You know those sentences you never want to hear in conversation? Like “what are you going to do with your life”, or “I think we should just be friends”? Without a doubt the worst of those is “Lena Dunham is actually a real inspiration.”
It makes me – more than cringe – physically recoil, and unfortunately, it’s something you hear pretty regularly: when your housemate finds a good stream for HBO, when your sister’s scrolling through Instagram, when you’re in the girls toilets with no room to escape.
It’s usually followed by: “she’s so funny”, “I love how different she is” “she’s honestly just like, a feminist inspiration”. But she’s not. She’s not funny, or different, and she shouldn’t be an inspiration for being a model of lazy, slack-jawed, bad-series-on-HBO millennial feminism.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to like Girls, like everyone else. I really wanted to feel connected to Lena Dunham and her weird floppy friends as they frolicked around New York. I wanted to believe it was a new, cutting-edge, younger Sex and The City. But it’s not. Girls is not relatable. And although Carrie Bradshaw is grating, flaky, and self-indulgent, you still watch Sex and the City and want to be her.
Nobody wants to be Hannah Horvath, moaning about her life, moaning to her rich parents, moaning about her job, moaning about her white, middle-class friends. She’s not aspirational, she’s miserable. And yeah, OK, fair, we’re all miserable sometimes, but I’d rather see that reflected back to me in Carrie crying in a taffeta dress in Paris because the Russian fucked her over, than Hannah. I’d rather see it represented in anything other than Lena Dunham’s always slightly open-mouthed gloominess. The series was probably supposed to make girls in their twenties say “oh my god she’s just like me”, but it just made me want to shake her and tell her to stop moping and grow the fuck up.
And, to be fair to her, it’s not all about Girls. Dunham is just as awful in real life. I once heard a girl I know waxing lyrical about her autobiography. “I loved it, she’s just so real”. It’s the book, in case you haven’t read it, where she claims she was sexually assaulted by a classmate at Oberlin (which resulted in a legal scandal and a revision from her publisher). Oh, and there was a bit where she talks about bribing her little sister to kiss her, masturbating while in bed beside her and touching her inappropriately when she was a toddler, doing “basically anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl”.
I find it weird that fans of Lena Dunham, mostly girls who would rightly challenge a male celebrity who admitted the same kind of behaviour, brush this kind of thing under the carpet. I find it weird that they can still feel empowered and inspired as women by her book. But it made my skin crawl. She later apologised to anyone who found her book triggering. We’re honestly not that deprived of funny, positive, clever female celebrities that we have to pretend Dunham is one of them.
Most of the things she says out of print are eye-rollingly obnoxious as well. Whether it’s claiming she’ll “move to Vancouver if Trump becomes President” (groundbreaking), or that she won’t get married until same sex marriage is legal (it is, she’s not), or when she accused a magazine of photoshopping her (they hadn’t, that’s just how she looks), or compared her Jewish boyfriend to a dog with statements like “he doesn’t tip” (it’s totally fine, she’s like, half Jewish, guys) everything Lena Dunham does makes her sound like a thirteen-year old with a Tumblr, an infinity tattoo, and a captive audience that swallows all her soundbites. Or maybe she’s the moody friend of a friend at the pub, who interrupts drinks to put a verbal content note on all your problematic jokes.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being contrarian, or liberal, or outspoken. There are plenty of other girls who can be all those things while still being relatable – because it seems like at least they believe in what they’re saying. Lena Dunham, no pun intended, is not that kind of girl.
2012 brought us a lot of annoying things, besides the pilot episode of Girls and Lena Dunham. There was the time we all tried to stop Kony, for instance, or this song, by a young Ray Liotta. But they’ve passed now, and we’re all better for it. It would be great if she could go away now too.