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I have only the vaguest memory of a life before fear.
August 26, 2014 6:42 AM   Subscribe


 
she's an excellent writer, but i have such a hard time relating to those who receive mental health care so easily. that's one thing about David Sedaris; his descriptions of growing up in a slightly dotty family while wrestling with OCD make more sense to me than the idea of having a therapist on call to the extent one can ring up the therapist to talk about the guy who is sleeping next to one.
posted by angrycat at 7:01 AM on August 26 [12 favorites]


I would never in all my life have expected Lena Dunham to write an essay that...hm, had some remote and melancholy parts that seemed not from the age of references-to-commercial-products-and-gentle-self-mockery-via-commercial-activities-engaged-in-during-childhood humor. I would be interested to read what she'll write when she's older.

More than her access to therapy, what jumped out at me was when she talks about furniture shopping with her boyfriend, and they buy a bunch of stuff in one day, including - apparently - two bronze deer. When I set up house with someone, we spent maybe $200 in one day at Ikea, and we felt like we'd been wildly profligate. It's more difficult for me to get my head around the idea that you just...go out and buy expensive ornamental things in order to have ornamental things...than it is to think of having access to therapy. You can get insurance for therapy, but you can't get "let me afford bronze deer and artisanal leather furniture" insurance.
posted by Frowner at 7:08 AM on August 26 [17 favorites]


Yeah, it reminds me a little of this guy. Both go to show that if good mental health help and familial/social support are available, even very severe anxiety and OCD are not barriers to success. But that's a big if.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:09 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I actually can't stand her writing, but lots of wealthier types have therapists on speed dial.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:10 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


You can get insurance for therapy, but you can't get "let me afford bronze deer and artisanal leather furniture" insurance.

I think I may try to start a company that does this, because I think it's important.
posted by xingcat at 7:24 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


I question this. The spinning thoughts the need to have a friend/therapist. It was tiring to read the spinning barely organized energy.

Her access to therapy is astounding. I can't imagine having that much access and I wonder if it is even good for her. For me, I work with extremely low income people and they can't get quality therapy unless they are lucky and rarely have the therapist for more than a year or two.

I hate the absolute disparity in mental health care.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:27 AM on August 26 [10 favorites]


People seem to be reading this as strictly bare-bones facts (she did tell the Rolling Stone writer some of the same stories,) but she's a creative artist--I really doubt that she has just transcribed her childhood conversations here.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:34 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I started going to therapy at I think age 16, although I didn't take it seriously until much, much later, and I seriously envy the resolve one would have to actually make something of it at a young age. Although, yeah, it should be readily apparent that this is a piece of writing and not a court reporter's transcript of her life.

For no reason that I can tell, Dunham's writing always cuts to the quick for me and this wasn't any different. Her privilege has never bothered me as part of the writing just because she's never been anything less than utterly honest about it. In fact, I think a common and enjoyable thread in everything I've read of hers is just how much identifiable pathos there is in a life that is very much unlike my own.

Also, I was just at Ikea this weekend and didn't buy a small, metal deer because I didn't like that it was this weird lime green color and I'm kind of regretting it because it was an adorable little deer and not very expensive at all.

I can't imagine having that much access and I wonder if it is even good for her.

I'm not sure how one can have too much access to a necessary health service.
posted by griphus at 7:43 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


I hate the absolute disparity in mental health care everything.

I wish I could fix this for you.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:44 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


(Also, I think I can set my watch to the reflexive dump people take on her circumstances every time she's featured in an FPP.)
posted by griphus at 7:45 AM on August 26 [19 favorites]


I'm really glad Lena Dunham had and has great access to mental health care! She has been able to make some nice art because of her great fortune! It would be great if other people did as well! I am not angry at her because that would make no sense!
posted by shakespeherian at 7:47 AM on August 26 [60 favorites]


This might help explain Lena Dunham's ease with sharing.
posted by Flashman at 7:54 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


I'm really glad Lena Dunham had and has great access to mental health care! She has been able to make some nice art because of her great fortune! It would be great if other people did as well! I am not angry at her because that would make no sense!

This reads so sarcastically that I honestly can't tell if you're being sarcastic.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:54 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out how and why this person is a regular contributor to the New Yorker. A one-off personal history is one thing, but a constant stream of Lena Dunham's navel-gazing is uninteresting.

And now that she is moving towards staff writer territory, I guess we are going to be reading Dunham in the New Yorker for the next 30, 40, 50 years.
posted by Nevin at 7:57 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


A constant stream of five articles in two years?
posted by griphus at 8:05 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


I mean honestly, I'd kill to only be subjected to Ian Frazier articles with that frequency.
posted by griphus at 8:06 AM on August 26 [7 favorites]


If she had anything interesting to say in any of those articles, it would be great. She's not that interesting.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:09 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


A constant stream of five articles in two years?

Yep. Not just anybody gets published in the New Yorker, and not just anybody gets five articles in two years. It's not a big deal, although I'm the kind of person who reads the magazine from cover to cover, and her stuff takes up precious space.
posted by Nevin at 8:12 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


She's not that interesting.

To you, maybe. I find her interesting. You don't have to participate in a discussion on someone you find boring, you know.
posted by palomar at 8:12 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


I mean honestly, I'd kill to only be subjected to Ian Frazier articles with that frequency.

I liked that one where he drove across Siberia. But at least he *did* something worth writing about.
posted by Nevin at 8:13 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


You don't have to participate in a discussion on someone you find boring, you know.

I will shut up now, but I would just like to say that you may find people who read the New Yorker are going to be very passionate about the magazine. Who is writing in the magazine is very much relevant to the discussion.
posted by Nevin at 8:15 AM on August 26 [10 favorites]


I'm not stunned by her work, either in print or on TV, but she has a very successful series, she's attracts an audience--what editor would not want to publish her work? The NYer isn't so precious as to be unaware of her popularity or notoriety.
I'm not sure that driving across Siberia is that more of an accomplishment--if he'd done without a contract and an advance, I might be more impressed. But then. that's a manly thing to do, and her accomplishments aren't necessarily life-threatening. O so we think.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:18 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


She's not that interesting.

For the record, neither is that comment. Ms. Dunham, OTOH, I find quite entertaining. I have enjoyed her work, I am delighted to learn that her therapy was effective, and I think she has wonderful taste in bronze deer.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:20 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


you may find people who read the New Yorker are going to be very passionate about the magazine

I read the New Yorker. Sometimes they publish articles I don't like, written by people I don't like. It's a weekly magazine, it's not the end of the world if every now and then I don't feel like reading every issue cover to cover. That's why there are other publications to read.
posted by palomar at 8:21 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I am not angry at her because that would make no sense!

