Lena Dunham (all over again)

Lena Dunham is everywhere at the moment. She guest-edited the fifth birthday issue of Stylist magazine last week, her talk at the Southbank Centre with Caitlin Moran sold out in minutes and her newly-released book is becoming hard to get your hands on. As a massive Girls fan, I pre-ordered it months ago and have just started flicking through it on my Kindle app.

There’s something apologetic in Dunham’s tone now that wasn’t always there. For those who don’t know, she’s a privileged daughter of two Brooklyn artists who has obviously enjoyed a comfortable childhood, a college education and a fast track to the world of creatives and producers, which probably contributed to her unprecedented success with the coming-of-age comedy series Girls and film Tiny Furniture by the age of just 26. She also likes to talk about herself. Like Moran (who I’m also a fan of) much of her comedy is drawn on observations about her own life and past behaviour. And I can see that it sometimes isn’t the grittiest of subject matter – I loved Tina Fey’s SNL parody where an Albanian girl with a really tough life meets Dunham’s character on Girls.

But it made me sad to read her book intro (addressed directly to the people who bought it, ie. fans of her work) and find it so meek. The press and Dunham’s haters have obviously made such a ‘who cares?’ song and dance about her cosmopolitan, middle-class perspective that it’s eclipsed her success and crushed her ability to say ‘Here I am again, world – this is what I have to say now. And I know it’s funny and/or useful.’

Just as she has a way of sketching characters and situations in Girls that say so much with so little effort, Dunham’s book (so far) seems to be a collection of meaningful anecdotes and tales from the other side of her twenties to young twenty-somethings unsure if they’re getting it wrong. Also, I loved her issue of Stylist because it took an age-old trick of the celebrity editor (name-dropping all of your mates) and made it stylish – she’s always championed her creative peers (two recurring cast members of girls are her real-life school and college best friends) and this issue catapulted some new photographers, academics, actors and addictions of her own onto my radar. It came across as a big, girly love-in of people she admires, and still made for a great read.

So you keep going, Lena – there’s demand for your way with words and excellent collaborations, so feed it.

Five of my favourite Girls moments:
1. The crackcident and resulting Shoshana-Ray chase through Bushwick.
2. The STD clinic waiting room chat in s1’s Vagina Panic.
3. Hannah and Shoshana’s Baggage viewing in season one.
4. The s3 ‘Beach House‘ episode. The dance routine, the fight – all of it.
5. Marnie’s ill-advised five minutes of YouTube fame.


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