An exhausting but definitive rating of every single controversy to ever hit Lena Dunham
And we have ALL the receipts
by Amanda Ross
Is it even an article about Lena Dunham if it doesn’t include the oft-misquoted line from Girls about being the voice of a generation? What about if I write something about her being the lighting rod of her generation…or at least a generation?
Everything Dunham does from adopting a dog to wearing unflattering pants to voting for Hillary Clinton to rehoming said dog to doubling down on the ugly pants has erupted in scandal to the point where the writer/director/ugly pants aficionado is more known for being hated than her body of work. Or her body, and that’s saying something.
Here, a breakdown of every misstep, perceived or otherwise, by Lena Dunham and exactly how worthy of hate it was, based on a highly scientific scoring system of 0 to 5 Lambys.
Rapists Are Bad, Unless They’re My Friends
This is the most recent firestorm to strike Lena, and it’s by far the worst. She’s built her entire brand around “feminism” (see my mocking quotations?! I think it’s bullshit!) but only when it’s convenient for her. She publicly voiced support for the slew of women naming their abusers and assailants in the wake of Weinstein and like, half of her Instagram posts are about “believing women” and “let our voices be heard!” and whatever. But that didn’t stop Lena from essentially calling a Black actress a liar after she accused a Girls writer of sexual assault. Here’s her now-deleted statement about it: “While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” This earns five out of five Lambys because fuck you, Lena.
If Wishes Were Abortions
Despite showcasing more than one NBD abortion storyline in Girls and her near-constant social media shows of support for Planned Parenthood, Lena’s off-color joke on her podcast about “wishing she could have had an abortion” so exercise her right to choose was Bad Feminism™ and one of the few times she pissed of the Left more than conservatives. While it was kind of a dumb thing to say, her heart was in the right place — kind of like when my cat thinks she’s “helping me clean” by kicking her litter around the bathroom.
The Lamby Chronicles
Here we are, arrived at the reason for this entire story. Lambygate. The Misadventures of Lamby. Lambghazi. Silence of the Lambys. Some non-controversial background: Lamby is/was a dog Lena adopted from a no-kill shelter in Brooklyn. He is/was semi-cute (I don’t like wiry-haired critters, sorry) and she wrote a very long and very florid account of their first few days together for the New Yorker. In it, she describes Lamby’s behavioral problems, alleges he was abused by previous owners, and outs her boyfriend for owning a Green Day shirt.
Lamby bites her ass. It’s fine, she’s over it.
Fast forward to present day and Lamby is noticeably absent from her social media accounts. In her Vogue 73 Questions interview that weirdly soothes me in a Dr. Seuss dystopian way, she alludes to owning poodles. Lamby is MIA.
Then, Lena announces in an Instagram post that Lamby has gone to live on a farm but she means it literally and not in a your-shitty-parents-ran-over-your-dog way.
A lot of you have been asking where Lamby is these days since he's always been the star of my gram and I've been posting pics of my poodle girls. Well, you know honesty is my jam but this one has been really heartbreaking to talk about. But I feel I have to share that last March, after four years of challenging behavior and aggression that could not be treated with training or medication or consistent loving dog ownership, Lamby went to live at an amazing professional facility in Los Angeles @matt_thezendog where an awesome person named @therealdanishay (who is educated in a rescue dog's specific trauma) loves him so hard. Lamby suffered terrible abuse as a pup that made having him in a typical home environment dangerous to him and others- we needed to be responsible to ourselves, our neighbors and especially our beloved boy. Jack and I will miss him forever but sometimes when you love something you have to let it go (especially when it requires tetanus shots and stitches.) Someday I'll really write about the pain and relief of letting Lamby go off and really be Lamby, biting and peeing in his own mouth and all. There were so many lessons in it, about forgiving myself and loving with an open palm and giving in to a larger plan. Shout out to @jennikonner for listening to endless hours of Lamby pain, and especially my partner @jackantonoff for loving him even when he ruined floors and couches and our life. Jack knows what Lamby means to me and he let me come to the decision in my own time even when it made his days challenging. Susan & Karen will never be my first loves, but they are fuzzy and hilarious stuffing for the hole Lamby left and we cherish them deeply ❤️#lamby #thefirstcutisthedeepest #foreverlamb PS If you have a similar situation, please know its possible to responsibly re-home your rescue rather than sending them back into the shelter system. It can require patience, diligence and often a financial contribution but there are solutions that leave everyone happy and safe. You will always have been your dog's first stop outside shelter life and that's beautiful.
