I’m just going to throw in my two cents about this Lena Dunham book deal thing before this week ends. I know I should have written something a few days ago, but I have a day job and sometimes it wants me to do things that don’t involve working for not them. Sad story.
So Lena Dunham got a $3.7mil book deal and then a lot of people freaked out and everyone was all, “Isn’t she too young to deserve this?” and then I turned off my Facebook feed because no amount of advil can quench the headache of a thousand a**holes yelling. Sarah Palin got one, and she can barely form a proper sentence. Let’s just calm down. This is a girl with an HBO show, not Dick Cheney eating orphans on a hemorrhaging oil rig.
Dunham wasn’t just offered a book deal, there was a bidding war for it, after the 66 page proposal (complete with color illustrations) was sent to various publishing houses. This isn’t just Dunham having a good agent. It’s not her mom’s art career propelling Dunham’s fame, though I’m sure that taking photos of miniatures is the best way to get your daughter whatever job she wants in entertainment, because women totally dominate that field anyway. It’s how Gwyneth Paltrow got her first role! But for serious, let’s just pause a minute and think about how people phrased it as, “Omg she got what?” as if she were Lindsay Lohan buying a new car to wreck, and ignored the whole part about respected and established publishers vying for her work. Something about that doesn’t make sense.
When I hear to people complain about Dunham’s success, I don’t think it’s really about her. The idea that someone would be too young to be offered such a large sum is ludicrous. Do you know how much the Olsen twins made before they turned 18? And since when is ability defined by age? What I’m seeing is people getting far too upset over the success of a young woman who is thriving in Hollywood without matching the established aesthetic. She doesn’t look like a Disney princess the way that Miley Cyrus does, who got her own show at the age of 14 without anyone complaining that it was only because Billy Ray Cyrus has a guitar. Maybe there’s a gray area between child actors and adult careers that no one may enter without crossing the bridge of asshattery and scaling the mountain of Why Are We Still Talking About This.
Dunham may not look like Miley Cyrus, Drew Barrymore, or a Gyllenhaal, and her genes were less helpful to her career than the aforementioned. She works more behind the camera than in front of it (which any lady in Hollywood will tell you is an achievement in and of itself), and when she is in front of it, people lose their sh*t that a normal looking woman dare show any skin. I’m still waiting for complaints to roll in every time Anne Hathaway gets all epidermal in a film, but apparently if your aesthetics don’t qualify you to be sexualized, you better not have the audacity to take it into your own hands on screen in the script that you wrote and directed while performing it yourself. Go away, workaholic girl, with your non-starved body, we want none of your creativity encroaching on our precious Honey Boo-Boo time!
Dunham has been working to support herself since leaving school, staying up late nights to write (like the rest of us), is clearly a workaholic, and yet her career is attributed to nepotism and her achievements are met with whiny cries of unfair things and how she took all the other hipster kids’ toys. I did a quick poll of my personal Facebook feed (super accurate you guys, it’s a real scientisty method), and realized that the only people I knew who were constantly whining about Dunham getting opportunities were ones who were born pretty privileged themselves, and have, possibly, more opportunities than they do talent to make something of them with. They are people who might have more time for their projects if they spent less of it whining. My friends who enjoy Dunham’s work or are ambivalent about it, on the other hand, tend to be the ones who come from middle or lower middle class families, had to work jobs to get through college, and have to work on their personal projects after their day job ends. They also seem to be the only ones who get that ‘Girls’ is shredding privileged youths to bits in a dry, ruthless way, not parading them around in a shrine to pretension.
I’m not even a huge Lena Dunham fan, to be honest. I’ve enjoyed her work so far, but I don’t see her as the Mozart of my generation of women or anything. I just get a visceral pang of WTF every time I see her get ripped apart by people for reasons that I don’t think have to do with her as an artist. It seems to me that people get angry at her because she looks like the rest of us, so why should she be the one to do well? “She looks like me, therefore she’s like me, so why am I not the one doing what she is?” – would be the thought I assume goes through their heads. This bothers me for two reasons:
- It’s lookist and I just can’t with aestheticizing women anymore, my eyes can’t handle the rolling, and
- Y’all get that this is great for the rest of us too, right?
She’s opening doors for other young women. Every time a young female writer or director is successful, it increases the chances for other young women to be able to do the same. Gender ratios in television and literature are still pretty heavily tipped to the male side, and there is still more of a medieval attitude towards women of “no one wants to hear from little girls” than you’d think, keeping many stories from being told, and the storytellers from being able to tell them. Dunham is proving that our stories are marketable, and that taking a chance on telling them is worthwhile.
Maybe we can all try to be OK with a woman looking normal, using her lady brain instead of her lady boobs and stop freaking out over the fact she has the audacity to be 26 years old and successful in several fields without looking like a Kardashian. Or being a man.
Image Copyright HBO