script, which was also sent around as part of the screener. This article gets snippy about it: Lena Dunham doesn't write for money. Snippy in a way I think is maybe not totally deserved, but here's Dunham's quote:

“There are many reasons to write. Some of us write for glory- to spite the people who stuffed us in lockers, to remind the lovers who didn’t love us just what they’re missing out on, to alter history and have future generations sing our names.

Others write for money (probably a weird plan, even when it does work out).

But some of us, as Judd reminded me in a recent e-mail,’write to figure something out.’”


And maybe that money crack is just a thing she put in there for rhythm. I get it. But still, I felt kind of amazed to read that. Fuck yes, I write for money. This is my actual job. What kind of person thinks it's weird to want to get paid to do their work?

(Maybe this brings me full-circle back to Pride & Prejudice, which also has a lot of anxiety about people who work for a living, and the taint on money from trade, etc. MAYBE LENA DUNHAM IS JANE AUSTEN!)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:35 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gawker: Sarcasm without wit, hate without humor, and archness obscuring apathy.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:35 AM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I envy both her talent and wealth, fully acknowledging the former while reserving the right to resent the latter.
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


thehmsbeagle, I feel like she was simply echoing the classic advice to professional writers, "first try something, anything, else." You should absolutely get paid for your work and Lena Dunham obviously doesn't mind getting paid for hers, but one should really not try to write for a living unless they are compelled to do nothing else, I feel.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I envy both her talent and wealth

There's sure a lot of talented poor people; I'll take the wealth, thank you very much.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:43 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I would read that "others write for money" line as a rueful acknowledgment that for most writers, there is not much money in writing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:49 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


She sounds endearing, witty, and charmingly awkward. Yes, she is lucky she had a leg up in the world, but it doesn't make her writing bad. Careful with that schadenfreude, peeps!
posted by xenophile at 10:52 AM on December 8, 2012


Jane Austen? William Carlos Williams? Really? I have no idea what people see in Dunham's output. It's honestly boggling. Maybe if she wasn't being heralded as a genius, I could let go and just read it for what it is - a touch self-obsessed, a touch funny, a touch.. out of touch.

I respect a lot of your opinions, but I have to go my own way on this one.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


As someone who does write for money (because I am on Team Samuel Johnson) I fully acknowledge that it's a weird plan and getting weirder.

I am meh on Dunham to date, but plenty of hilarious pretentious rich lady writers have delighted me. The aforementioned Fran Lebowitz is one, Edith Wharton is another. The early 20th century now mostly forgotten writer Cornelia Otis Skinner. E. M. Delafield, of "Diary of a Provincial Lady" fame. And broke ladies from super privileged backgrounds, like Angela Thirkell, for that matter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think people like her more who are the most distant from her experience. If you've known lots of Lena Dunhams, like I have, you realize she's just another one of them, not someone who has some kind of fresh take on an unfamiliar world.

It seems almost more like the world discovered a prototypical Oberlin kid, and Lena Dunham happened to be the representative.

I'm not saying she's a bad writer, don't get me wrong, but her acclaim is insanely out of proportion to the quality of her work.
posted by timsneezed at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


elwood: She's young yet.

re: Jane Austen, I know for a fact that all of the class stuff is right there hiding in plain sight and that is in large part what makes her writing great, but the last time I took a run at reading her I was still too immature and impatient — I wanted to teleport into the book and jump up and down shouting "don't wait for a revolution make it happen now!! now!!!"

re: Either you're one or the other, unless you're Oscar Wilde.

I would not blame Lena Dunham for reading that and thinking "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."

well okay I'd blame her for thinking in reddit memes, I hope she doesn't do that.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read the whole thing of this the other night. It's a mess from a writing standpoint--the Israel story is particularly sloppily written (and the best--the virginity story--is from another magazine and was presumably already edited). It reminds me quite a bit of the zines I inherited from my sister back in the 90s, but with a sort of corporate sheen around it instead of an earnest DIY ethic. The last part, about her relationship with food, is the most interesting--but I suspect would be absolutely triggering to anyone with an eating disorder.

Also it pretty much confirms that Dunham is her character from Girls, but more privileged, which is weird. But I guess that's fine. I have come around to liking Girls, but something about the whole endeavor still makes me feel a little uneasy. It's not particularly good, I think is what it is for me. Even though it's aight.

(But I'm in a hard place career-wise at the moment and maybe I'm just jelly. Usually such things don't bother me at all--more power to EL James, etc. etc.--but the sloppiness of the writing vs. the amount that was paid for it here just does.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:06 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


(no, I don't think Lena Dunham is Oscar Wilde. But "hey you're not so hot Oscar Wilde was way better" is not exactly a devastating critique of someone's work.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:09 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should say, too, that the Israel section, which I liked the least, is also the most chock full'o'privilege--it's the story of her playing working class tourist when she hooks up with a young single dad and then being sent to Israel while trying to finish her TV pilot and having the same sort of "eye-opening" experiences all the kids I met on birthright had while also looking down on birthright (which she can do, I guess, because she can afford to go to Israel without it?) I was excited to see what she had to say about Israel because my own feelings are such a tangled mess, but most of it felt the opposite of fresh and I was pretty disappointed.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:10 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


And maybe that money crack is just a thing she put in there for rhythm. I get it. But still, I felt kind of amazed to read that. Fuck yes, I write for money. This is my actual job. What kind of person thinks it's weird to want to get paid to do their work?

I felt this as referencing a) most writers don't make a full-time, well-paying career out of writing and b) this is especially true for novelists, which appears to be what she was referring to. So choosing to become a writer specifically for the money available on that route is a bit interesting. Congrats to you for your success, though, that's impressive. And I say that as one of the failures.

That Gawker article reminds me of why I never read Gawker articles anymore.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:10 AM on December 8, 2012


I tried to watch Tiny Furniture and everything seemed so accurate I had some sort of panic attack by proxy. It made me want to quit Facebook and curl into a ball.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:12 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The book of a person who stars in her own TV show is not purchased on the strength of its prose. I mean, straight up, rough or not, it's better to give somebody three and a half million dollars for this than God only knows what they paid Snooki to put her name on a novel.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:13 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer, right. That's the advice I give, too. But I feel like the "Don't write for money, it may never happen, you should write down your truths!" approach is a little bit of a dodge.