It makes perfect sense to aim a jaundiced eye at your class enemies, no matter how nice and creative they are.
posted by mobunited at 8:22 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


The Siberia article was good but literally every one of his contributions to Shouts & Murmurs has read like it fell out of an alternate-universe copy of Readers' Digest where they have an awareness of irony.

Dunham's articles I've always been able to find something in them I can relate to and enjoy which, having been reading the New Yorker since I stumbled onto a copy in my therapist's office at age 16 almost 15 years ago, is a rarity. But I figure this is the sort of argument people were having since the cartoons had timely references to the Charleston.
posted by griphus at 8:22 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Added--if this was a blog or published in a small journal, the Blue very well might be complimenting her on her bravery and honesty.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:22 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


"This reads so sarcastically that I honestly can't tell if you're being sarcastic"

I don't think shakespeherian was being sarcastic, and I took the sentiment at face value. That said, he might have a little writing impediment
posted by tigrrrlily at 8:25 AM on August 26


The Siberia article was good but literally every one of his contributions to Shouts & Murmurs

Yes, you are absolutely correct; we are in agreement here. Shouts & Murmurs is terrible.
posted by Nevin at 8:25 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


It makes perfect sense to aim a jaundiced eye at your class enemies, no matter how nice and creative they are.

I'd wager that a huge chunk of the MeFi readership is of the exact same class as Ms. Dunham.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:26 AM on August 26 [18 favorites]


Wasn't it Lenin who wouldn't watch Lena Dunham because it made him want to say sweet, silly things and pat the little heads of people who, living in a filthy hell, could create such beauty?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:30 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I really don't get the Lena Dunham hate (not just in this thread) and I find it pretty gross. She's honest about her privilege, that's part of what makes her compelling to me.

As a person who's done therapy and meds off and on from his early teens I found the article very interesting. I'd love to hear her perspective on it all now. Does she feel there was something actually physically/chemically wrong with her as a child or was there something in her upbringing that caused her insecurity and eventual OCD? Does she think depending on therapists from such an early age helped or did they just soothe and delay her having to deal with her anxieties on her own?
posted by frenetic at 8:34 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


The poor girl!
posted by ReeMonster at 8:39 AM on August 26


I find it pretty gross.

Really? I don't hate her because of her privilege. I hate her writing because it's only about her, and there's nothing that I find special or unique about her experience, as she relays it.

Yeah, that poor girl indeed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:49 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


That article rambled and never went anywhere. What on earth was the thesis? Was the New Yorker's editor on vacation when this draft was oked for publication?
posted by Yowser at 8:49 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Was the New Yorker's editor on vacation when this draft was oked for publication?

As if it mattered? Maybe they tried to make edits and Lena had the folks call up..
posted by ReeMonster at 8:52 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I hate her writing because it's only about her

Tell me, would you characterize this as actual "hate" or only a mild annoyance?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:57 AM on August 26


I don't want to read navel-gazing from privileged people, he said while speaking, inexplicably, about The New Yorker.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:59 AM on August 26 [47 favorites]


(octobersurprise reveals a symmetrical ink blot resembling Lena Dunham.)
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Dunham has had extraordinary access to/exposure in New York media for a long time.
posted by Flashman at 9:02 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


for some reason i'm reminded of my disappointment with Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. There's something about the blithe frankness of people like SC or Lena Dunham. They are open about where they come from but, because of where they come from, nothing is real, nothing has consequences. You call your therapist to talk about interior decorating or boys, or you hire a new therapist. You move places, you buy things. Nothing happens but the ebb and flow of your own feelings and anxieties.

Which is why I thought Marie Antoinette would be interesting, because here was a character who lived sort of the same way.... and yet somehow it all mattered, and her life was leading to a very particular conclusion. If all of Sofia Coppola's movies are about herself, surely she would find herself stumbling to the inevitable outcome. Yet, she managed to dodge the implication entirely.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:16 AM on August 26 [13 favorites]


Personally, I prefer my TV writers to be hard rough and tough types who aren't born with a silver spoon in their mouth, you know, guys like JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:17 AM on August 26 [16 favorites]


Okay, I'll bite. How is Lena Dunham my class enemy? Is everyone who's living comfortably my class enemy? By dint of being born ungodly rich, Dunham is living the life that we are all absolutely entitled to as humans. I can't hate her for having a life that lets her experience in some ways the problems of being human instead of just the problems of being exploited by humans. And although she is (like I am, like you are) inextricably entangled with a system of living that brutalizes most people, this doesn't make her my class enemy, especially since she's pretty good at being honest about her privilege and gradually, slowly interrogating it.

Moreover, I can't not view the reflexive disdain for Lena Dunham's attempts to write meaningfully about her life as a young privileged woman (and, look, what patriarchy does to women and men is as viciously nasty as what class hierarchy does to women and men) as a sign of a deep intersectionality fail on the part of the people judging Dunham.

I mean seriously class enemy? Is everyone born rich my class enemy? Is Friedrich Engels my class enemy? is Jenny von Westphalen? Sheesh.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:18 AM on August 26 [24 favorites]


Personally, I prefer my TV writers to be hard rough and tough types who aren't born with a silver spoon in their mouth, you know, guys
posted by shakespeherian at 9:18 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


There was a writer about ten years ago who was 'all.the.rage' (though without the tv thing) and I read a bunch of their stuff and never really got the what and why-for. Then, one less than perfectly sober night I had the good fortune to meet this person face to face. They were undeniably smart and interesting and yeah, they came from a bit more wealth than I know, but more than anything else this person wanted, actively and with fatal seriousness, 'fame'.

Which was an eye opener, and alienating because (being chronically naive) I thought the point was to make great art.

Any rate I always think of them when I see Ms Dunham's work. Why is she there? Because her work is better than average and she really really really wants it. And I always think, good for her - though I often skip her things because maybe there's something by someone I like better.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:25 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


And don't even get me started on the essayists. Sure, sure, go ahead. Write about yourself, you selfish prick. When are you going to write about something meaningful, like me?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:28 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


Hmm. Well, maybe because this was my first Dunham essay, I mostly liked it. I don't get the criticism about her access to therapists, as the essay was about her evolving relationship with therapists. Few people critique "that cancer survivor's memoir demonstrated so much access to medical care." (This is not to say I don't find some aspects of her writing or content a bit precious or privileged.)

My question is about this as an essay. I found the ending odd and unfulfilling. I guess I had thought it was really going to go somewhere. Instead it ends with some unreliable narrator gushing that she must have reached adulthood because her therapist shared two facts about her own life with her, as she has wanted to dissolve that professional boundary all along (and did, with her other therapist).