Cool. Chill. Until! The shelter from whence Lamby originally came hits back, claims Lamby had never been abused, and shades Girls for being irrelevant in a fabulously bitchy Insta post. Lena responds, and I feel bad for her.
It's come to my attention that the staff at the shelter where I adopted Lamby have a very different account of his early life and behavioral issues than I do. While I'm sorry to have disappointed them, I can't apologize. Lamby was and is one of the great loves of my life. When I met him I knew we'd have an amazing journey. But his aggression – which was unpredictable- and his particular issues, which remain myriad, weren't manageable, at least not by me. I did what I thought the best mother would do, which was to give him a life that provided for his specific needs. He'd been with me for nearly four years and I was his mom- I was in the best position to discern what those needs were. After countless hours of training, endless financial support and a lot of tears he was given access to a better life. I still support him financially and I'll always be there for him in every way but he's notably happier in his new surroundings. Why should this story be subject to scrutiny and anger? It is willfully misunderstanding the truth. I hope those judging can imagine the incredible pain of letting go of your favorite creature on EARTH because you know you can't help them be healthy and happy. I would never say an unkind word about the staff of BARC, what they do is amazing and life saving for these animals- but we have different accounts of Lamby's behavior and they were not present in my home nor did they live with him for an extended period. They did not witness the consistent and responsible care I provided. I have weathered a lot of micro-scandals but this one hurts MOST, because of the vulnerability of letting people know Lamby and my story, and because I miss him so damn much. This is the painting that greets me every day when I walk into my home. This is the animal who taught me about loving and letting go. I know I'm a lot of fun to place your issues on, but I won't let anyone hang their hat on this peg. Not this time.
They went back and forth for a while but I’m too tired to recount it all because it’s all so incredibly uninteresting and not actually scandalous and I took a Benadryl.
BUT ONLY FOR THE SHEER LAMBY-NESS OF IT ALL
Night At The Museum 4: Lena’s Casually Racist
It’s something I’ve had to comes to grips with myself, but Lena: not everyone has to want to fuck us. In one piece of an endlessly cringe published conversation with Amy Schumer — one of her fellow Four White Feminist Horsemen of the Apocalypse (we’re only missing Taylor Swift and Tina Fey) — Lena projected her own insecurities onto a non-encounter at the Met Gala with football star Odell Beckham, Jr. and conjured up a very fake train of thought on his behalf:
I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, “That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.” It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused.
This is, on all levels, pretty bad. It’s a perfect shit storm of racial undertones and some weird reverse sexism back on herself. She apologized, but just like a kid from elementary school who used to piss himself at sleepovers, people don’t forget. And it wouldn’t be sooo bad if she didn’t have a history of casually racist comments, like when she called herself “skinny for Detroit.” Tell us, Lena, who “lives in Detroit?”
Only White Girls on Girls
Travel back in time with me to 2012. We had barely begun to gaze out at the horizon of Obama’s second term. Michael Phelps brought America glory at the summer Olympics. Nick Jonas took off his purity ring. It was a magical time! And then Girls debuted. What was supposed to be a funny and unflinching take on millennial Brooklyn looked unfamiliar to anyone who’d ever ventured outside of like, a one-block radius in DUMBO. Everyone was white. Oh, except for an Asian girl whose only notable traits were skills at Photoshop and an affinity for Smart Water.
The blowback was so bad (and well-deserved, tbh) that in some sort of effort to combat this, Donald Glover was cast as Black Republican (…?) proving once and for all that LENA KNOWS BLACK PEOPLE, OK YOU GUYS??? It was shitty, but really more HBO’s fault than Lena’s. Why not hire people of color to tell their own stories?
