Let's Leave Lena Dunham's Looks Alone Now, PleaseMarissa A. Ross

Most critics felt the last episode of Girls was “implausible” and “unrealistic”. That’s funny. It is funny that it is implausible for Hannah to have a spontaneous screw sesh with a middle-aged man, but it’s totally plausible for say, Marnie to leave work and go hook up with a demented artist. And it’s totally plausible for Jessa to get married on a whim to some financial jackass who nearly murdered her for spilling wine on his rug earlier in the season. And it’s totally plausible that Shoshanna is somehow actually an 8-year-old. All that is totally plausible, yet in the same world, Hannah landing an M.D. wielding fox is completely far-fetched.

Each plot point the critics tried to use as an example of the absurdity of the episode really all echoed the same issue: they did not believe Hannah was pretty enough for Patrick Wilson’s Joshua.

Lena Dunham may not look like the pin-thin models draped across the editorials of Vogue, but she is beautiful. She has the biggest, deepest brown eyes, a sincere, endearing smile and a proportionally small waist leading to the kind of curves that were the muses of Renaissance art. In fact, Lena probably would have been the biggest babe in all of Italy during the 1400s. A body that would probably be gracing the Louvre and revered for its voluptuous nature is basically the only problem people really have about an otherwise beautiful, one-off story about an impulsive affair.

If any of the women who graced the cover of Cosmopolitan this past year had starred as Hannah, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And to be honest, it’s a conversation I hate having. I hate having to defend the art of a talented and ambitious young woman because she isn’t Rosie Huntington-Whiteley because let’s be honest, there is only one Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. And there’s only about .5% of the population that look anything like that. And I bet the other 99.5% of us have some sort of “dimpled ugliness” or have worn a lot of unflattering outfits. Hannah is a real woman. She isn’t airbrushed onto a Maxim spread or meticulously manicured by a crew of groomers. She doesn’t have a nutritionist curating cleanses for her or a personal Pilates instructor. She’s a human being, just like you and me.

Using Dunham’s looks as a criticism to her art is a repulsive affront to all women because faulting her for being a real woman, is faulting us all for being real women. By saying that Hannah doesn’t deserve to feel beautiful because she isn’t Megan Fox, is saying that I don’t deserve to feel beautiful because I’m not Megan Fox. You don’t have to be physically attracted to Dunham, but by attacking her work because you’re not is irresponsible and detrimental.

The reviews of this past episode of Girls say so much more about the media beast than they do about Lena Dunham’s physicalities. It is shallow, judgmental, and cruel. The message it is sending is negative and superficial, perpetuating the perception of photoshopped perfection and the self-loathing of being unable to live up to those unachievable standards. But do you know what kind of message Lena Dunham is sending? One of confidence, beauty and bravery for women of all shapes and sizes.

Photo via IndieWire

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  1. I am not trying to sound like I am going against the crowd, but I find her kind of attractive. I just have a thing for women who are kind of quirky and looks aren’t all that attractiveness is based on.

  2. Overall, I think she’s annoying…and I think she tries to hard. And to top it off, she’s weird looking which makes it worse lol…sorry

    • What you’re saying is the exact point this article is trying to make. “she’s weird looking which makes it worse” this whole article is about how her looks cause so much negativity, even though she looks like the majority of the population. She is real and engaging, and confident. Plus you saying she is “weird looking” is so horrible, she can’t help the way she looks. Nobody can. So if you were her, how would you feel if someone was judging your successful, award winning work, by using a pointless and rude statement by just saying she is “weird looking which makes it worse” Think before you speak.

  3. It would be strange and booring if we all were “perfectly carved”. Good looks alone are not enough to live a happy life.

  4. I agree 100%. I read a book years ago called “Seductress: Women who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love”. It was a study of real women throughout the ages who were known for being irresistible to men, and changed society, governments, and the world as we know it. Here’s the thing: only a handful of them were considered physically beautiful. Most of them charisma and personality to spare. Lou-Andreas Salome was the first female psychoanalyst, and broke Nietzsche’s heart because she refused to marry him. She was considered quite ugly, and yet was having men beg to be in her company even as a bald old lady. Sexual attractiveness starts and ends in our minds.
    Bravo to Lena Dunham for being an artist, and all the other real women we should also be admiring!