Are her therapist's comments proof of anything? (I'd say "probably not.") Does Dunham-the-narrator know that? (No. She thinks they are.) Does Dunham-the-author know that? (Hmmm. I could go either way. She ends the essay here, suggesting it means something. On the other hand, she portrays her own gushing as over the top and makes a major point of her desire to climb into bed with the other therapist and her daughter, something clearly inappropriate.)

So is the essay then about her desire to erase boundaries and make therapists first her family (e.g., a mom) and then her friend? Is this essay fundamentally a cry for help -- for a therapist who won't let her dissolve the boundaries? (... doesn't seem to be, otherwise you'd see some negative consequences at the end.) Was it that, as an adolescent, she needed a strong-boundaried therapist, that the friendly and open therapist hadn't helped, but that now she had reached a place where the therapist could be less rigid about it? If so, that theme could have been more strongly developed. Is that supposed to parallel her changing relationship with her mom? (No? How did that story relate to the theme at all?)

I tend to think this essay needed one more round of revision to bring out whatever she was trying to say a bit more strongly. But maybe I'm old-fashioned and the "point" is that at this point in her life, she still doesn't entirely understand herself.
posted by salvia at 9:32 AM on August 26 [10 favorites]


Maybe not a fair question to ask this forum, but I'll ask it anyway-- is it only because she's a woman?

Only because she's a woman that she is called out for "only writing about herself"? Haven't many men made a career of that?

Only because she's a woman that she's attacked for being in the New Yorker? Isn't the New Yorker filled with naval-gazing articles written by boring (to some) white men?

Only because she's a woman that this article is even posted here? How many essays basically just like this written by men in the New Yorker that merited no note on MeFi?
posted by cell divide at 9:33 AM on August 26 [10 favorites]


That's my guess cell divide, and what I was getting at. I mean you don't hear anything about JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon's privilege, even though they are both second and third generation screenwriters.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:36 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]




Wait. Wait. Wait. This New Yorker article is an excerpt from a MEMOIR that sold for 3.7 million in advances?

Jesus Christ. I picked the wrong parents.
posted by Yowser at 9:49 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Which is why I thought Marie Antoinette would be interesting, because here was a character who lived sort of the same way.... and yet somehow it all mattered, and her life was leading to a very particular conclusion. If all of Sofia Coppola's movies are about herself, surely she would find herself stumbling to the inevitable outcome. Yet, she managed to dodge the implication entirely.

Alternately, she opted to be very slightly subtle and allusive rather than crashingly didactic, and because patriarchy people tend to only recognize subtlety when it's coming from a male auteur.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:50 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


It could also be that Sofia Coppola is mostly a shitty filmmaker. Coppola nepotism is storied in the business and runs as deep as the Mariana Trench.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:55 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting that link armacy. It articulates exactly how I feel everytime Dunham is discussed here or anywhere.
posted by Aubergine at 9:57 AM on August 26


It could also be that Sofia Coppola is mostly a shitty filmmaker.

But she's not, actually. Her films are fantastic. And I can't remember the last time people complained about Jason Schwartzman's nepotistic privilege, or Nicolas Cage's.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:59 AM on August 26 [22 favorites]


And I can't remember the last time people complained about Jason Schwartzmann's nepotistic privilege, or Nicolas Cage's.

To add, Schwartzman' is unbearable and sucks and I hate him but you're right. As much as I've ranted about him no one has ever mentioned his nepotism.


And are Dunham's parents that famous? I never heard of them.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:04 AM on August 26


To add, Schwartzman' is unbearable and sucks and I hate him but you're right. As much as I've ranted about him no one has ever mentioned his nepotism.

That's because a lot of people simply don't know about it. And wouldn't care either way. Nepotism corrodes every facet of modern life anyway. I'm not necessarily complaining. Just saying, some people are handed their celebrity career simply for existing, and Lena, like Sofia or Jason, is one of them.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:08 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


That's because a lot of people simply don't know about it.

Which proves my point. Why is there so much talk about Lena Dunham, but not about Abrams, Whedon, or Schwartzman?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:12 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


And are Dunham's parents that famous? I never heard of them.

They're both succesfful artists, but they're not like TV-and-movies famous.
posted by griphus at 10:12 AM on August 26


Oops, I had no idea Lena Dunham was the Girls writer.

I still don't think her New Yorker writing is particularly compelling (I haven't seen the show, however), but it makes more sense now why she is in the New Yorker.
posted by Nevin at 10:15 AM on August 26


I also wonder why it took her parents and therapists so long to diagnose and treat her childhood OCD.
posted by Nevin at 10:17 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Which proves my point. Why is there so much talk about Lena Dunham, but not about Abrams, Whedon, or Schwartzman?

Eh, I don't think it's a male female thing. You mention three dudes but the entire 4-woman main cast of girls was spirited into the biz as well.

To be perfectly honest, when Girls first came out I didn't know anything about anyone involved in the show, only that it was a new hot comedy on HBO. A friend of mine said I had to watch it so we checked out the first two episodes. Immediately I was struck by how annoying the main character was, how self-absorbed the writing sounded, and how awful the supporting actors were. I remember saying to my friend, "who the hell wrote this? where did it come from? who created it?"... and she said "It's all that main character Hannah.. the girl playing her created and wrote the show!"... and I was floored. Absolutely stunned. This is really bad! How could anyone actually enjoy being in the company of these characters? Even on Seinfeld, the characters were vile people but somehow you relate to certain aspects of their personalities and absurdly enough you enjoyed being with them. So now I looked up who this Lena Dunham was and the supporting actors and it all became immediately clear to me. The downside of privileged nepotism. If I had enjoyed the show and thought it was really smart and funny and well-made, it wouldn't have mattered as much to me, I suppose. And this is with full realization that that show is simply not for everyone. It's fine if plenty of people like it, whatever. But my initial reaction to the show was based solely on the quality of the show, not knowing anything at all about anyone involved with it.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:22 AM on August 26 [10 favorites]


Next y'all will be extolling the hilarious writing of Joel Stein, Time Magazine comedian extraordinaire.
posted by Yowser at 10:22 AM on August 26


some people are handed their celebrity career simply for existing

That would be a hard case to prove. And in order to prove it you'd have to explain why there are so many children of rich, famous people who try to make a go of it in their parent's field and fail spectacularly.

I happen to think Sofia Coppola has made some outstanding movies. Marie Antoinette was, to my mind, one of the stronger films of it's year, and the criticism launched against it was just frighteningly ill-informed (it's amazing how the legends of the autri-chienne continue to dog poor old Marie Antionette--a pure victim of circumstances if there ever was one--down to this day). That she's Francis Ford Coppola's daughter matters not the teensiest whit to me. Some of Francis Ford Coppola's movies are, in my opinion, artistic disasters. Why would the mere aura of Coppola's name be sufficient to make me give credit to his daughter's movies which I don't automatically grant to him?