Jezebel Photoshop Witch Hunt
For once, this had exactly nothing to do with Lena being problematic or foot-in-mouth-y. Jezebel put a $10,000 bounty on un-retouched images from Lena’s first Vogue cover spread.
Why? We saw her unfiltered body in the least flattering light possible every Sunday on Girls. It’s not like she was hiding anything. Also! Hello! It’s called angles and smizing. Watch a fucking ANTM cycle, for fuck’s sake.
FOR THOSE BITCHES AT JEZEBEL
Dog Or Jewish Boyfriend?
In an ill-conceived but not ill-intentioned story for the New Yorker, Lena compared her dog to her Jewish boyfriend Jack Antonoff who looks like a claymation figure but in a sexy way. It was clueless but probably not anti-Semitic (a debate raged over whether Dunham herself was Of The Faith) ensued, but blew over relatively quickly. Still, you’d think someone at the New Yorker would have caught this. Wait, did I just do it too?
Voter Fraud, Kind Of
Remember Hillary Clinton? Same. Remember Lena Dunham’s cringe-y stumping and performative pant-suiting on her behalf? Same, unfortunately. But…she didn’t even vote in the primaries. Dumb, yeah. A catalyst for everything that happened that November? Nah.
Did you know? Lena Dunham is not registered with any party in NY, so therefore could not have voted for Hillary in the NY primary this year. pic.twitter.com/hwp0MVvmB7
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) November 8, 2016
The VICE reporter who published the exposing tweet also published her address, which lead to his termination. But she’s literally always by Cranberry’s Bagels in Brooklyn Heights so it’s not like it was some huge mystery.
The Trump Diet
Lena’s body has always been the subject of scrutiny, which is unfair but inevitable considering I think I’ve seen her nipples more than my own. But she made headlines (or tweets, whatever) for debuting a slimmed-down figure which she attributed to anxiety over the Trump administration. Everyone had an opinion. Lena wrote a long (but valid) Insta post about why weight fluctuations are never anyone’s business:
Then everyone had an opinion on that. My only opinion on this is wondering about the opinion of Tracy Anderson, trainer to both Lena and Gwyneth Paltrow and (probably) more directly responsible for her svelte new frame than anything else.
‘Molesting’ Her Sibling
I refuse to dignify this bullshit with more than a few lines: some paragraphs from Lena’s book Not That Kind Of Girl were taken out on context by primarily right-wing weirdos and morphed into something sinister. Did Lena as a toddler touch her sibling’s vagina? Yes. Did she, as a small child, get any sexual gratification from this? Obviously not. It’s her longest-standing scandal (read any BuzzFeed story comments on her), but it’s pretty ridiculous. Kids figure shit out.
Oberlin Sexual Assault
The second scandal to emerge from Lena Dunham’s book came in the form of a hybrid fact-fiction description of the man who sexually assaulted her as an undergrad. This lead to a series of right-wing attacks ranging from alleging she made up the non-consensual encounter to falsely accusing a random man. Gawker made the decision to publish the dude’s name. Breitbart even sent a reporter to Oberlin to try and get to the bottom of it. Conservatives love to bring it up.
Body Talk…and Talk, and Talk
So it’s no secret that Lena Dunham is v chill about her own body. And that’s good! It’s nice to see someone with a different kind of body on TV doing normal naked things. But on this segment of Men Ruin Everything, men ruined everything. Television critics and neckbeards ripped into her for daring to be a woman with the body type of a renaissance painting of baby angel — which, for the record, is not a drag. She’s been defending it on-circuit for years and it’s exhausting but I guess it’s more exhausting for her.
Wouldn’t Get Married, Let’s Get Married
Like a bunch of other prominently progressive celebrities, Lena and Jack publicly announced they wouldn’t even consider a wedding until marriage equality was legalized. It finally passed (yay!) Lena immediately tweeted Jack to “get on it.” Oh no baby what is you doing :( According to her very earnest and pretty sweet New Yorker story (a recurring theme!), Jack panicked and kind of ghosted for a while. They’ve obviously reconciled even though she looked a little silly, but I once thought of a super clever wedding hashtag for a one-night stand while he was still in me so I mean, I get it.