  5. I am sick of talking about her looks in one way or the other. Also, when she wore those shorty shorts and that long top and everyone criticized her for it and she was all like “If a skinny girl wore that nobody would say shit about it,” I thought that was complete bullshit. It was an ugly outfit and she looked like she wasn’t wearing pants. Anybody wearing that outfit would have got read for that. I like the show but I’m over all the hype and discussion about her body/looks/etc.

  6. You don’t have to say what era Lena Dunham would have been beautiful in to make the point that measuring the quality of a show on the female character’s appearance is sexist and shallow. It’s a back handed compliment to say that she would have been a babe in another century. Why do you have to bring up her appearance at all (she has pretty eyes and proportionate waste??) Let’s just say Dunham is a brilliant artist, haters to the left.

    No, Hannah is not a real woman, she is a character on a show. Lena Dunham is a real woman just as Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whitely are real woman. Megan and Rosie just happen to fit the characteristics of an over-represented demographic of women. We don’t have to put down this demographic to make others feel better about themselves. All women are real women: curvy and narrow, thick and thin, groomed and au natural, toned and soft.

    I’m not sure we serve ourselves well when we start talking about “who deserves to feel beautiful”. Can we skip that and start talking about who deserves more representation in the arts, who deserves equal pay, and equal respect? (Answer: women)

  7. This is everything I thought when reading the terrible reviews. Thank you and I love you.

  8. What? This episode was the BEST TV I’ve seen in a long time and so empowering!
    We really need to stop objectifying woman (and men for that matter).
    Just because the media deems one part of a couple as ‘less attractive’ doesn’t mean that the situation is not plausible. Lena is the voice of a generation which does not objectify woman and most of all, shows us HUMAN BEINGS and not stereotypical gender illusions.

  9. OMG how ridiculous? I can not believe that people are saying they they found the episode unbelievable. What you need to do is start watching some English soaps or drama. I moved from there years ago to Australia where there is lots of American TV. I was sitting watching TV with my Australian mother in law when she commented that she liked to watch English shows more because the actors were more normal looking. I am not USA bashing at all but I think there are too many shows that come out of America were everyone looks like a model. Some people can’t believe Lena and the Dr hooking up. I can’t believe that all the perps and victims on SVU look that great. Went to see Silver Linings Playbook the other day. Great movie but come on, Bradley Cooper has a break down when his wife has an affair with a bald fifty year old geography sub teacher. Yeah that would happen. Lena is an attractive young woman, she is funny and sexy. Patrick Wilson is not even all that hot and he plays an older guy. Older guys love younger women giving them attention. On the nudity, there is absolutely no point in saying “I am not a prude but is there any need for all the nudity”. Er newsflash if you have a problem with nudity you actually are a prude. There is no shame in the human body it is beautiful and amazing and of course if you hang with a man all weekend for sex, then I think there possibly could be some nudity going on there. Finally, the idea that no one has ever just met a person and then hung around their house for a weekend doing it is completely alien. People do that all the bloody time there are even web sites apps dedicated to it. I love the show it is awesome to see some real people portrayed in all their fucked up ridiculousness. There has not been one unbelievable bit yet. Truth is always stranger than fiction. xx

  10. I happen to like Lena Dunham and I believe she is very good at what she does when it comes to writing and directing the show. That being said, I’m having a hard time with understanding all of her nudity. I’m no prude by any means and that’s not what this is about. It’s more so that she is shoving the “im not a stereotypical model figure” down the viewer’s throat. I get it: she’s proud, comfortable in her skin, and wanting to give society a glimpse of what a “real woman” looks like. But my concern is maybe she is trying too hard. There are ways to prove a point without being naked for virtually the entire episode. I reference the drastically underrated, utterly brilliant HBO drama “The Wire.” There was a character named Omar, who was a gay, black, cold-blooded killer. And the point was proven very well. That being said, he wasn’t having sex with his boyfriend in every episode to prove a point. I think Hannah’s character’s self-righteousness meshes with Lena Dunham’s artistic choices and it takes away from her as a writer and creator.

    There’s no denying that society as a whole is more forgiving when it comes to overweight men. However, if King of Queens was on HBO, I find it hard to believe we wouldn’t be having a conversation like this if Kevin James was full-frontal every episode.