People like Apatow and Dunham are extremely successful people who write commercially-successful material for mass consumption. They are both brands. They understand what they're doing. Are they telling the stories they like best within the Dunham Brand, or the Apatow Brand? I'm sure. But they are part of an enormous machine and they had to fight to get into it. It's not actually like they were publishing poetry chapbooks and then Hollywood came knocking, because they are just that talented or lucky. They sought out the kind of writing that is most-lucrative of all, and they are successfully managing themselves as a business within that sphere of writing. I feel like there's a little bit of "She's an ingenue who was discovered!" stuff that happens when people talk about Lena Dunham, when really of course she's someone who works super hard and makes calculated business decisions. She is not making tons of money writing because oh, it's just a total accident, it just happened! She is making tons of money because she is talented AND lucky AND hard-working AND very, very canny about her approach.

(I don't really like Dunham's writing. I don't hate it, it doesn't fill me with outrage, but I feel like it's kind of "I am awkward and aware that I am mildly annoying!" but I think that is maybe supposed to be charming. And I can usually only find people who are aware and mildly annoying charming when they are totally unaware that they are a little repugnant. Like in a Dawn Powell novel. But I am always in favor of people getting money for their work, so good for her!)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:13 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I felt this as referencing a) most writers don't make a full-time, well-paying career out of writing and b) this is especially true for novelists, which appears to be what she was referring to. So choosing to become a writer specifically for the money available on that route is a bit interesting. Congrats to you for your success, though, that's impressive. And I say that as one of the failures.

Many novelists write for money. I'm a novelist who writes for money. Many literary novelists don't, though, and a significant portion of them come from economically privileged backgrounds and so they don't have to. In fact, they can actually look down on those of us who do write for money, regarding it as crass commercialism and selling out and writing to common (read: poor) tastes.

Or at least that's what I gathered from my time in an MFA program.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:15 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would just like to say that writing a non-fiction book proposal is fucking hard. It somehow has to be better than what you would actually write in the book, while artificially combining all of the book's high points, while summarizing a book you haven't written yet, while convincing everyone that the proposed book not only has a vast, hungry audience, but that that audience hungers for THIS book, written by YOU. It is not an exercise I would wish on my worst enemy.

*returns to proposal for second book, fingers shaking*
posted by mynameisluka at 11:18 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's sloppy and precious and completely self-aware, but what matters is that despite that Lena knows how to goddamn write

I'm having difficulty putting "sloppy and precious and completely self-aware" together with "knows how to write". The passages I've seen so far definitely do fit the first part. There is a rhythm and tone to her writing which is pleasant, but when I try to follow the story she's illustrating I end up feeling like I'm at a party, and there's this person talking to me who finds their life to be terribly interesting and wants others to believe so, too, and is telling me snippets of stories from their life that don't completely finish before they tangent link over to the next anecdote, and while I am standing there, listening, I get the increasing feeling that I am being shown the surfaces of a string of stories told many times to many others without being made privy to the hearts of the stories, where it could make me feel something, possibly because the experience didn't really make the teller feel much of anything, either.

I don't know. Whatever her background, I keep feeling like she's holding back too much; that these vignettes are stories told at parties; snappy deliveries made with the expectation to dazzle, charm and entertain, but the real story and the real heart isn't there.

Either way, it's gotten me curious enough to read more. I'd welcome being proven very wrong by other things she's written.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:23 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry, I'm not finding her anywhere near as funny as Nicola McEldowney, who I periodically regret encouraging into puppetry as she also ought to do something that gets published.
posted by gusandrews at 11:24 AM on December 8, 2012


I get the increasing feeling that I am being shown the surfaces of a string of stories told many times to many others without being made privy to the hearts of the stories, where it could make me feel something, possibly because the experience didn't really make the teller feel much of anything, either.

Welcome to the desert of the real.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:27 AM on December 8, 2012


I felt this as referencing a) most writers don't make a full-time, well-paying career out of writing and b) this is especially true for novelists, which appears to be what she was referring to. So choosing to become a writer specifically for the money available on that route is a bit interesting. Congrats to you for your success, though, that's impressive. And I say that as one of the failures.

She's writing this to introduce the shooting script to THIS IS 40, so I don't think she's talking about novelists. Mostly she's talking about how great Judd Apatow is, and certainly screenplays are not written as an exercise in, I don't know, artiness. They are not the ultimate product. They are written to be used to make a movie.

So I know everyone is probably like "Let it go, lady!" but it's just so weird to me that you would take this script by this filmmaker as your place to talk about how you should write for the love of it.

And I think, for myself, it has been such a struggle to understand that if I want to make a living writing, I have to really treat it like a business. AND, I now think that a lot of the best writing comes from people who treat their writing in a very professional way (I am not saying that Dan Brown is what we should aspire to, but just that the idea of "I am writing down my heart truth!" is not necessarily what produces great material). So I am currently kind of irritated by people who like to trot out the old "Don't write for money, write for love!" canard, while simultaneously being people who totally have alllllll their shit together.

Maybe there should be some kind of metafilter writing group so I could stop derailing a Lena Dunham post with my boring philosophical musings about art vs commerce.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:30 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm starting to feel pretty dumb because I've skimmed that Gawker page about ten times and haven't been able to find the link to the actual proposal. Help?
posted by timsneezed at 11:36 AM on December 8, 2012


(I am not saying that Dan Brown is what we should aspire to, but just that the idea of "I am writing down my heart truth!" is not necessarily what produces great material). So I am currently kind of irritated by people who like to trot out the old "Don't write for money, write for love!" canard, while simultaneously being people who totally have alllllll their shit together.

"Writing as therapy" is kind of roundly looked down upon, but I think "writing as exercise" makes a lot of sense -- writing as something that makes you feel better while you're doing it, and deal better with life (that day, at least) for having done. What I mean by all of this is while writing for money might be a pretty dumb way to try and get some money, not writing can be pretty disastrous for a person as a person. But try telling someone they need to do something for its own sake! Not in our society. I mean, drinking, fantasy football, watching porn...these are non-paying pursuits we get, but writing is enough like work that doing it in the absence of the promise of material gain just doesn't make sense. So I would say that writing with the intent -- or even just the hope -- of making money is fine if that's what you have to do to trick yourself into writing, which for writers is actually almost as necessary as money, and certainly much more necessary than lots of money.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:38 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


"culminating in the worst trip to Los Angeles ever seen outside of a David Lynch film"

I think some of the poor girls who went to LA to become stars and ended up making porn might disagree there.