It's obviously true that being the child of a "famous person" opens doors for you that wouldn't otherwise be opened. But once you're through the door you still have to perform. Plenty of famous people's children get through the door and then fall flat on their faces and are never heard from again.

As for Lena Dunham. The percentage of her audience who have the remotest clue who her parents are or care a whit about it would be vanishingly small. "Nepotism" seems entirely the wrong word to apply to the success of her career.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


You mention three dudes but the entire 4-woman main cast of girls was spirited into the biz as well.

And all of them were mocked and criticized for getting their jobs because of who their parents were.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:26 AM on August 26 [7 favorites]


It's fine if plenty of people like it, whatever. But my initial reaction to the show was based solely on the quality of the show, not knowing anything at all about anyone involved with it.

The fact that you disliked the show is not proof that the only reason other people like it is because they admire Lena Dunham's parents. Do you genuinely believe that there is a significant audience of people out there who will tune in to watch a show simply because the offspring of Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons wrote and starred in it? That proposition beggars belief.

There is no TV show that has ever been produced that some people didn't tune into and say "what is all the fuss about?" That includes every TV show you ever enjoyed in your life. That is not proof that any of those shows were the result of nepotism.
posted by yoink at 10:28 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


As for Lena Dunham. The percentage of her audience who have the remotest clue who her parents are or care a whit about it would be vanishingly small. "Nepotism" seems entirely the wrong word to apply to the success of her career.

Yeah, this is what I don't get. Her parents are both successful in their rather insular fields, but it's not like they're TV people or plugged into that industry in any way.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:29 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


That said, I find Zosia Mamet an absolute revelation. She's freaking hilarious. If that was nepotism, thank god for nepotism.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:31 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


In fact the more appropriate analogy isn't Lena Dunham and Sofia Coppola, its Lena Dunham and Andrew WK. Andrew WK's dad is a respected and well compensated Law Professor. Like Dunham's parents, known among their ingroup but unknown outside of it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:33 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I'll believe that people care about privilege and nepotism and not just about shitting on successful women as soon as Duncan Jones, Joe Hill, or Max Brooks get even half the flak that Lena Dunham or Sofia Coppola have to deal with.
posted by Awkward Philip at 10:38 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


I happen to think Sofia Coppola has made some outstanding movies. Marie Antoinette was, to my mind, one of the stronger films of it's year, and the criticism launched against it was just frighteningly ill-informed (it's amazing how the legends of the autri-chienne continue to dog poor old Marie Antionette--a pure victim of circumstances if there ever was one--down to this day).

I don't hate Sofia Coppola's movies. It's just, like Dunham, life is kind of reduced to whether to buy the metal decorative deer or not, and if you're anxious you can call your therapist and do some hard work. And the thing is that it's a deliberate affect, it's a purposeful hollowing out of life. It gives SC's movies a sort of narcotized feel, but an emptiness which is both genuine and also entirely about the surface of emptiness as a feeling.

For me, it's kind of terrifying to imagine Lena Dunham phoning her therapist from New Mexico to talk about interior decorating. I'm both scared of Dunham and feel a kind of empathic vertigo about her life (as she describes it.)

Okay, I'll bite. How is Lena Dunham my class enemy? Is everyone who's living comfortably my class enemy? By dint of being born ungodly rich, Dunham is living the life that we are all absolutely entitled to as humans. I can't hate her for having a life that lets her experience in some ways the problems of being human instead of just the problems of being exploited by humans.

It's not a question of her being a class enemy, although life's problems can actually be largely trivial if you have the money. It's about art that reduces life to trivial problems and always unrealized consequences. And it's an artistic pose which is directly a product of privilege.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:39 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


It's interesting, actually, to think about why the "nepotism" charge gets rolled out sometimes and not others. I don't remember anyone going on about Carrie Fisher's famous parents, for example. I know I've heard people grumble about Colin Hanks riding his father's coattails. I don't think anyone ever went on about Kate Hudson, but I do think it used to come up quite often in discussions of Jamie Lee Curtis back in the day.

I suspect it gets more vicious in the case of directors and writers than in the case of actors. Actors, after all, are often seen as having their jobs by virtue of "winning the genetic lottery" so there's probably a grudging "well, of course s/he's good looking enough to be a star--look at his/her parents." I think directing and acting are more "in charge" / "intellectual" spheres where there's going to be more resentment about the person being put "unfairly" on that pedestal. I think that will often, then, be redoubled when it's a woman being put in a "man's" place (and directing is one of the more resolutely male clubs around). I think that is probably where a lot of the anger around Dunham comes from; it's because she's so obviously not succeeding by being daughter-of-famous-beauty-icon--she's succeeding in "creative" things which are held to be much more reflective of inherent "talent" or "genius"--and consequently there's much more anxiety around the idea of that success (and the status that comes with it) is somehow unearned.
posted by yoink at 10:42 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


It's just, like Dunham, life is kind of reduced to whether to buy the metal decorative deer or not, and if you're anxious you can call your therapist and do some hard work.

This is the perfect description of The Virgin Suicides!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:44 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


It gives SC's movies a sort of narcotized feel, but an emptiness which is both genuine and also entirely about the surface of emptiness as a feeling.

I think you're reading that from what you know of the person onto the film. I doubt very much that that would be your take on the films if they'd been released under a (successful) pseudonym. In any case, it's not my response to the films which strike me as full of powerful empathy and often deeply felt emotion.
posted by yoink at 10:45 AM on August 26


(and before bowing out, I'd add that I would extend this critique to "indie" media in the US in general. Let me rant at you why 'Boyhood' is a terrifying dive into Linklater's narcissism (and problems with women) some other time... )
posted by ennui.bz at 10:46 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I would extend this critique to "indie" media in the US in general

In which case, though, your suggestion that what you see in Coppola's movies arises from her uniquely privileged background collapses. If you see this as simply a characteristic of the general movie-making culture in which she's participating (Linklater didn't come from a particularly privileged background, for example) then it's clearly got nothing to do with her particular biography. (I haven't seen Boyhood yet, but your description of Coppola's films tallies better, in my mind, with Linklater's than with Coppola's).
posted by yoink at 10:51 AM on August 26


The fact that you disliked the show is not proof that the only reason other people like it is because they admire Lena Dunham's parents. Do you genuinely believe that there is a significant audience of people out there who will tune in to watch a show simply because the offspring of Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons wrote and starred in it? That proposition beggars belief.