Coming To Canada
Liiiiike, we all joke about it but Lena doubled the fuck down on a very serious claim that she’d move to Canada if Trump won. He did, and she obviously didn’t the second she realized Toronto was New York but minus literally everything.
Dug-Up Racist Tweets
A pretty racist tweet from 2011 Lena surfaced:
Stereotypical and generalizing? Yeah. But at least she called an ethic group NOT rapists unlike, y’know, what the President said.
The Asian Stereotypes Continue
In 2011 (again), Lena others the Asian community (again) with a poorly thought-out essay (again) that reduces the people she meets and the places she goes on a trip to Japan to cute lil charms for her mult-culti bracelet instead of, y’know, a regular-ass society just like we have in the west. At one point, she describes a Japanese acquaintance as having “hands like paper cranes.” Lena, no one says you have feet like a Crunch Wrap Supreme so stop making weird comparisons based on the most stereotypical thing you could say about someone’s country of origin. Read the whole mess here.
The Wing Parody
Audrey Gelman has been Lena Dunham’s best friend for years and years but that didn’t stop her from definitely maybe parodying her friend’s women-centric workshop The Wing as a vapid vacuum of shitty ideas on Girls. She vehemently denies this, but you know several passive-aggressive texts with eyeball emojis were sent.
Her Hijab Imitation
A picture is worth 1,000 angry tweets:
What She ACTUALLY Did To Her Sibling
She didn’t molest Grace Dunham, but she outed their sexuality which is fucking horrible. My brother is gay and even though I couldn’t steal his thunder because we all kind of knew (he made flashcards of different fashion magazine editors after becoming obsessed with The Devil Wears Prada at age 9), it’s fucking gross to deny someone such an important moment and process. She then made things even worse by saying she wished she had been gay, so she’s glad someone in her family gets the experience. Fuck oooooff.
Nepotism In Girls
Yes, everyone in the main cast of Girls has a parent with clout. But did you see Allison William’s capsule episode? Totally earned it. Also, she’s been through like, a really tough journey with her new blonde hair so please leave her alone. She’s so brave.
Maria Shriver Penis Problems
Please play this clip at my funeral. On the TODAY Show, Lena says the word penis which host Maria Shriver has never heard before. The first several minutes of the segment is Lena very eloquently and thoughtfully explaining the final season of Girls and the state of millennial women as a whole. And then, at 5:17, Lena says “penis” in a total chill context and short-circuits whatever motherboard Maria Shriver has under her tastefully age-defying visage:
India Is Like, Really Sad, You Guys
Pissing off Asian countries seems to be a specialty of Lena’s, and India was up next with this quote she gave to V Magazine:
“I hated India. I know you’re not allowed to hate India. But I did. I wasn’t happy. And I felt crazy. I’m a hypochondriac. I saw too many puppies that I thought needed me.”
But why stop there? She continued:
“We do a really good job in this country of basically sealing off sick people and sealing off toilets and sealing off everything that lets us know we’re animals. And in India not only do they not do that, there’s no interest in doing that.”
Hangs With Terry Richardson
Remember Audrey Gelman? From The Wing thing? She used to date Terry Richardson which is sad and proof she doesn’t love herself. Despite an onslaught of accusations of sexual harassment and coercion against the creepy-ass photographer, Lena continued to not only hang with her friend’s bf but also publicly pose for him.
The Orange Sleeping Bag Saga
One day a year, people (read: celebrities) are supposed to publicly wear bright orange as a symbol again gun violence. It’s import and a nice gesture, and Lena, a gun-control advocate, wore something orange:
To be fair, it was probably the only orange thing she owned because hunter orange is hideous no matter what it stands for. But this didn’t stop conservatives, including the crew at Sarah Palin dot com (she will not get a link back from me, sorry bby) from trying to twist it into something weirder than…an orange sleeping bag.
