Let's Leave Lena Dunham's Looks Alone Now, Please

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=601026822 Mike Zellers

    Lena looks fine. As far how realistic it is for a non-supermodel to hve an affair with a powerful older man, ask Bill Clinton.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1361529631 Celeste Rybicki

    Eff yes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=779465631 Jess Allen-Summers

    I could not agree more, it’s ridiculous that we even have to say this but Lena is truly beautiful and if people have some kind of a problem with the show then they can kindly refrain from watching. She is beautiful and talented and is going to go far. Plenty of times we see fat/ugly/bald men hooking up with model-esque women in tv and film and no-one brings it up, funny that.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1465800134 Paige Raleigh Minka

    Couldn’t have said it better!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509009394 Caitlyn Hampton

    Great article! You know, sad thing is, I’m so brain-washed by the media that when I first started watching the show I was turned off. And yes, it was a shallow reaction to the main character. However, as I gave the show more chances, I fell in love with the writing, the characters (including Hannah), its base in reality (I can relate to EVERYTHING in it), and eventually Hannah’s looks.

    I personally have huge self-esteem issues in the shallow sense, and I do partly blame the media for it. If I had role models like Hannah/Lena growing up, maybe I would be more okay with little “flaws” I find on myself, or those “extra” five pounds I’ve never lost because I’m just at my natural state. I wish we could all become more accepting of all types of beauty, because then we could maybe become more accepting of ourselves. Thanks, again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=18900644 Ramou Sarr

    I have been obsessed with this conversation since Sunday and am still trying to coherently string together my thoughts, but I think what’s getting to me the most is this idea that we cling to that only thin, beautiful people deserve happiness. It’s this cultural epidemic I think that we’re all kind of starved for someone to tell us that we’re OK, and, to us (I’m using us broadly to mean society, although obviously not every single person ever believes this, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We all live here, we’re all subject to this) OK = beautiful. I kind of hate the notion that every single one of us is beautiful, because it’s just not true. What’s problematic to me is that this eagerness to declare everyone as beautiful reinforces the belief that only beautiful people are worthy of great things. It’s not really in dispute that Lena Dunham is not conventionally attractive by society’s standards. It doesn’t seem helpful to me for the response to that to be – No, SHE’S BEAUTIFUL! Because she doesn’t have to be! Not beautiful people can still be brilliant, and successful, and have great relationships with people, and great sex! And that is what we need to be talking about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570638300 KayCie Gravelle

    Lena Dunham is one of the only women on television right now who looks even remotely like me. I really loved this particular episode because while it was still Hannah getting up to shenanigans it was low-key and emotional. It’s not at all far-fetched that a girl like Hannah would land Joshua. He’s older, professional and has been (but as he persists is not really) married. He may be pretty but as he says so is Hannah. She’s not a twig but she’s a beautiful woman and she’s smart and sweet and she’s so friggin’ endearing. It never once crossed my mind that Joshua wasn’t actually attracted to her and that’s the best part of this episode. The only time you see him in anything resembling “turned off” is when Hannah starts talking about her feelings and that’s 100% relatable. He was attracted to her, he wanted to have sex with her but ultimately it was a fling for him and Hannah’s intense feelings were the only thing that made her less desirable to him. As someone who’s had moments with older men it was nice to see that Lena and the writers could show such an honest representation of human behaviour. This is my favourite episode since Bushwick in season 1. Well done, Girls team and thank you Hellogiggles/Marissa for this article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513429378 Rhonda Talbot

    Great post. I wrote something similar yesterday. She’s fabulous. And possibly the first artist to ever use her body so publicly to drive home these very points, this impossible image we as women are supposed to live up to.



  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=566021048 Kirsten Mavric

    I am such a fan of Lena. I watched that episode in awe. She is so brave and so talented. I didn’t think it was at all implausible. She is single-handedly changing the way people make television and I applaud her for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002910555432 Alexandrea J. Wilson

    *slow dramatic clap* THIS WAS MAGNIFICENT! I love this! Why can’t our world change and start to see things better? I LOVE that you said that in the 1400’s Lena would’ve been a babe because that really tells you how society should not dictate at all what is the “ideal”. Simply because we change! Our perception evolves and what is considered hot today may be considered repulsive tomorrow. So instead we should be considering beauty to being authentic. That’s what I think. Because every individual is exactly that-an individual. There is no one like Lena just like there is no one like me or no one like Megan Fox or no one like you Marissa! :) And THAT’S what makes us absolutely beautiful! :) LOVED this post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6809266 Giliah Nagar

    It’s perfectly plausible for a middle aged man who is going through a divorce to fuck a 20something who comes into his house and makes the first move. I would have been a lot more surprised had he *not* gone for it.