It's not that people like Lena Dunham's work because they know of her parents, but rather the accusation that people only dislike her work because they know of her parents (or rather, the opportunities that her parents and their wealth have brought). Basically, "I hated her work before I knew to hate her for who she is or what she represents".
posted by Thing at 10:53 AM on August 26


but rather the accusation that people only dislike her work because they know of her parents (or rather, the opportunities that her parents and their wealth have brought)

I could be wrong but I don't think anyone has advanced that argument though.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:05 AM on August 26


I don't get the Lena Dunham hate either. I have seen a few episodes of Girls and enjoyed it. Though I guess part of it comes from a mindset that she should be using her privilege to highlight otherwise unheard voices rather than talk about herself, as though art and popular entertainment were a "helping profession" intended to help the less fortunate. There was comparatively little if any hate for Jerry Seinfeld with his series about living in NYC.

My class background is very similar to hers, except that since my family didn't believe in "therapy", or mental health treatment outside of those with a clear biological cause and medical solution, the concept of having a therapist was considered sort of frivolous and the sort of thing you associated with neurotic well-off New Yorkers with too much free time.

But now that I am grown up and away from my family and actually have a therapist to treat my comparatively low-grade mental health issues, it is genuinely fascinating for me to read about how someone who grew up with therapy as part of her medical treatment dealt with it. (That said, the fact that it took so long to figure out she had OCD would probably be used to prove my family's point)

I think part of the issue is that we have internalized the myth of the meritocracy so much that we get frustrated when people like Dunham who "started on 3rd base" in the art world makes it big. I guess I grew up being told that certain professions depend more on connections than merit, and if the big thing you have to offer the world is hard work and talent to channel that energy into venues where it would be appreciated, since the "spots" for, say, being a museum curator are already taken up by the people with trust funds.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 11:15 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Dunham's privilege comes from monetary wealth, social and cultural capital and having the good fortune to have been born and raised in New York (would have been true for LA, San Francisco or Chicago too). It does not come from straight nepotism as in "parents/relatives" are in the film/TV business.

Having said all that, she has talent. When Tiny Furniture came out, I didn't know a thing about her, but I alerted my friends to the film. It's not a masterpiece by any means, but it has something - a clear indication of talent. Funnily enough, we did discuss how she was lucky to have access to a great spread that makes for a fabulous set, and the fact that her mom played and was a good actor and had a good bk story. Our conclusion was: Lena Dunham was lucky to have all those things for her film, but she has talent too. The only question we had, was one that frequently pops up with films like that - does she have more in her, or is that going to be her range all the way from A to B and back again.

And then Girls came out. It is a genuine accomplishment. I think she grew tremendously, and her talent is much more evident, and she earned her success. Yes, she comes from a background of social capital, but that only allows you to enter the ball - from there on, you have to earn it. And she did.

Yet, the same question remains for me, now more of a curiosity than nervous anticipation - does she have more in her as an artist, or is she a one-trick pony, though yes, a very nice trick it is. Will she grow further, or is she going to be tilling that same strip for the rest of her career. I think she's in that period of time as an artist where she needs to challenge herself to step outside of what she's done so far. If she doesn't, she'll still have a career, but the distance from her privileged origin will in that event always remain very, very short, and people will always point it out, fairly or not. If she manages to transcend that, that distance will grow so far, that the privileged origin will be in the misty past, as it has been for so many artists who have come from sometimes great privilege.

Time will tell, but I wish her the best. Our culture could always use more talented artists, and she as a person seems a good, socially aware and responsible individual.
posted by VikingSword at 11:24 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


It bugs me that I couldn't get into Girls. I loved Freaks and Geeks and other comedies about the painful awkwardness of young adulthood. I especially liked the idea of a show that explored the awkward aspects of sex for laughs, but for me the laugh never comes. I just sit there and cringe and feel like I'm listening to nails unrelentingly run over a blackboard. That's how I felt about this article too. I can listen to Woody Allen or whoever talk about their neuroses and totally identify. When Lena Dunham says she's picturing her parents have sex in couplets of eight as a little kind I just don't relate.
posted by xammerboy at 11:43 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I mean seriously class enemy? Is everyone born rich my class enemy? Is Friedrich Engels my class enemy? is Jenny von Westphalen? Sheesh.

1) Seriously, yes.

2) Initially, yes.

3-4) Yes. We are talking about a material distinction, not a purely moral one to be dismissed by the observation that many wealthy people are Nice Folks. Lean Dunham seems nice enough, and absolutely not comparable to either.

5) I suspect this was not the answer you were fishing for.
posted by mobunited at 11:47 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I don't know.

I liked this piece, a lot. I usually really like her writing a lot too. But I can't stand Girls. It's always left me really cold; I find the show really deadly uninteresting and unfunny in the extreme.

What's interesting about her in print for some reason never translates to the screen for me, and I've never been able to figure it out. I don't think it's the privilege, really, though. I think it may have something to do with the medium itself in her hands; she seems much better suited as a prose writer than comedic force onscreen or behind the camera.
posted by northtwilight at 11:49 AM on August 26


I guess I'm always a little surprised that people think Dunham is a comedian, and that Girls is a comedy-ha-ha sitcom in the way Seinfeld is. It seems to me Dunham wants to be a professional wit; her work aims for pointed, and clever, and only occasionally grazes "funny" in its purest sense, most so when it's not really trying. She's not at the level of a Dorothy Parker, but I'd bet any money that she thinks of herself as working toward Parker, not Bamford or Kahn or Radner.

So as a result, much of the vitriol about her (what portion of it is not just straight-up hatred of a woman who isn't stick-thin...) seems to me like it's bashing her for failing to attain mastery of a skill she isn't actually trying to master at all. It's as if all of the articles about David Sedaris focused on what a terrible basketball player he is. Yes, it's true, but it's a bit off the mark, no?
posted by like_a_friend at 11:59 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


Let me rant at you why 'Boyhood' is a terrifying dive into Linklater's narcissism (and problems with women) some other time... )

Please don't.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:00 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


apologies to David Sedaris in case he is actually a tremendous basketball player...
posted by like_a_friend at 12:00 PM on August 26


Oh to be able to witness the magnificent awkwardness of a New Yorker contributor intramural basketball game.
posted by griphus at 12:07 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


It's not a question of her being a class enemy, although life's problems can actually be largely trivial if you have the money. It's about art that reduces life to trivial problems and always unrealized consequences. And it's an artistic pose which is directly a product of privilege.

problems that aren't directly generated through class subjugation are in fact problems and not wholly trivial. Depictions of these problems are totally worthwhile, even if both the creator of the depiction and the characters depicted don't have to worry about immediately dying from them.

My Marxism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:08 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Oh to be able to witness the magnificent awkwardness of a New Yorker contributor intramural basketball game.