"The first night I want to his place all I could think of was that house where the molesters live in Ben Affleck's directorial debut Gone Baby Gone). I thought of myself as some kind of spy, undercover as a girl with low self-esteem, ready to bring back a detailed intelligence report."

So she equates being poor with living like a molester? Thanks rich girl.

"Don't you worry about it Little Lena from Soho." What a snarky jerk."

So as soon as someone puts the little rich girl down they are a snarky jerk, yet she sees fit to equate living when poor as living like a molester?

Another rich kid, all the perks, got everything, wants more. Lauded by the wealthy as she is one of their own.
posted by marienbad at 11:42 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm starting to feel pretty dumb because I've skimmed that Gawker page about ten times and haven't been able to find the link to the actual proposal. Help?

http://www.scribd.com/doc/115944100/LenaBook-1
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:42 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


marienbad: you are willfully misreading her own painfully self-aware self-deprecation. Stop it.

not everything that flows from Lena Dunham's pen is golden, but even I get SO MAD when people misread writers as being smug when they're the opposite.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:44 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe there should be some kind of metafilter writing group so I could stop derailing a Lena Dunham post with my boring philosophical musings about art vs commerce.

Oh hell yes let's do this now what would it entail?
posted by Navelgazer at 11:45 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


What she means is, writing is a poor choice of profession, compared with, say, finance, if your primary goal is money, not that making money from your writing is to be avoided.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:45 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


thirding the mefi writing group idea, though I could only really participate as a contributor if people could put up with reading bits of my dissertation.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2012


If someone were to make a MeFi Writing Google Group I would certainly join. I'd do it myself but it automatically admins you when you create a group and blah blah blah
posted by griphus at 12:02 PM on December 8, 2012


We actually have a mefi-centric writing (sort of) google group, it's set up by Rory Marinich and it's called the Mefi Creative Coop.
posted by hellojed at 12:12 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't watched Girls or read this proposal, so I have little to say about Lena Dunham in particular, but I think it's super-interesting to read this thread together with the recent Catcher in the Rye thread, to get a sense of MetaFilter's complicated relationship with privilege, authenticity, art vs. commerce, and the meaning of "good writing."

Do the people who don't care about Lena Dunham's issues generally also not care about Holden Caulfield's issues?
posted by escabeche at 12:15 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Going way back up the thread, I do fault Dunham for not firing Lesley Arfin's horrible racist unfunny ass. And, for that matter, for ever hiring her in the first place. Her writing is horrible.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:17 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


you are willfully misreading her own painfully self-aware self-deprecation. Stop it.

This sums up why I don't like Dunham's writing. It's painful. It's painful because she has so little to offer in perspective other than expressions of her own privilege. But when that gets called out we're chided for not understanding her "self-aware self-deprecation." We readers are being asked to meet her halfway, yet her life has been one of little sacrifice. Whenever she fails to understand other people we're given a wink and a nod, like it's some kind of joke. But it isn't funny at all. It's just more privilege.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:19 PM on December 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


I am one of those who hates Catcher in the Rye and isn't a Lena Dunham fan, but on the other hand The Ice Storm is amazing in my opinion so it isn't as simple for me as a blanket allergy to New York rich prep school angst.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:19 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if I say that I don't like Lean Dunham because:

a) I live in Greenpoint and am tired of having all my parking stolen by their fucking production trucks

b) I'm 42 and I've had about 22 years too much of young people earning bank off the whole 'oh i slept with so many stupid people last year when I was 19 and REALLY stupid but now I am mature and sophisticated and I have ironic distance from it and here's my fancy, overly wordy rehash of the same shit that every 'artsy' wanker has puked onto the page for 20 years' gimmick

does that make me misogynistic or just cranky?
posted by spicynuts at 12:21 PM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


I've always found it ironic how Lena paints herself as underdog, not just because she's obviously very privileged but because I doubt she's ever been unpopular in her life. I went to college with her and she was one of the most popular girls on campus, part of a tight clique of rich NY kids who had all gone to the same private schools and spent most of their time sleeping around and doing coke. It was like she took NY with her to Ohio.
posted by timsneezed at 12:21 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh my god. The part of the proposal where she talks about having to hear men bitch about being married and being forced to listen to guys talking about blowjobs? What I would give for a guarantee of never having to ever hear about it and finally get through to guys how gross it is to hear from someone you're not involved with? I'd throw a pot of money or sign over my 401K to just get dudes to collectively stop that shit.
posted by discopolo at 12:21 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm 42 and I've had about 22 years too much of young people earning bank off the whole 'oh i slept with so many stupid people last year when I was 19 and REALLY stupid but now I am mature and sophisticated and I have ironic distance from it and here's my fancy, overly wordy rehash of the same shit that every 'artsy' wanker has puked onto the page for 20 years' gimmick

does that make me misogynistic or just cranky?


Do you ever feel this cranky about anything written by a man?
posted by purpleclover at 12:23 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure that's irony, timsneezed. Irony would be if she went bankrupt and suddenly actually HAD to live the life she writes about.
posted by spicynuts at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's like thousands of people out there beating up on Lena Dunham because she's a woman, but they cover it up by pretending like they're beating up on her because she's rich.

Yeah, let's not pretend that any criticism of a not actually all that great writer is motivated by sexism shall we, or that defending the latest overhyped flavour du jour is a blow for feminism.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I went to prep school in New York, I should probably get on that book proposal. Maybe I can cash in too. I was on scholarship so I'm an even bigger underdog.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2012


Do you ever feel this cranky about anything written by a man?

Yes. See the last 22 years of pretty much anything.
posted by spicynuts at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god. I looked her up on Wikipedia and we went to the same prep school. She's over 10 years younger than me though.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:31 PM on December 8, 2012


Do the people who don't care about Lena Dunham's issues generally also not care about Holden Caulfield's issues?

I have had friends who came from massive privilege, so I don't find that data point particularly meaningful within the context of someone's writing. What I'm interested in is being able to immerse myself in someone's story; to feel what they (or the speaker) felt and be a visceral part of the experience they share.