Hannah’s Ethnically Ambiguous Baby
Girls couldn’t go out before one last lightly racist scandal and this was it, I guess. So in the series finale, Hannah is holding her baby Grover. He has a deep complexion. People were mad because he appeared to be Black rather than the product of a very white woman and a Pakistani man. The baby actor (the prequel to Baby Driver, in theaters this August) is actually Haitian and Puerto Rican which isn’t south Asian and it isn’t not Black, but his mom was OK with it. And most importantly, his on-screen mom had nothing to do with it.
Amy Schumer, Partner In Cringe
The above-mentioned Odell Beckham, Jr. comments were just part of the terrifying garbage fire that was the published “conversation” between fEmInIsT chums Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham. Several other beyond tone-deaf comments were made on both sides, including this fucking gem from Amy about the people killed at a screening of her movie, Trainwreck:
“And it just so happens that they were two of the sweetest angels who have ever lived, you know? It is never some toothless fucking crackhead who gets killed.”
Even though it wasn’t Lena that said this particular part of the convo, she still chose to publish it in Lenny Letter. Also, sometimes you need to shhhh your friends.
The Girls Writers Are Very Bad
Race and gender aside (it was like, a ton of dudes and white people, y’all), several of the people Lena employed have said some pretty fucked up things over the years. Especially Lesley Arfin. This phrase is the worst and I never want to use it, but I have to: I CANNOT EVEN. After the all-white controversy started, she tweeted this response:
“What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.”
And this wholly-disgusting-on-multiple-levels “joke” in which she uses “taking Obama to the White House” as a euphemism for pooping.
Not-so-fun fact: Lesley Arfin is married to Paul Rust, who both run the insufferable, Judd Apatow-produced show Love (which sucks, don’t @ me) and she’s the same Lesley repeatedly mentioned in Cat Marnell’s memoir, How To Murder Your Life.
Fuck you, Lesley Arfin.
The Photo Drama That Wasn’t
On the other side of the Photoshop drama coin (are you guys tired yet?), Lena publicly dragged Spanish magazine Tentaciones and accused them of retouching her to the gods, stating “this is not what my body looks like or has ever looked like.”
One problem, though: she supplied that photo for them. It was reprinted exactly as they received it, and she kicked off over nothing. Oh, and never apologized. I’d include the single-tear emoji, but no stylized smiley face could ever captures the emotional depth of :/
Patrick Wilson Is Too Hot
HBO literally airs shows about dragons, but somehow the least believable thing on the network is Patrick Wilson’s character on Girls deigning to fuck Hannah Horvath. Tons of outlets including Entertainment Weekly called the story arc of their hookup “fantastical,” but two assholes at Slate went as far as to say:
“Why are these people having sex, when they are so clearly mismatched—in style, in looks, in manners, in age, in everything? Why is he kissing her and begging her to stay over? Seriously—why?”
The same writer later went on to underscore exactly how big of a reach the episode was because Patrick is married in real life to someone conventionally attractive. And for what it’s worth, she thought the scenes were totally believable. This is most relevant Patrick Wilson has been since that weird Phantom of the Opera movie — do you guys remember that? Gerard Butler, who is literally a Fossil leather jacket come to life, was the Phantom — so I guess every cloud has a silver lining.
The Oberlin Sushi Scandal
Finally, we come to the last controversy on the list. And fittingly, it’s one of the most Lena things to ever happen. It’s like the KFC Double-Down of scandals, one stacked on top of another. The most Oberlin controversy Oberlin had ever seen took off when the school newspaper accused the campus dining hall of cultural insensitivity and appropriation by serving and occasionally modifying culturally-specific dishes like sushi and Banh Mi. Outrage ensued (as it so often does), writing off the (mostly) wealthy liberal art students as “special snowflakes.” So if you’re keeping track, so far we’re at two scandals: the original, and the controversy over the scandal. Then Lena, an Oberlin alumnae, got involved and backed the college kids. Which is fine! They kind of have a point! She said, “Right on.”
This list will not be updated as new controversies emerge as the writer is very tired.
Related stories recommended by this writer:
● Lena Dunham says her friends are ‘triggered’ by Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy
● This Lena Dunham apology generator makes her existence a little bit better
● Why is Glamour considering Lena Dunham for editor in chief?!