If I had three wishes from a genie this would be number 2.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:11 PM on August 26


Roz Chast just slaps Anthony Lane's shot out of the air and gets all up in his face like WHAT
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on August 26 [8 favorites]


Despite having spent the first 20+ years of my life well below the poverty line -- family income $0/year, many thanks to my fellow Americans for supporting me with your tax dollars -- I fucking love Lena Dunham. Not ironically, not from a clinical or critical distance, but with a pure fondness so awash in sisterhood and camaraderie that it utterly transcends our respective socioeconomic divisions. I see her first and foremost as a clumsy, compassionate, intelligent, driven, and exceptionally talented young woman, with 'sworn enemy in the impending class war' coming in somewhere near dead last.

I have so, so many feelings about Girls -- maybe my favorite TV show ever? -- but the #1 feeling I have about it is that it is not, and has never been, designed to appeal to men. At all. I feel like that design is delivered in a fairly upfront and unapologetic way, and while it brings me intense glee, men often seem confused and sometimes even downright angered by this (or any) woman's refusal to engage with the idea of male gaze as the default setting. I see myself and my girlfriends in various facets of every character on Girls to an extent I didn't think would be possible on a nationally televised show. Almost every episode has me laughing and crying in equal measures. I'm uplifted by their victories, stricken by their failures. My heart aches for their dumb young convictions and the obscene mistakes those convictions regularly inspire them to make. I think it's wrenching and totally fucking hilarious. And dudes who like Girls are my kinda dudes.

Almost every critique of Ms. Dunham's oeuvre that isn't centered on class or race privilege reminds me of this article (h/t jenfullmoon): Her Struggle: What if Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle were written by a woman?
But what in a male writer appears as courage or innovation or literary heroics would be read, in a woman, even by the liberal, enlightened, and literary, as hubris or worse.

[...]

The particular variety of rage aimed at women who document their daily lives, especially if they don't involve a childhood of poverty or abuse or illness, is deeply entrenched and irrational. It's not just that we don’t think of what they are doing as art, but that it annoys us, riles us. It feels presumptuous, vain, narrow, feminine, clichéd.
Thanks for the post, magstheaxe.
posted by divined by radio at 12:19 PM on August 26 [33 favorites]


Count me among the people who aren't too bent out of shape about Lena Dunham coming from a privileged background. Some people are going to be born with money and connections. I'd rather those people use their situation to make art, even if it's not always art that I like, than to just be rich, idle, and shitty.

As for Girls, the feeling in our house is that it started out really strong and has steadily lost steam and direction after the first season. And it didn't help that first Frances Ha and then Broad City came along and mined a lot of the same territory with greater artistic focus (Ha) and/or insanely deranged comedy (Broads).
posted by COBRA! at 12:22 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Will she grow further, or is she going to be tilling that same strip for the rest of her career. I think she's in that period of time as an artist where she needs to challenge herself to step outside of what she's done so far.

No one ever said to Faulkner*, "Bill, I think you need to stop tilling that same strip and challenge yourself."

I don't think anyone ever said that to Louis Auchincloss either. He obviously didn't listen if they did.

*A Fable was Faulkner's effort to write outside his tillage and is generally regarded as one of his less satisfying works.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:28 PM on August 26


No one ever said to Faulkner*, "Bill, I think you need to stop tilling that same strip and challenge yourself."

I'd be surprised if that's true. It's a pretty standard criticism of artists of any gender and in any field.
posted by yoink at 12:33 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is what I don't get. Her parents are both successful in their rather insular fields, but it's not like they're TV people or plugged into that industry in any way.

Dunham was on Bill Simmons podcast earlier this year and had a great comment about all of the nepotism barbs that get constantly thrust at her, something along the lines of, "It's not like I can go to HBO and say, 'My parents have both had works displayed at MoMA, I'll take my show NOW, thank you'"
posted by The Gooch at 12:46 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Her parents are very well connected, so she has had access that others don't. She seems to have used it to get experience, to get better at what she does, and she seems to put in the effort required to do pretty well. The issues she describes needed therapy, and it's great that her parents could recognize that and get her good therapists. Yeah, I'd like it if my parents had chosen to be successful artists in New York, but her success doesn't distress me.
posted by theora55 at 12:55 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Shouts and Murmurs is seldom worth reading.
posted by theora55 at 12:58 PM on August 26


The magazine is called The New Yorker and the mascot is a guy with a top hat and a monocle. The expectation that you are reading it because you are interested in privileged literary people connected to New York is pretty much baked into the deal.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 1:08 PM on August 26 [13 favorites]


(Dunham's exact quote is a little different than my paraphrase upthread, but the spirit is the same)
posted by The Gooch at 1:13 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Listen, her big 'advantage' is that she grew up in NYC: maybe a little bit also that she grew up in Soho and that milieu. Her parents' respective accomplishments have damn sight less to do with her accomplishments than her desire to do what she is doing.
This is the miracle of New York City: if you really want to do/be something and you don't suck/are a little better than average, you could very well make it.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:14 PM on August 26


The magazine is called The New Yorker and the mascot is a guy with a top hat and a monocle. The expectation that you are reading it because you are interested in privileged literary people connected to New York is pretty much baked into the deal.

If you read the New Yorker you would also know that Eustace Tilley is intended to be a satirical caricature.

I don't get why criticizing Dunham is supposed to be sexist either. While sex has nothing to do with it, for example Zadie Smith was even younger than Dunham when she first appeared in the New Yorker and she has withstood the test of time. White Teeth is still a tour de force.

On the other hand, I suppose David Sedaris, who is a pretty weak writer who writes about the same psychobabble claptrap, gets a free pass.

I suppose it all comes down to a question of one's taste. Memoirs had better be good, though. They had better be damn good.
posted by Nevin at 1:17 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Listen, her big 'advantage' is that she grew up in NYC: maybe a little bit also that she grew up in Soho and that milieu. Her parents' respective accomplishments have damn sight less to do with her accomplishments than her desire to do what she is doing.

I think it is more along the lines of her parents being successful artists plugged into the art world, going to a private school focused on the arts, and spending college with a knowledge of how to get started in writing and media. She started with a leg up to begin with in the way that someone who shows up to Manhattan with a literature degree from a second tier state university, $25 in her pocket, and a dream to make it as a writer doesn't have. Which doesn't really bother me-- I am never going to be a member of British royalty, either, and the odds that I could marry into it or get a peerage from the Queen, even with careful planning and hard work, are extraordinarily tiny.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 1:29 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I think it is more along the lines of her parents being successful artists plugged into the art world, going to a private school focused on the arts,

I swear Lena Dunham did more to elevate Oberlin's reputation as the-best-college-evar simply because people want to say how much privilege she had.

Graduating from the 25th best liberal arts college in the country does not get you a TV show!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:41 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I'd be surprised if that's true.