This is not something I get from Dunham's work, but it has little to do with her background. Rather, it's because the writing comes off as affected cotton candy - tastes good for a moment, but immediately disappears to no lasting effect. It's party chatter. For Catcher In The Rye, I hadn't even considered Holden's background; it's more the cringe-inducing attitude of how the speaker is a vacuous poseur who spends a lot of time calling everyone else phonies.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:32 PM on December 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


I am going to lose so many crusading leftist / social constructivist points for saying this... but then again I'm not a social constructivist:

I'm older than Lena Dunham, I'm not her gender, I've never been as popular on a personal level as she was at Oberlin (and, well, the school that made me who I am is a state school with a direction in its name). I'm sure as hell not in her class. The biggest thing I've got directly in common with her is that we both clearly grew up on the Internet, and that's in the broader scheme of things not that important. Nevertheless, I think there is something about the way she writes her lived experience, despite those experiences coming from a position of class privilege that isn't mine and a position of gender disprivilege that likewise isn't mine, that I relate to powerfully, in a "we are all humans experiencing the cracked, terrible, funny, excruciating, unbearable thingness of being human" way. She gets at it sideways, mostly with what she doesn't say, and in a style that is self-constructedly bloggy and thus easy to dismiss (especially easy to dismiss for people who want to see women writers as glib and oblivious, people like that worthless asshole from Gawker).

Basically what I'm saying is that there is such a thing as "the human experience" and it's possible for someone to write it, even from a position of privilege, even from a position of privilege that in a just society wouldn't even exist, and that writing down the experience accurately is hugely valuable. Very few of the events she experiences resonate with my life, but the way she writes the living of those experiences resonates hugely. Even/because she's writing in a bloggy style.

I don't feel that way reading Salinger, largely because nothing he's written reflects what it feels like to live my life. Yes, my desire to see lived experience written down on the page is willfully naive and blah blah blah. If it means I'm a bad historical materialist, then, alright, I'll be a bad historical materialist.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:38 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Count me in the "don't see it" category - particularly for $7+ million. Between the quotes here and the quotes on the site, it seems generic and mildly amusing.

Do you ever feel this cranky about anything written by a man?

Such a comment is not conducive to polite conversation. It's sexist to believe that the only reason that people don't like a female writer is sexism.

Actually, when I try to think of more-or-less contemporary writers who are laugh out loud funny, the names that come to mind are mostly female: Posey Simmons, Tama Janowitz, Tiny Fey, Carrie Fisher...

it's possible for someone to write it, even from a position of privilege, even from a position of privilege that in a just society wouldn't even exist, and that writing down the experience accurately is hugely valuable.

This is a very over-represented category. 90%+ of successful writing is written by people of privilege, from Jane Austen to Carrie Fisher. For every "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" there are ten "American Psycho"s.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2012


Shrug. I enjoyed Carrie Fisher's autobiography, too. (it's smart. I don't think it has the depth of Dunham's stuff. I'll love to see what Dunham is writing when she's Carrie Fisher's age).

But yeah, it's possible to represent experience uniquely well even if your class is wildly overrepresented.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:57 PM on December 8, 2012


After reading The New Yorker article about Lena Dunham's mom, all I can say is, Lena won the lottery in terms of having talent and having a supportive and upper-middle-class family. Good on her. Edith Wharton had some luck there too. I wish I were them, but oh well. Good that some people with privilege are creative, as opposed to venture capitalists.
posted by angrycat at 1:06 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


(maybe venture capitalists are creative. I know fuck-all about it)
posted by angrycat at 1:07 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


...Tiny Fey...

Awwwwwwwww!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:11 PM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am going to lose so many crusading leftist / social constructivist points for saying this...

Thinking on this subject more while washing the dishes:

Full disclosure: I'm a socialist, with a background in a working class family which managed to squeek its way into middle class as I began high school, only for me to go right back to working class and poverty after graduation and for the next ten years before moving to a social democracy about 13 years ago (where I'm still working class, but with more benefits).

I still believe in class struggle and still believe that capitalism is doomed, but one of the most important lessons I learned about class and privilege is that people are not their income brackets. Their upbringing and social circles will of course color and influence their outlook on life, but they will not be by default one way or another. Rather, it's more important to see a person by what they do. This is why I always hated the term "limousine liberal" - it implies that if you are from a background of privilege, then you have no business meddling in affairs of social justice. I realize this term was created by conservatives, but it's an attitude I've seen come from other socialists, too. By virtue of your income, you are already X, Y and Z.

This is hardly a fair assessment. Last night, I saw this Australian sitcom called Housos. It is the most sneering, condescending, caricaturistic take on the poor I have ever seen in a television show - the poor are lazy, shiftless, avoid honest work, breed like rabbits, are always looking for ways to scheme the government out of disability benefits and so forth. This is cruel and unfair. Now, I realize that turning the tables on the rich in the same manner is by no means at all the same thing - the wealthy will not suffer greatly from being mocked - but it will cloud understanding just as well.

In other words, I don't think an artist's class background is relevant unless the artist is dealing with class issues. I don't think Dunham is doing this, really; she's speaking from personal experience, which is no doubt privileged, but is not making any significant statements about class. The writing is shallow and vapid, but it is not classist overtly, and so I don't think liking her writing is going to cost you any leftist points.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:21 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree with a lot of people that the amount of money she's getting is a bit outsized, but hey, that was the publisher's decision. Clearly, there's a big audience right now for funny, personal memoirs by female humorists (Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling). I find Dunham very entertaining and will certainly buy the book.

The reaction to this book deal in particular and Dunham's success in general reminds me, oddly enough, of the reaction to Elizabeth Gilbert's career post-Eat Pray Love. They occupy different cultural spaces, but they're both white female upper-middle-class writers from NYC who made it big writing about their own lives - and they caused people to collectively freak the fuck out about their success, privilege and general uppity-ness.

They both got a lot of "who do you think you are?" attitude, but of course, the answer to that question is that both of them are professional writers. Lena Dunham didn't just waltz into a publisher's office and get a multimillion-dollar check for being the clever daughter of an artist, any more than Gilbert got a book deal for booking a few weeks at an ashram.

And of course there's a gendered aspect to this. Has there ever been a male celebrity who's generated this level of "who the hell do you think you are?" privilege-uppitiness backlash? The closest I can think of is the Strokes and Vampire Weekend, both of whom generated some grumbling about their privilege and strings pulled, but that was a lot more muted than this.
posted by lunasol at 1:21 PM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I feel like she should totally do a character called Tiny Fey now.
posted by sweetkid at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2012


Such a comment is not conducive to polite conversation. It's sexist to believe that the only reason that people don't like a female writer is sexism.

