5 Things I Learned From Lena Dunham’s Esquire Interview

I am obsessed with the show Girls because I hate it so much. Is it 100% terrible? Nope. It’s 50% misguided though. The show glamorizes the narcissism and self-righteousness of very privileged White girls and then suggests that it is a representation of all girls – the show is called “Girls” for Jebus’ sake. What it does do accurately is portray  the young, modern egomaniac very well. The way that Hannah obsesses over Adam, the way Marnie is mad at her boyfriend for loving her too much, and the way everyone makes every experience about themselves without any consideration for their friends and family – that’s precise and well-written. The show seems to lack the ability to realize that these people are living in a bubble where people of color don’t exist or are unacknowledged and where parents are expected to support you until you have “figured things out.” That would be fine if Lena Dunham – Glamour’s Woman of the Year – would ever acknowledge that this is a problem, instead she dismisses criticism as hating. 

Here are some notable quotables from her Esquire interview in this December’s issue.

1.) “People are ultimately threatened by young people taking positions of power.”

Sort of. It is worth noting that none of the criticism Lena received was about her age. I am 23 and seeing someone close to my age or younger who is significantly successful inspires two responses in me: “Ugh! What am I even doing with my life?” and “The possibility for success does exist, hmm . . . ”

2.) “But there’s also this feeling of I could do that, too. People don’t feel rabidly jealous of Larry David or Salman Rushdie because they don’t think, I could do that. And with what I’ve done, I think a lot of people think, I could do that in my sleep. If I’d just met one person along my path, I would have that TV show.”

Yes, Lena, we’re just jealous. (Is she really comparing herself to Salman Rushdie and Larry David? LOL.) This has never been the criticism of the show. Some writers write about the spectacular and some explore the mundane, both are interesting. Personally, I’ve never thought I could write what Lena writes because I haven’t been “lucky enough” to have such a privileged, Anglo existence. Most of all, I don’t think she is a bad writer. It is difficult to write realistic dialogue the way she does and to create plots that make mountains out of molehills the way she does. She is a good writer, that has never been the problem with her show.

3.)  “I had a liberal-arts education and a huge part of that is just like sitting in class with people who are saying, ‘You know nothing, my godfather died of AIDS!’ It’s a really self-righteous, annoyed, argumentative world. And I loved it.”

This attitude is the very nature and premise of Girls and her movie Tiny Furniture. I had a liberal-arts education too, and she’s right: people are super whiny and narcissistic. However, if I were going to write a show about it I would be critical of it instead of glamorizing it. Giving a voice to young people who have had privileged lives is fine, but why vindicate that problematic self-righteousness without an ounce of self-reflection? Her show is an accurate portrayal of that kind of lifestyle, but that’s why it’s only 50% good. The other half lacks because of it’s overall “Whitness,” but mostly because it illustrates the spoiled brat without ever acknowledging that it’s wrong to be that person.

4. )  “I don’t wanna engage with people. I think you look crazier when you engage with someone who doesn’t have a fully formed argument.”

You’re a writer and active on social media, you’re job is to be engaging with people. While you shouldn’t let your art be shaped by criticism, you should listen to it when it is constructive.

5. ) “Sometimes I think, Boys were mean to me in high school, so I can take whatever. Of course that doesn’t mean you can handle five thousand commenters saying you’re fat, but it does prepare you for feeling like a weirdo.”

She’s far from fat, nevertheless her character on Girls is obsessed with her weight. Maybe stop discussing that you’re, like, three ounces overweight and we might too?

[Image Via. Glamour]



  1. Molly - UNL says:

    I love Girls, and have always thought Lena Dunham was pretty funny, because I can relate to Hannah so much. But I do wish she acknowledge on the show that she was privileged. There's like a whole episode where she pines about asking her parents for money, which, I loved because I could relate to it but it's super #firstworldproblems. But I think that's kind of the charm of the show. I mean, people always say write what you know or whatever. But I totally agree that when people criticize the show as being WASPY she should admit it and be like YES BECAUSE IM WASPY YO.

    This is what bothers me about her, ”I had a liberal-arts education and a huge part of that is just like sitting in class with people who are saying, ‘You know nothing, my godfather died of AIDS!’ It’s a really self-righteous, annoyed, argumentative world. And I loved it.”

    I was an English major for a time and OMG OTHER ENGLISH MAJORS ARE THE WORST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. I think they are so self-righteous and I HATED IT. You're crazy to sit in that atmosphere and think you're not surrounded by self-righteous, pretentious, douchers.

    I'll still watch her show though, cause it makes me feel the feels.

  2. embelladorn says:

    Reblogged this on Embelladorn and commented:
    Oh, I like the show a lot. Nice to hear a different view.

  3. Jen says:

    I actually don't think the show 'glamorises' anything, I think it is critical in that it purposefully emphasises awful characteristics in order for audiences to either say 'I hate people like that' or 'I hate that I'm like that'. I watch girls and cringe because I abhor Hannah but I see myself in so much that she does. I think everyone has taken this show entirely too seriously.

  4. Katie says:

    There are so many shows where it's all white people. Idk why this is getting criticized especially for a lack of diversity. She's writing what she knows. Plus she does not blatantly say that the lifestyle bad, but rather demonstrates it and allows the reader to pick up on the message themselves, if they are intuitive enough too. This is called showing and not telling and most people learn it in an 8th grade english class. This article was so annoying to read. You were determined to be critical of her and make the entire thing about race when it wasn't even an issue she was addressing. Once again she was just making a show that she felt she knew something about. If you want a show that accurately represents a minority go write one yourself! She probably couldn't do a good job anyway, but I don't see why that's a bad thing.

    1. emeraldgritty says:

      Most of my argument was about class not race. Moreover, people who aren't wealthy or middle class are the majority not the minority and I find it troublesome when any person of any race or religion or politics writes what they know and all they know is people who are exactly like them. She is from New York City, the city where over 100 different languages are spoken! When you're around so much class and ethnic diversity and all your friends are of the same race and class as you, you're making the active choice to exclude others. If her show is based on her life, then in her life I guess she has no friends of color/ones who aren't wealthy? The show isn't about race, neither is 30 Rock or Pretty Little Liars or Happy Endings or most shows yet a great deal of them have managed to cast actors of color.

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