  11. My biggest issue with this episode had nothing to do with Hannah’s body or the fact that Patrick’s character was into her. It’s the fact that the events themselves were so left field! I never saw any of it coming, it was so dream-like and self-conscious, I half expected it to be a daydream at the end. Much like the Buffy episode, “Restless,” which was also a character-development, retrospective piece of television that I love. Except unlike “Restless,” which was consciously working with the characters’ psyche’s in an internal dreamscape, this episode of Girls was trying to pass itself off as the “real world.” Even though I scoffed at Marnie hooking up with Booth Jonathan, and screamed, “What’s wrong with you girl?!” I could get through it because it was set up in season one. Even though I was shocked at Jessa marrying Thomas-John, I could get through it because she’s so reactionary and impulsive, of course she would do that. And I know so many girls in their 20s who are like Shoshanna, it’s scary. But how often does someone meet a man for 2 seconds, go to his apartment, get invited in for lemonade, confess to dumping trash in his apartment, and spend the weekend with him having sex and playing naked ping-pong and confessing secrets? This episode was too surreal to be deep and meaningful to me. I was too busy thinking “this would never happen!” to be invested in the story. Again, not because of the way she looks, but because of the absurdity of the situation itself. I love the show, don’t get me wrong, it’s just when you produce episodes that are so introspective and focused (without the other girls to balance out Hannah’s self-obsession, which is starting to be a bit much), you risk turning off some of your audience. I love it when all the girls are present, it makes for a richer show. Being so directed on Hannah (a lot of people’s least favorite character) is a bit alienating to those of us who tuned in for an ensemble cast. So for me at least, this episode was rough not because of Hannah’s body and a hot guy sleeping with her, it’s because the situation was so far-fetched and mainly because I missed the other girls. But I’ll be tuning in next week for sure.

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  13. This is about society’s warped views on women. It feels like most of the criticism towards Girls and Lena Dunham are because she is a young female empowering women. No one carries on about anything being unrealistic in any other show on television because the majority of stuff being created these days is by men and for a male-dominated cast and society. It feels like that’s what the biggest issue that people have about Girls is.

    It’s written by a brilliant young woman, about young women, for young women. The world is so deprived of this that it’s almost as if they just don’t understand how to take it. Lena Dunham should be heralded as a true inspiration and instead she is being constantly slammed.

    Has anyone ever considered that the outfits Hannah wears in the show are for a reason? Because she’s trying to open people up to a different way of thinking outside of the bland, super skinny, designer clothed?!

    That episode should have been a revelation to EVERYONE that we should always be aiming higher. Shame on you, mass media.

  14. I also loved this episode. And I love what you have to say about it. I don’t understand why so many people find this implausible. The doctor was lonely, his wife recently left him, he stuck in this big brownstone all by himself — then this girl half his age shows up on his doorstep and pretty much throws herself at him. I don’t think there are many guys out there that would turn her down. Plus I think it was a major learning experience for her. She walked away realizing that she wants more from life — and it may be the kick she needs to get out of the coffee shop and start her career.

  15. I did not know who Rosie Hungtington-Whitely was, until I read this and had to google her. However I do know who Lena Dunham is, she possesses much more than a pretty face, she has a beautiful mind. This episode inspired me to be braver and more confident. I love the way she rocks short shorts and kisses first. She is amazing.

  16. I love Lena. She looks adorable, she rocks her tattoos with class, she’s incredibly intelligent and talented and she’s dating a highly successful and talented musician. Not to mention she stood out like sunshine in her bright yellow dress at the Grammys. It’s sad that we have to tell girls that it’s okay to not look like a Victoria’s Secret model, yet we get condemned when we don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models. Either way, I feel like Lena is a strong enough woman to just shake off those stupid criticisms.

  17. Dear Marissa A Ross,
    As a young female artist and actor (of 25), I really appreciate this article, and your words. I absolutely adore Lena!!!
    (My Brother, 26, evens likes her show “Girls” – I think it’s because they have created something that our generation can truly relate too -but still fictional)
    “GIRLS” is doing something incredible, the show has produced an almost “Sex and the City” like inspirational set of strong female characters, but the language and the themes and plots are very current. The quirkyness and awkwardness of dating and sex is on the nose within the story.
    What I love most about the show, (my brother and I agree on this) is that the characters make mistakes, and they struggle with their inner selves, which is something we all experience as human beings. *I kind of sort of miss the character Adam* – I awed OUT LOUD when they “became official” in that awkward, almost angry moment on the street, and then the very next scene, Lena is smiling EAR to EAR in the cab. -

    She has made an incredible feat as a young woman in the industry.
    -IN DIRECT RESPONSE TO YOUR ARTICLE: I think its SO silly that people are “bashing” the last episode.. regardless of looks and the plot, HANNAH IS A CHARACTER – and we ALL grew up hearing our parents tell us that Fiction IS exactly THAT, fiction.
    So to the “critics” : GET OVER IT. PEOPLE LIKE THE SHOW. Go and harp on that junk that we call “reality t.v.”