On its own? Maybe. In response to "does that make me misogynistic?", it's a legit question.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


And of course there's a gendered aspect to this. Has there ever been a male celebrity who's generated this level of "who the hell do you think you are?" privilege-uppitiness backlash? The closest I can think of is the Strokes and Vampire Weekend, both of whom generated some grumbling about their privilege and strings pulled, but that was a lot more muted than this.

People have been bringing up Ellis in this context for a long time now, and many male rock stars writing songs about a gruelling day working at the mill have been ridiculed for being rich kids. I don't deny sexism motivates a great number of Dunham's critics, but it's not like we lack evidence of rich dudes being called out when they decide to get creative.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:29 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't really have much of an opinion about Dunham (I think she's fine) but lots of people seem to hate her because of

1) where she's from
2) who her parents are

Both of which are really fucking shitty reasons to hate someone.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:34 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


marienbad: you are willfully misreading her own painfully self-aware self-deprecation.

Are we really this far into the thread and nobody has said the word "humblebrag"?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:34 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't deny sexism motivates a great number of Dunham's critics, but it's not like we lack evidence of rich dudes being called out when they decide to get creative.

But at this volume? I feel like there's a whole side-industry of being outraged about Dunham's privilege.
posted by lunasol at 1:35 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lena Dunham didn't just waltz into a publisher's office and get a multimillion-dollar check for being the clever daughter of an artist, any more than Gilbert got a book deal for booking a few weeks at an ashram.

I . . . don't know. One gets to be a "professional writer" by getting paid for one's writing, and I'm not sure that Dunham's first web series or even Tiny Furniture would have gotten the promotion and placement they did without Dunham's connections. She's definitely in a different class than other student film makers, or memoirists, or writers--I don't imagine she ever had to aggressively query agents, for example, to get a book deal.

That's not to say that that's not okay. Connections help people, and it's really just another road to success. But I think it's important to acknowledge that it is, in fact, another road--that results aren't typical, that it does, in fact, set her apart from many other "professional writers."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:37 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


But at this volume? I feel like there's a whole side-industry of being outraged about Dunham's privilege.

Also she writes almost entirely about her privilege, even when she believes she's writing about other things (Israel, her diet). And then it's presented as a typical twenty-something experience. She's somewhat self-aware; that's good. But I mean even in the Salinger thread you get a lot of people bemoaning the fact that they can't abide by Holden, the spoiled rich kid. I don't see Dunham particularly unique in that respect.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:39 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate to be that guy -- you know, the cranky misfit who sees any form of self-expression, beit tattoos or blogging or what have you, and cries 'narcissist!'; we have a few of them here on MeFi. But coming to her writing cold, based just on what I've seen linked here, I have to say there's a fine line between self-deprecation and self-worship and I think she's all over it. And yes, I would say it if she were poor, male or both.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:42 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


And of course there's a gendered aspect to this. Has there ever been a male celebrity who's generated this level of "who the hell do you think you are?" privilege-uppitiness backlash?

Dash Snow. But his work was all about being a filthy drug addict so he was kind of asking for it.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:42 PM on December 8, 2012


PhoBWanKenobi: you're right, of course. But that only takes you so far - if her work hadn't been good, if people didn't enjoy watching it, then she wouldn't have gotten an HBO show or an insanely big book deal. I just feel like the (otherwise valid) privilege criticism is often abused as an easy way to mask an "uppity woman" complaint.
posted by lunasol at 1:44 PM on December 8, 2012


Burroughs also springs to mind - he's been dogged about being a trust-fund kid since the start of his career to present day. Ironic, considering his open misogyny is a lot more damning.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:46 PM on December 8, 2012


Lena Dunham is a good writer who's only work I've seen is a few episodes is Girls. Didn't find it interesting at all, every character seemed boringly similar, but others seem to like the show, so whatever. I watch Survivor religiously, who am I to talk?

Someone wants to pay her millions to write a book? Good on Dunham.

The only thing I've noticed about her is that she seems to work hard and work out there, so again, good on her.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:46 PM on December 8, 2012


if her work hadn't been good, if people didn't enjoy watching it, then she wouldn't have gotten an HBO show or an insanely big book deal

Well, I mean, and if Michael Bay weren't one of the world's greatest living filmmakers...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:47 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But that only takes you so far - if her work hadn't been good, if people didn't enjoy watching it, then she wouldn't have gotten an HBO show or an insanely big book deal.

Well, there are people who would disagree that her show, or that book proposal, are "good". "Makes a lot of money / is popular" isn't a very good criterion for whether a thing is good or not.
posted by junco at 1:48 PM on December 8, 2012


Cynic that I am about the entertainment business that I'm a part of, I don't think that something needs to be at all good in order to sell or to sell for a lot of money. Platform is equally important. I think Dunham is talented, but I think she's got an even better platform. There are countless writers penning the same type of essays, of equivalent quality, on blogs and on tumblr who will never get a book deal, much less an insanely big one.

I think Girls is the best of her work, in part because it seems to play into the audience's desire to criticize Dunham and her peers (it's self-skewering), and I think that aspect--functioning on two levels--is what was missing from Tiny Furniture and from this book proposal. Based on interviews, I suspect that a lot of this aspect comes from the collaboration with Apatow, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, without that I find her work kind of middle-of-the-road. I've encountered women who will never have Dunham's career not because they're not driven or talented but because they won't have to go so far to get it. Honestly, I suspect that's what frustrates me here. Like I said, there's the sense that I've seen this work before, in zines and on diaryland and elsewhere over the years. I have difficulty seeing Dunham's brand of it as particularly more "worthy" or even precisely exemplary (because again, she's not typical but much of the humor comes from the supposed universality of experience), but I know it will sell better, and sigh.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:54 PM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Makes a lot of money / is popular" isn't a very good criterion for whether a thing is good or not.

Well, I like it, so I think it's good.
posted by lunasol at 1:55 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


they won't have to go so far to get it. Honestly, I suspect that's what frustrates me here.