Well, I imagine it isn't literally true. I very nearly wrote "N.B. This probably isn't literally true." But my point is that writers/artists/filmmakers etc routinely produce successful and critically acclaimed bodies of work on small plots of metaphorical ground. Criticism of Dunham or Coppola on the grounds of a restricted vision seems to ignore this. I'm skeptical that "the trivial" is necessarily poorer material for art than the grand ideas. Maybe it's because I'm most fond of a lot of so-called minor artists. Maybe it's the bourgeois in me. Oh, now I wish I had a class enemy.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:41 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I swear Lena Dunham did more to elevate Oberlin's reputation as the-best-college-evar simply because people want to say how much privilege she had.

I was specifically referring to her high school, Saint Ann's.

Your average person going to Oberlin trying to make it in the arts won't get more out of it than a lot of debt and maybe an unpaid internship or two. But Dunham was able to leverage it into something significant because of the level she started off at.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 1:44 PM on August 26


and that level is actually less than many people start off with, like JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, Jason Schwartzman, etc., but you never hear people bring up their privilege.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:48 PM on August 26


A serious question -- please note that I'm not particularly familiar with any of the parties involved -- but don't Abrams, Whedon, and (maybe not?) Schwartzman have more varied careers?
posted by mr. digits at 2:13 PM on August 26


A serious question -- please note that I'm not particularly familiar with any of the parties involved -- but don't Abrams, Whedon, and (maybe not?) Schwartzman have more varied careers?

At the age of 28?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:15 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was just poking around IMBD and noted that the first two were born in the mid-'60s...
posted by mr. digits at 2:17 PM on August 26


A serious question -- please note that I'm not particularly familiar with any of the parties involved -- but don't Abrams, Whedon, and (maybe not?) Schwartzman have more varied careers?

I guess that depends upon what you mean by varied. Whedon and Abrams both have quite a number of beloved projects under their belts, but it's not really fair to compare their resumes to Dunham's when they are each almost twice Dunham's age.

Schwartzman has made a reasonable career for himself in the indie movie scene and now has a popular HBO series to his name. Which uh, kind of sounds like Lena Dunham's career. Oh, I guess he also has that indie music thing.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:18 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Although I know it's often wrong to speak of MetaFilter as some kind of cohesive unit -- like, "MetaFilter usually thinks X..." -- I do think it might be safe to say "MetaFilter is usually sympathetic to people's self-reported descriptions of mental health issues." So it's kind of odd that almost no one is talking about the piece itself, and instead making totalizing thumbs-up or thumbs-down arguments on Dunham's entire existence. Is there something about her success that prevents people from taking her --admittedly ironized -- descriptions of her childhood fears and anxieties seriously? Why are we having a polarized "class" conversation instead of an empathetic "bad things your brain does to you" conversation? I can't help but think it would be different if this was an anonymous blog post.

And honestly, as someone who grew up in NYC : people with Dunham's background -- successful bohemian artist parents, private school, therapy, Oberlin -- are a dime a dozen. There are SO many people I know with similar histories. Most of them are not famous and inspiring online disdain.

You know who else grew up in downtown New York as the child of artists and attended fancy private schools? Robert DeNiro. Not a lot of people complain about his "privilege."
posted by neroli at 2:53 PM on August 26 [17 favorites]


But my point is that writers/artists/filmmakers etc routinely produce successful and critically acclaimed bodies of work on small plots of metaphorical ground.

Oh, I agree--but it's also true that people often get knocked for that, too. Here on Metafilter it's very common to see writers--male or female--criticized if they're seen as sticking too relentlessly to exploring the domestic concerns of white, well-off people, for example.

That whole "range" thing is always a two-edged sword, of course. You'll also find people getting criticized for failing to develop a distinctive "voice" and I've often found that artists (in the fine arts) who tend to be restlessly experimental in their careers and who never stick for long to any recognizable "style" struggle to maintain a reputation compared to more readily identifiable peers. There are exceptions both ways, of course, but it is something I've often noticed.
posted by yoink at 3:35 PM on August 26


I just want to say that I appreciate a lot about Lena Dunham, even if I don't always connect with Girls or her writing. I'm not what you would think of as "privileged" (though I am white, and that's important), but I've run with some privileged crowds, including some people who may have gone to Oberlin at the same time as her. She is representing her experience and it speaks to a lot of people (including, occasionally, me).

It's easy to hate on her, sure. I wonder how many of the people who hate on her have so much as written a pilot of a television show. It's easy to say that you could have her success if you'd had her privilege, but that pilot script of yours, the one you've been working on for three years? Where is it, if you don't mind my asking?

I'm not even getting into her absolute refusal to believe that her slightly-better-than-average female body is something to be hidden away and shunned. Which, for me and most women, is kind of a big deal.

She's brave and I admire her for it, along with many of her other qualities. Keep doing your thing, girl.
posted by duvatney at 4:34 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I have really mixed feelings about Lena Dunham. She grew up rich in New York City and had a lot of opportunities available to her that she might not have had otherwise, but she's worked her ass off to get to where she is, and I respect her hustle. Her solipsistic perspective and inability to see past her privilege leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but in fairness, so does Salinger's.

That said, Dunham's casual racism is kind of gross.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:45 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Here's what I think about Lena Dunham: "What I think about Lena Dunham".
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:27 PM on August 26


I think people all had these weird expectations about what Girls should be, and those failed expectations spill over into her other work. In the same way that the complaint about Girls is that it fails to help prepare for The Revolution by spending time exploring the lives of underprivileged POCs in Brooklyn as opposed to the white artist transplant classes, there seems an odd objection along the lines that her essays on her experience with mental health treatment were supposed to aid in the cause of better access to health care, and without it, her essay was lacking in relevance.

The reason we read memoirs is because we feel there is something interesting going on in reading about someone else's lives and experiences. Now sure it would be great if the pool of memoirists were deeper, but that's not Dunham's fault, and it isn't her fault that she has a following.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 6:47 PM on August 26


My favorite criticism of Girls was that the title was too broad a term for it to be about four people of the same general demographic, and therefore the show is terrible.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:57 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I'm not what you would think of as "privileged" (though I am white, and that's important), but I've run with some privileged crowds, including some people who may have gone to Oberlin at the same time as her. She is representing her experience and it speaks to a lot of people (including, occasionally, me).

I definitely know people who went to Oberlin with her (Indian American people, not white, btw since OnlyWhite = Privilege in threads like this, but Oberlin courts diversity). They said she did a lot of cocaine and her friends all hooked up with each other.

That said, that seemed like a lot of people at Oberlin and I really like Lena Dunham. I've been disappointed by the latest season of Girls but I like her more and more with her writing and tweets and her recent part in the movie Happy Christmas.