    Anyway, my issue with the episode is that Hannah is a huge fucking asshole and is so self absorbed that it’s hard for me to watch. It has nothing to do with what she looks like. In my opinion, she’s really, really, REALLY unlikeable and that’s why for me this was one of my most hated episodes. What is so hard about saying “Joshua”? Why do you always talk about how smart you are? Why do you always dismiss the feelings of others? Ugh. It’s so hard to watch her. More of the other characters next week, please. I was actually looking forward to seeing what was going on with them, seeing as how they all have pretty interesting story lines right now, and all we got was more of Hannah being a complete self righteous asshole to people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1416960430 Neil Pechart

      You’re right. Hannah is rather unlikeable, but if you take a close look, all the characters are rather reprehensible or at least grating. The show is about flaws, first and foremost.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1071664223 Eleni Triantafillidou

      Thanks Gillian! my exact thoughts! I have no problem with her looks whatsoever, It is her immature and self absorbing character that disgusts me …

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1071664223 Eleni Triantafillidou

        SORRY! I misspelled your name Giliah, damn you myopia…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9008773 Amanda Sabourin Jagiello

      I can’t agree more- in fact I really started hating Lena as a byproduct of Hannah’s shitty behavior until I reminded myself that she wrote all of the characters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003527231847 Lux Elzinga

    My fiance and I watch Girls together every week, and this was the first week,he asked Is that plausable? Does that kind of thing really happen? I was able to relate a few stories of friends of mine and myself from my early 20’s that answered his question. I also think Lena is beautiful and there are MANY MANY men out there who agree. Just my 2 cents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=121900186 Karishna Khelani

    This is a great piece. Lena Dunham is a real girl and I applaud her courage to not only write Girls but also star in it. I would be a Lena in a Rose world any day of the week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1416960430 Neil Pechart

    Plausible or not, I don’t know or care. It was, however, IMO, the worst episode of the show. I liked it, just not nearly as much as any other episode. For starters, outside of the opening scene, Hannah is the only character to appear. The other characters are great and were completely absent. My second problem is that the beginning of the show had the usual “previously on Girls” segment, but none of those scenes pertained to this episode at all. In fact, NO scenes from any episode pertained to this episode in any way, shape or form. THAT’s why they show those previously-aired clips, to remind us of what happened so we’re ready for this episode (see The OC or Gossip Girl for the proper use of “previously” scenes).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=828845509 Sandra Castañeda López

    I’m with Giliah here. To me it was painful to watch not because of how she looks or her weight, but because I find Hanna’s personality utterly annoying and shitty, she’s so self-centered it makes me cringe almost evertytime. I guess that’s one of the refreshing things of this show, it’s kind of being able to watch real women, who fuck up, who are not perfect and sometimes can be total assholes, but are still human beings and have their good moments as well. I guess in some aspect or stage of our lives we’ve all been a bit or a lot like Hanna. Maybe that was the whole point of this particular episode, to make us feel something, even if it’s not what we usually expect.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=574045326 Katherine Schaffer

    There is no need to go back to the 1400’s to find reverance of a curvy figure. I recently watched a Mae West flick and was blown AWAY.

    • Marissa A. Ross


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34802962 Gina Nicole Brynildsen

    I couldn’t agree with you more. First of all – the episode is about a fling, not a marriage. I can bet that many men have experienced a “range” of different types of women in their dating history – who’s to say that Hannah and Josh are different from any other real life fling? Critics disbelieve this possibility, but it definitely happens; I’ve seen it. The premise of the episode is not THAT off-base. Second – why is it not ok that a girl like Hannah scores an attractive man? We see the opposite ALL THE TIME. This just reinforces a double standard that only attractive females get the guy. And third – and my biggest pet peeve – why is everyone bashing Lena Dunham? She’s beautiful. She may not be the thinnest woman ever, but who cares? If we keep bashing average women, we’ll only further reinforce negative self-images in young girls.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632959737 Maritza Alva

    I felt completely empowered reading this article. These were my thoughts exactly! Thank you for such a refreshing feminist approach. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=665944638 Edna Araujo

    Considering that men’s basic instinct is to go after the woman with the wide hips (and this is scientifically proven – it’s a remaining instinct from early cavemen instincts and the need to reproduce and prolong human species) I would say this was one of the most viable episodes of the series. Especially since the man is older. I have noticed that older men like “normal” women and not the stick figures Hollywood has been cramming down our throats over the years. Lena Dunham is one of my favorite actresses and I think she IS beautiful… not at all plastic fake women with fake body parts that look awful in the daylight and without makeup. Let’s face it… that movie “Death Becomes Her” kind of reminds me of 98% of Hollywood actresses. Let’s just up none of them fall down any stairs after someone’s funeral…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=606671693 Stacy O’Quin Kidd

    I personally thing Lena’s gorgeous. Hannah, on the other hand, needs to stop wearing clothes that are 2 sizes soo small for her – which I get is part of who Hannah is… and the show reflects how small her world truly is. Many people her age have much more global worldviews. When will Hannah have her “it’s not all about me” moment? And just for the record – I think Adam is awesome… even though he’s just as flawed as the rest of us.

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