Yeah. The proposal, when it was up, was obviously written by someone who knew that the deal was already happening and that the proposal was a formality. Spelling and grammatical errors abound, no organization or thought, just "here are some things about me that I can write down".
posted by junco at 1:59 PM on December 8, 2012


"Makes a lot of money / is popular" isn't a very good criterion for whether a thing is good or not.

It sure isn't. However, the FPP was about jealous rage that she's getting paid so much for this book, and that has everything to do with salability and popularity.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:00 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I genuinely don't think I am "meh" on Dunham's work because of her background, and certainly not because I don't like ladies. I think I could definitely be interested in and feel very moved by writing by someone writing about her life of privilege. I tend to be pretty interested in people writing about lives I have little experience with. So I don't think it's necessarily a case of people being haters when they don't like her (I mean, some of it probably is, but not all.)

The discussion about Dunham's writing suddenly reminds me of the way people also talk about Kissing Jessica Stein or, recently, Friends with Kids (I don't mean to pick on Jennifer Westfeldt here, those are just the movies that popped into my head).

A lot of people I know, who are smart, thoughtful people, felt like "Wow! These movies really speak to deep truths about relating to other people!"

Whereas I felt like "Are you serious? This is the kind of dialog I would write if I were writing about shallow, thoughtless people who are superficially engaging with The Meaning Of Parenthood or something. But the whole thing would be a joke! It would be like an Alexander Payne movie! But instead these are like movies about how great and insightful these people are!"

So I think that's interesting, to see what I see as a similar split when people talk about Dunham's work. Clearly it really speaks to some people as expressing authentic thoughts about her experience, thoughts that really touch others in that place of recognition, and has exactly the opposite effect on others.

When I recently saw This Is 40, I could not at all understand why some people I know were like "I really related to this", and then I saw Celeste and Jesse Forever (co-written by Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy, surely also raised amidst tremendous privilege), and felt like "Now this is touching on some things about relationships that are true" and they were like "Really? I thought it was... cute."

Flipping through Dunham's proposal, I would file it with This Is 40 instead of with Celeste and Jesse. I just don't get it. It's fine. But I don't understand what about it is supposed to move me. Or, maybe more accurately, I understand exactly what about it is supposed to move me, and it doesn't.

I am starting to feel like there is a fundamental split between people in terms of what they perceive to be authentic. I am very curious as to what exactly the signifiers that make people lean one way or another are. I wonder if it has to do with there being a really precise sweet spot of the amount of irony and self-awareness you find enjoyable, and once you pass from TOO MUCH to NOT ENOUGH, you really dislike it, and vice-versa.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:05 PM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


However, the FPP was about jealous rage that she's getting paid so much for this book, and that has everything to do with salability and popularity.

The Gawker article, you mean? Because I'm not really getting that tone from it. I mean, most of it is just quotations from the proposal. I think it's more about the breathless press releases hailing "a rare literary talent" when it's obvious that this is just the next in the venerable series of bland memoirs by 20-30 something children of bourgeois Manhattanites that get published through family connections and receive a huge publicity budget and then are quickly forgotten. Remember Augusten Burroughs? Sean Willsey? etc.?
posted by junco at 2:16 PM on December 8, 2012


I try to avoid the word "authenticity" like the plague it is. I think, though, there's a false dichotomy in play between "works that are honest (or 'authentic,' if that's your bag)" and "works that are constructed / designed to match and respond to the constraints imposed by genre."

Also I think there's another equally false dichotomy at play between "stuff that reads like a blog" and "stuff that is very carefully crafted."

Also Dunham's cowriter on Girls (the one with the nice comments about Obama and Precious) sounds like a dick who should be fired. or forced to write at Gawker or something equally repugnant.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:21 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am starting to feel like there is a fundamental split between people in terms of what they perceive to be authentic. I am very curious as to what exactly the signifiers that make people lean one way or another are.

I think it's pretty much a matter of taste. When we read/see/hear something that we relate to, or that we feel gives us a relate-able window into something we haven't personally experienced, it feels authentic.
posted by lunasol at 2:25 PM on December 8, 2012


Okay now name a woman author who can do it too.
Dorothy Parker. Read "Good Souls" for a start.
posted by kneecapped at 2:35 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


okay, okay, one more before I stop sucking up all the oxygen in the room: I don't think Dunham's writing is a humblebrag... if anything, it's more of a... bragglehum? Whatever the word is for pretending to brag while very deliberately cutting yourself down.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:39 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone I talk to the twitters (I can't recall who) supplied the term "stumblebrag" for when you talk about something you did that was regrettable and stupid but for which you are not so subtly totally congratulating yourself ("I slept with soooooo many hot guys/girls who were so terrible and awful for me/it went on for hours every night they were so hot it was awful").
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:44 PM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Dorothy Parker grew up fairly wealthy but was broke as fuck while she was writing. That seems a little different to me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:55 PM on December 8, 2012


Augusten Burroughs wasn't rich or from Manhattan and had zero family connections, junco. Sean Wilsey I'll buy as having a similar background to Dunham's. Simon Rich is another person whose family connections helped get his work out there.

But then, one could say the same about Anderson Cooper and Carrie Fisher and Charlie Huston and Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright and Louis Theroux and lots of other people whose work I adore.

Eugene O'Neill, for that matter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:01 PM on December 8, 2012


The Gawker article, you mean? Because I'm not really getting that tone from it.

That would be the one starting "Rich girl Lena Dunham", referring to the writer, director and producer of several films and television shows?
posted by Artw at 3:04 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the lady is clever, and I agree with the millions, but I have this crazy strange mix of emotions when I look at her (most of which is not aahahahaha so funny! so true!). THIS IS PROBABLY BECAUSE I AM A VERY MIDDLE-CLASS MAN.
posted by zscore at 3:35 PM on December 8, 2012


I am starting to feel like there is a fundamental split between people in terms of what they perceive to be authentic. I am very curious as to what exactly the signifiers that make people lean one way or another are.

This interests me too, but I think it's much more complex with that. There are no clear-cut factions, but there are people who have a more developed idea of what they like and dislike, and similarly but not relatedly there are some people who like a lot of things and some people who are hyper-focused on what they find acceptable.