I thought her relationship with her therapists was the central focus of the article, too. It was really interesting to read about their different styles, how she interacted with them, and to what extent they were helpful.

My own therapist is pretty accessible - he called me within 24 hours of his wife having a baby because I was having an emergency, I texted him before a date I didn't want to go on to ask him what I should do, and I texted him after I had a fire in my apartment and needed help managing all the emergency people and neighbors and smoke and terrified cats.
posted by sweetkid at 7:10 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


You know who else grew up in downtown New York as the child of artists and attended fancy private schools? Robert DeNiro. Not a lot of people complain about his "privilege."

Did you even read the paragraph you link to? De Niro went to a mix of public and private schools, dropped out at 16, and studied acting in multiple schools including with Lee Strasberg.

Have you even seen Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Once Upon a Time in America, The Godfather Part II, Heat, Awakenings, or even Jackie Brown for that matter? Get back to me when Lena reaches the level of even The King of Comedy!
posted by ReeMonster at 7:53 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


that's a silly comparison -DeNiro was 33 in Taxi Driver. Lena Dunham has done a lot by the age of 28. Also, Lena Dunham is primarily a writer - get back to me when DeNiro writes something like Tiny Furniture or Girls Season One!

But yeah, if DeNiro wrote an article about his therapists I doubt anyone would think he was coming off entitled and I doubt anyone considers DeNiro a "class enemy."
posted by sweetkid at 7:59 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


that's a silly comparison

I agree, and I didn't make it.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:03 PM on August 26


You take that back, The King of Comedy is great.
posted by frenetic at 8:08 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


You take that back, The King of Comedy is great.

Yeah, that came out the wrong way.. I think I was trying to say, "most" people overlook The King of Comedy.. it's a really great performance and a great movie.. but not what "most" people think of when talking about the great work of De Niro.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:11 PM on August 26


I will definitely let you know when Lena Dunham is 54 years old and being cast ironically in a Elmore Leonard adaptation. Until then I guess we just have to shit on her!
posted by shakespeherian at 8:19 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


cast ironically in a Elmore Leonard adaptation.

Lena's best work up to this point doesn't come close to approaching the subtle perfection of De Niro's role in Jackie Brown. And that was just a throw-off bullshit role for him. That's my point. Check out the other films I listed.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:30 PM on August 26


I mean, is this seriously the conversation you want to have in this thread?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:32 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


[Can we consider the DeNiro comparison noted, and drop it?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:43 PM on August 26


Ok, first off, I apparently don't understand therapy at all and it's a foreign and bewildering world to me, because I have zero idea how realistic these anecdotes about therapy are even supposed to be. Like, I honestly can't tell if they're hyper-real for affect or if they're just a fairly straight telling of what happened and her relationships with these therapists. I'm guessing that they're OTT because who eats tons of smoked meat and does needlepoint with her therapist when she's nine? But who knows.

Second off, I guess the point was that Dunham's underlying obsession is to get under people's skin and to not let anyone hide from her? She was crossing boundaries all over the place and creepily seemed to get off on it. Like that thing of talking about how frail Audrey looked after the sinus surgery, and waiting until Audrey and Lisa were alone and the other girls were occupied elsewhere in the apartment and then crawling into bed with them and recounting it with this sort of triumphant tone with full knowledge that it's inappropriate....*shudder.* She also had this weird triumphant take on "tricking" Margaret into dropping information on her husband, especially since she was sticking with Margaret despite knowing she was a kind of crummy therapist after seeing the comparison between her and Judith.

Maybe this was sort of like...seduction stories? Instead of a Don Juan compilation, Dunham has a bunch of Therapist notches on her belt?

Anyway, even though it bums me out on a personal level how much having money and connections to "top flight" folks obviously matters when it comes to breaking into a tight industry, I think this is a "hate the game, not the player" situation. It sucks that in our reality, being rich and connected gets you money/respect/opportunity when you would probably otherwise suffer and languish but...it's true, and at least Dunham has actual talent and works hard as well as having that money and those connections. I'm not big on Girls (like with this essay, I feel the whole time like most of it is somehow going over my head and I'm missing the joke) but I liked Tiny Furniture a lot. For a student/independent film, it was amazing. Usually those things are terrible, but Dunham's felt like an actual movie -- and not just in terms of the look of it and other things that money can buy, in the writing and her own acting as well. There have definitely been wayyyyy worse when it comes to the hothouse flower child/artists who spring up in NYC from time to time -- anyone remember that whizkid who wrote Twelve? Now that guy was a smug jerk and was just coasting (though he was also a literal child when he wrote it and was giving interviews about it, so maybe he's All Better now).
posted by rue72 at 9:00 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


From the Article:
I leave feeling worse than when I went in, and my father says that’s O.K., we can see as many doctors as we need to until I’m better.

That's the part of the piece that stuck out for me. I once worked as a mentor to a young woman with many different social-emotional issues. She couldn't gain traction in her own life, and she was rushing from this doctor to the next, and her family was supporting it. Her family would have given her the moon if a doctor said that was what she needed. She had oodles of support, and therapists, group homes, hospitalizations and meds... after almost 3 years with her, the fuzzy picture became clear: she just didn't want to take responsibility for herself. She kept falling into victimhood. She wanted something else to make it better. She denied responsibility for her actions and her experiences. She was actively resisting the adult life that was rushing up to meet her. It was this odd mix of helplessness and narcissism, and Lena's piece reminds me of that.

I don't know what sets a person up for that kind of rollercoaster - biology, nature, nurture, or the stars. I do know that it takes herculean effort of honesty and maturity to defeat those kinds of patterns. I watched a bit of the show 'Girls' and I did watch Lena's movie "Tiny Furniture," both of which are interesting in the same way, and are similar to this article where she seems to be trying to solve the same puzzle over and over. I'm a little grossed out that 'Girls' is so popular, since that means it must strike a chord with people when its main characters have so little self esteem and seem to see themselves (and each other) as objects, but I also wonder if she even wants to solve this puzzle because then what else would she write about?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:19 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


duvatney took the words out of my mouth. Even though I don't love everything she's written, ever since I saw Tiny Furniture, I've had great respect for Lena Dunham. I admire her honesty. Because she often portrays herself in a less than flattering light, I guess it's inevitable that people will level the sorts of criticisms I've read in this thread.

I do wish everyone had access to the level of mental health care (and other resources) that Dunham does, but I can't imagine criticizing her for getting too much of it. I'm glad she has the help she needs, and that she's brave enough to tell her story, which I did enjoy reading because I've had the experience of being an anxious kid in NYC. I don't think the fact that she is more successful and wealthy than most people compromises that in any way.
posted by ferret branca at 12:57 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Dunham gets got.
posted by unliteral at 5:49 PM on September 8


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