    And PRAISE FOR LENA:
    Lena Dunham is a REAL woman with talent, intellect and MUCH BEAUTY!
    She is inspirational to the REAL women of the world, the one’s who have to motivate themselves to work out (me), the one’s who struggle with their emotions, goals, pride and sometimes self esteem.
    (When I use the word REAL, I mean a woman who is HERSELF. Not dressing up for anyone, or trying to be a sex-kitten, a woman with a mind, curves or no curves. A woman who doesn’t sell herself short, or sell herself out to the “norm”)

    I don’t mean to harpoon on Maxim and other “sexified” media, but they need to put an end to it all. I grew up thinking I was terribly ugly because I was short and chubby and had massive brown, curly and wild hair with medium sized, grey blue eyes. I was never anything special, (or so I thought). All of my tall skinny blonde girl friends would have attention from the boys, but not me. I wish Lena was in the media’s eye when I was a kid. She would have helped me to believe in myself more, because she is simply HERSELF!!!!

    Women are NOT objects. (I hope there will come a day when I won’t need to say those words anymore), We are humans, and I’m sorry to say but in many cases the women in those magazines are OVER manicured. I don’t even find them pretty half the time. Too much makeup, stupid duck faces (that we make fun of on facebook), with obvious airbrushing.
    And don’t get me wrong, if you work hard for your fitness, GOOD FOR YOU! Be proud, wear nice clothes, but work your brain as well Ladies!!!!!
    And Do Not Compare yourself to those women in the magazines………
    Maybe it’s just cause I grew up in the 90′s but…………”She Ain’t Pretty She Just Looks That Way” –

    Lena Dunham is gorgeous, she has self esteem, talent, intellect, strength, motivation and she knows how to use it all. OH and did I mention HOW FUNNY she is. Wow. I adore her. I wish I was as strong as she was.
    I feel like it’s silly that the media is STILL attacking women who are not “Maxim hot”. Those magazines, like porn, are bullshit. Unrealistic expectations that leave everyday (beautiful) women feeling worthless, uneasy, uninspired, and possibly unloved (so to speak).

    Life encompasses so much more than looks and more than sex, and maybe if we keep speaking up about it, maybe something will change one day.
    Maybe we can finally teach our boys to respect and love women for their brains And teach our girls to NOT define themselves by the way our peers (and the media) see us, physically.
    - Maybe we can finally put an end to this disgusting parade of naked and half naked, looks-possessed women and men and we can FINALLY move on with our evolution as human beings.
    Don’t Hang Back With The Brutes!!!!!!!!

    Keep Talking Ladies!!!!!

    -and Hello Giggles….. I think you’re on to something with your website here.
    You spread love, hope, inspiration, and remind us to watch what we say, because the world, after all, is a small place.
    love love love love love.
    I hope to grow up to be women like you. Strong. Passionate. Compassionate, and motivated.

    sincerely,

    Jennifer Verardi

  18. I read the article in the New York Post and was extremely disgusted by it. Seeing a successful woman bash another woman in such a public and popular forum was truly a sad thing to see. I just want to quickly add that each week I watch with a group of my girlfriends, sisters, guy friends and 2 of my brothers. This past Sunday I wasn’t able to watch with my usual group, and when I met up with my 23 year old brother on Tuesday his first words to me were… “Dude! Did you watch the last Girls yet?? It was aaaawesome.” Attractive, straight, single brother btw. I just thought it was interesting that, coming from a guy, his reaction was not, “That guy would NEVER get with her!”… but instead it is women saying such things. Sad.

  19. I read the article in the New York Post and was extremely disgusted by it. Seeing a successful woman bash another woman in such a public and popular forum was truly a sad thing to see. I just want to quickly add that each week I watch with a group of my girlfriends, sisters, guy friends and 2 of my brothers. This past Sunday I wasn’t able to watch with my usual group, and when I met up with my 23 year old brother on Tuesday his first words to me were… “Dude! Did you watch the last Girls yet?? It was aaaawesome.” Attractive, straight, single brother btw.