I think that in any work of art there are hundreds or thousands of things people could focus on to like or dislike. To pick a random personal one, I find older prose very difficult to read because long descriptive sentences don't do much for me, but if those same long sentences are somehow conveying the way a person's mind works – that is, if they're descriptive from a particular perspective – then I can read long and flowery passages without seemingly blinking. Some people have very evolved ideas of what they like/dislike and why they like/dislike it, and that has nothing to do with how many things they're willing to like or dislike. But the reason we like and dislike things ends up being so intensely personal that even when there're clear social trends toward one thing or other, there's so much individual variance that you can barely take such a thing for granted.

In this piece of Dunham's, I completely disagree with PhoB and Marisa that the writing is mediocre or messy in any bad way, but I don't immediately find it easy to explain what makes me feel that this is an instance of a very talented stylist who knows what she's doing, rather than somebody with a few techniques who's completely messing shit up. (I hope nobody who disagreed with my initial take minds, but I'm not going to bother defending why I like this; I think it's just an instance of something speaking very strongly to me for a number of reasons that probably aren't very interesting to anybody else.)

Now, even with all that I think there's a weird amount of dislike for Dunham and I suspect that sexism plays a part in that, but I'm not referring to the more nuanced takes that PhoB and thehmsbeagle are offering, which are interesting criticisms in their own right. I'm talking about the fact that "rich girl" is a pejorative which offers up a certain vision of somebody frivolous and brainless and even attention-whoring, none of which Lena is. There are plenty of people inclined to believe, for whatever stupid reason, that women only go into the arts for attention/to get hot movie stars to sleep with them, and that the only time a woman tries to do anything of any artistic value, it's not for the usual artistic reasons, it's that a girl has decided to play "me too" after deciding she liked somebody else's style. There are also criticisms in a lot of places online that the only people who like Lena Dunham are trying to live vicariously through her rich-girl lifestyle or only like her because she's hot or yadda yadda yadda and it's total bullshit.

The only two filmmakers that come to mind that are similar in style to Dunham are Woody Allen and Whit Stillman. Woody Allen gets criticized for a bevy of reasons that have nothing to do with his style, but I think he's much more navelgazing than Dunham is, at least over the course of his body of work. Whit Stillman comes closer to the sort of preciousness that Dunham is accused of – maybe we should have a couple of Whit Stillman threads and see how mad people get that a preppy man is allowed to make precious movies with artificial dialogue and female leads who are self-obsessed and not especially bright.

Damsels in Distress features far more obnoxious narcissists than Girls does (and, by the way, it's brilliant). But it hasn't attracted the same level of scorn or denunciation. Neither has the entire mumblecore film movement, which is similarly precious and messy, but whose directors are mostly male. Why? Is it just that Lena Dunham is that good of a self-promoter? Is it that a twentysomething woman making precious films draws more criticism than a twentysomething man? I'm not sure. But I have noticed that, even on MetaFilter, women writers/filmmakers/artists draw scorn that men seem to avoid. Miranda July draws similar ire; Tao Lin, a hugely irritating guy, has detractors, but generally the response to him is bemused confusion. We see lots of links to women who wrote or said something shitty and horrible – I don't know how I'd infodump this, but I feel that generally we see more of that than we see links to similarly shitty and horrible men.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:04 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lena Dunham read for a part in Damsels (IIRC from the Whit Stillman interview on Youtube).
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:32 PM on December 8, 2012


In this piece of Dunham's, I completely disagree with PhoB and Marisa that the writing is mediocre or messy in any bad way, but I don't immediately find it easy to explain what makes me feel that this is an instance of a very talented stylist who knows what she's doing, rather than somebody with a few techniques who's completely messing shit up.

I guess what I can't shake off is that the stylistics feel tired to me--they're strongly nostalgic for a sort of post-Sassy era that's now long gone. And I wish I could point you to similar writers who have done first and better, but all the ones that come to mind are people who wrote zines like Extemporaneous in Jersey in the 90s and who are now nobody. Plus, my sister's high school best friend, whose diaryland diary I anonymously stalked for years. Similar writing about body issues and friend issues and sex issues, drawing not from a position of privilege but from economic poverty. But last I heard she's working managing a grocery store, you know? And I guess that's the thing about outsider art; it takes an insider to elevate it. In part I think because of simple logistics. Part of it, too, is that I think some of Dunham's platform is schadenfreude around wealth. It's fun, in a way, to read and sneer about what the rich kids are doing--I think it's actually a salient selling point for Dunham's work.

Whereas similar writing about poor girls is just kind of depressing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:50 PM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Rory, thanks for your thoughtfulness on all this. While I disagree with you on many points, you are bringing a lot to this discussion.

To address the sexism: I just don't buy this argument. There is enough real sexism in the world that it seems like looking for it in criticisms of Dunham's work is counter-productive. Really, I think people are finding fault with her because they don't agree that she is a good writer. Full stop. Comparing your perceived level of criticism of her to your perceived level of criticism male writers doesn't prove much.

Mumblecore, for example, is not particularly well-received in my world. Perhaps if they had shows on HBO, or were receiving multi-million dollar book contracts with minimal effort, they'd be getting the same amount of negative attention.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:53 PM on December 8, 2012


Okay, but a stumblebrag is still about the bragging. What Dunham does doesn't seem to work like that. I think she's actually willing to legitimately undermine herself in public, to say things about herself that she genuinely dislikes and that runs the risk of making the reader/viewer maybe also like her less — and not because said reader thinks she's being stuck-up. Woody Allen really is the right analogy to make here. In his best work, he's not humblebragging, he's not stumblebragging, he's just... a mess. Same with Dunham's best work. The "I had sex in a pipe in the street" bit from Tiny Furniture, for example, could easily be a stumblebrag in the hands of a clumsy writer/director. It most definitely is not that in Tiny Furniture. It's a portrayal of a legitimately humbling painfully human experience.

Being able to present that kind of material is hard, which is why there's not that many Woody Allens in the world.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:58 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel like I've already read this on tumblr, but funnier and more insightful. I don't understand what other people see in this, but that's fine.
posted by simen at 6:06 PM on December 8, 2012


I know a ton of people with incredible tumblrs and blogs that mine similar veins as Lena Dunham, and that mine them well. I don't think Lena Dunham getting a big-money book deal will make them less likely to also get paid by publishers for their work. The opposite, really.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:36 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Knowing what I do about publishing, I don't think it makes it more likely, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 PM on December 8, 2012


"Books by people with hit TV shows" is really its own category in publishing land. It's its own line item, more or less.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:45 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, okay. After checking in on this thread like a billion times today, I finally bothered to go back and finish reading the whole thing. And I really do recommend that the haters / disdainers also go and read the actual thing. Midway through the intro there's this moment where you (well, okay, for values of "you" equal to "me") realize that because of all the parenthetical asides and cute tics have caused you to start reading this as if it is a blog, or a bit from Carrie Fisher, or a Diablo Cody character. And right at that moment there's a shift to (for me, and I think possibly for most people) some extremely relatable seriousness that is uncomfortably familiar and (like Rory said) a thought or memory that you've always had.

I've been talking in too many abstractions. Just go back and read the thing and there'll be a moment where that aspect of her writing you've identified as (possibly accurately) annoying or mediocre turns out to be a massive setup just to get you off your guard. I'm not even sure that moment will be the same for everyone, but I suspect most people will hit it. and/or it will hit them, hard.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:20 PM on December 8, 2012


I read the whole thing. That never happened for me, so clearly YMMV.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:24 PM on December 8, 2012


For some reason, it was the bit midway through the introduction, about attempts at compartmentalization, that switched my reading mode from "here's some sort of flippant observations but they're funny so whatever" over to "wait this can actually be taken as a completely serious challenge to a number of received ideas." The writing style totally invites the first reading strategy, but it does so in a way that is part and parcel of her message. While she's talking about how people (and most especially young women, but as a non-young man I feel hesitant to risk speaking for people who aren't me) can be just relentlessly and viciously self-minimalizating/self-negating while against all evidence pretending that it doesn't hurt their lives, she's also continuously daring you to consciously or unconsciously minimalize her because of the kinda flippant, kinda don't-take-me-seriously style. I dunno, it's not about me, but it seems valuable/a remarkably well-crafted piece of writing/a challenge.

Maybe other people have sufficiently delivered that message (maybe even in that form?) and it's old news? I don't know, but the way the content and form came together there got me but good.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:20 PM on December 8, 2012


For those saying you know lots of Tumblr's and blogs that do this sort of thing better, could you link them? Because I like Lena Dunham and would probably like those too.
posted by imabanana at 1:36 AM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


As I mentioned I am a graduate of an elite private high school in New York, indeed the same one as Lena Dunham. As an insider I was privy to many of the secrets of this exclusive world. For various reasons I don't want to go into here I am now marked, and am PNG in most of New York's most exclusive homes and establishments.

This is a world of unimaginable excess. 3.7m for a book deal is really not much for us, a bit more than a friendly gesture, a show of good faith. Many of us will lose or win much more than that at the baccarat tables during our weekly jaunts to Monaco. We have connections you wouldn't believe. High paying jobs ( for those of us who choose to work) in just about any industry are just a phone call away.Need a moment alone with Obama to straighten out some minor points in the new budget? No problem.Same goes for any one of hundreds of world leaders and captains of industry. Want to spend a few days on a private island hunting the most dangerous game? Done.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:51 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a world of unimaginable excess. 3.7m for a book deal is really not much for us, a bit more than a friendly gesture, a show of good faith. Many of us will lose or win much more than that at the baccarat tables during our weekly jaunts to Monaco. We have connections you wouldn't believe. High paying jobs ( for those of us who choose to work) in just about any industry are just a phone call away.Need a moment alone with Obama to straighten out some minor points in the new budget? No problem.Same goes for any one of hundreds of world leaders and captains of industry. Want to spend a few days on a private island hunting the most dangerous game? Done.

and then draco kisses snape and they realize they've been hiding from their feelings for too long – TOO LONG, severus, too long
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:03 AM on December 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is it that a twentysomething woman making precious films draws more criticism than a twentysomething man?

I suspect this is more due to that fact that a hundred male-made mumblecore movies may bloom but get a woman to make one and suddenly the Guardian is filling column inches about it. By drawing attention to her, the liberal media (e.g. the media the actually writes about women artists) makes her a much bigger target. The fact that her style is tremendously polarising, often in a 'critics who love' versus the 'rest of the mainstream world who are completely incapable of getting it AT ALL' way just sharpens the daggers and makes a media feedback loop which handily fuels Gawker's hunger for pageviews.

Tao Lin, a hugely irritating guy, has detractors, but generally the response to him is bemused confusion.

And bannination, but that's not important right now.
posted by Sparx at 3:18 PM on December 9, 2012


I suspect this is more due to that fact that a hundred male-made mumblecore movies may bloom but get a woman to make one and suddenly the Guardian is filling column inches about it.


Is this true, though? I am aware that Lena Dunham made a movie called Tiny Furniture but only because I read articles about LD after she became the creator of a successful HBO show. Popular TV shows are popular and lots of people write about them! Surely there's ten times as much "it's the great literary work of our age / no way, it sucks" about "Mad Men" or "Louie" as there is about "Girls."
posted by escabeche at 3:25 PM on December 9, 2012


^No, I clearly remember there being a media blitz when Tiny Furniture came out, including featured articles in the NYTimes and the New Yorker.
posted by timsneezed at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


...Her dad s a pretty cool painter. I mean, I know this is kind of off topic, but I used to go out of my way to see his painting.

Her work isn't my cup of tea and her public persona is really very much not my bag. I think of her as being really like these other artists I know of varying degrees of fame who are similarly deep/but impersonal.

I thought her character in "Girls" was oddly masochistic but maybe without even really knowing it. Which I found uncomfortable - not foreign, but not something I wanted to watch every week.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:58 AM on December 10, 2012


It's sloppy and precious and completely self-aware, but what matters is that despite that Lena knows how to goddamn writ...

Does it matter? Paris Hilton's dog has a book.

Good for her. Make hay while the sun shines.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:15 AM on December 10, 2012


who are similarly deep/but impersonal.

As someone who likes to think of himself as complex but shallow, let me just say that we prefer the term "textured."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:07 PM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


It looks like Lena Dunham got her lawyers involved and requested the post be taken down. Predictably, Gawker took down some of it and doubled down on the snark for what's left.
posted by Copronymus at 2:55 PM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heh. Yeah, they've certainly dropped any pretense of it being anything other than a hit-piece.
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see the actually proposal is gone too. Presumably that is what they were asked to take down and had the hissy fit about.
posted by Artw at 4:25 PM on December 11, 2012


« Older Baby-boom Daydreams   |   Beating the pants off design... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post