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. She’s quite annoying because her personality. But her body is hers, and we can see that she’s really proud of it. Talking trash about a body is an easy way to know how shallow a person is.

  2. I’m not skinny, but I’m not fat. I won’t say what I am. I’ll just say…Girl.

  3. I love your article. I love Lena. I love the episode!

    People need to stop ragging on Lena’s body. Yes she’s heavier than your average actress, yes she has curves and small boobs, no she doesn’t have a “maxim model” persona. There’s no hiding it…. But she’s beautiful damnit!! She’s not fake or airbrushed looking. She’s a normal woman! I’m pretty sure she’s aware of her body, just like we all are aware of our own imperfections. The only difference is she’s not ashamed to put it on TV for the world to see. So all the harsh criticism needs to stop. She encourages me and makes me feel like “why am I hiding my body or ashamed of it? I’m beautiful too, I just need to own it like she does!”

    Another thing — What is the so unrealistic about an attractive man finding an “unattractive” woman sexy and wanting to sleep with her? Maybe not all attractive men are a shallow assholes. Maybe not all attractive men want to be with a woman who is 5″9, 120 lbs and a 34D. A lot of men do find women who are curvy and fun and spontanious to be beatiful and sexy. Just because she’s not the Maxim model doesn’t mean a hot guy can’t want her!

  4. If anything I am envious of Lena Dunham’s looks, she is unbelievably pretty in my opinion as are the rest of the cast. I can’t describe how much I agree with this article, it’s just great!

  5. Did any of these critics have a problem with the late nineties sitcom trope of the schlubby husband and the hot wife? People chuckled at the idea that Leah Remini would choose to be with Kevin James, but the idea that it’s ludicrous for someone that looks like Lena Dunham to land a “hot guy” is insulting to all women. I didn’t see this episode, so I can’t comment on the specifics, but I can say that I have roughly the same body type as Lena and have been hit on by (and have hooked up with) guys that I would’ve thought were way out of my league. Just because a critic doesn’t find Lena attractive doesn’t mean that all men have the same taste in women. There are some men out there who aren’t attracted to incredibly skinny women and those kinds of men are going to go for someone like Lena. And you know what? A woman who is curvier or heavier than someone on the cover of Cosmo ought to be looking for a man like that, someone who likes her shape.

    There are also men out there who are just looking for a hole to stick their penis in and if a woman is willing, they won’t turn her down, no matter if he thinks she has a few extra pounds. Regardless of your feelings on casual sex or the hookup culture, that’s most definitely a true statement.

    This is reminiscent of the recent flap over Melissa McCarthy and the idea that she’s too fat to be taken seriously as a comedic actress, as if anyone ever thought that was a problem for Chris Farley.

    • RIGHT?! THANK YOU. EVEN GEORGE COSTANZA HAD A CHANCE WITH MARISA TOMEI, C’MON WORLD.

      Marissa A. Ross | 2/13/2013 12:02 pm
      • Kramer got with quite a few women, too., and while he wasn’t a heavy dude he was definitely not mean to be conventionally attractive. Yet it was never considered particularly ludicrous that he could be successful at dating.

  6. I’ve only just started watching Girls and I absolutely love it! I can see myself more in Lena Dunham than in any of the stars of Sex in the City–which I like how it was touched upon in the first episode with Shoshanna btw. I love Dunham’s style–how she’s not always made up to be this fashionista and I think she is just beautiful in her own unique way. No woman’s body is totally perfect and her’s is more on par with my own than these freakin’ supermodels that are paraded on every single magazine cover like it’s the “standard” or something. It’s ridiculous! Let the critics criticize and Lena just keep doing what you are doing.

  7. I just started watching Girls a couple of weeks ago and caught up on past episodes and I LOVE that Lena is so into the show and her character that she is willing to flaunt her wonderfully perfect imperfections, especially in a world so intolerant of imperfection in women. THANK YOU LENA!!!! I think you are amazing, talented, and BEAUTIFUL!!!

  8. I loved this episode. Hannah was beautiful and irreverant and vulnerable. I loved how space and time stopped and they were the only 2 that existed for a spell. It was raw and funny and sexy. Proud to be a Lena fan!!!

  9. Thanks to everyone for the amazing response! I’m so pleased that you all have taken the time to read it, respond to it, and hopefully share it.

    I know there’s a lot to say about the episode itself (personally, I loved it), but that’s why I purposefully didn’t address it. Regardless of the structure or the characters, Lena is an incredibly driven and talented woman who should be applauded as such.

    Thank you again. I’m so grateful that HG has such a vibrant and loving community. I hope you all have a wonderful day.

    Marissa A. Ross | 2/13/2013 12:02 pm
  10. Such a great article!! I agree 100%. Lena Dunham is gorgeous, hilarious and incredibly smart. I hate the whole negative media, going on about looks and who’s having a bad hair day etc. I love Girls because it’s so real and I can really connect with it. Love it!!

  11. Most every woman has been with a man (or another woman for that matter) that had her feeling unworthy. He made too much money, dressed better than her, had a family dynasty that overshadowed hers, etc. Lena successfully accomplished the depiction of the range of emotions involved by embodying us all. Elated at the chance to be involved with this beautiful being, Hannah seized the opportunity and fell completely. She lost herself in Joshua. Acknowledging that the experience is simply a glimpse into the impossible (or a very difficult possible), Hannah sabotages the fling. She resists committing to a fictitious future, but in the end learns so much about herself. I anticipate that Hannah will no longer be aimless, and in contrast to her past she will pursue happiness.

  12. I notice many of the comments here and elsewhere say that a “normal woman” has curves or hips and are not stick thin, but I challenge you all to change your worldview. There is no one definition to a normal woman. A woman with curves can be normal or a woman who has very little body fat can be normal. Keep in mind when one comments on the figure of someone in the media words rarely affect the person they’re aimed at but instead impact others in your community with the body type you are saying isn’t natural.

    • You are so completely right. As long as a woman is healthy, no one should have a right to criticize her body type or shape.

    • As someone who has a naturally petite frame and barely any curves, I completely agree with you. I just wish that there wasn’t such a focus on “perfection”. No one is perfect! Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope you have a great day.

      Marissa A. Ross | 2/13/2013 12:02 pm
  13. Thank you for this. I couldn’t agree more. I love how you compared her to the “muses of Renaissance art”! That’s exactly what I think every time I watch her. She reminds me of The Birth of Venus, and I think she’s beautiful. Physical beauty aside, I think Lena Dunham’s most beautiful quality is her confidence. I wish I had confidence like that. And, I’ll take Lena over Rosie any day!

  14. If you go to HBO’s YouTube page, they post “Inside The Episode” clips. Lena talks about how this episode is more about a fantasy life. So, for those saying that there was too much of her in the episode, that’s why. I thought it was a great episode and I do suggest you watch the “Inside The Episode” clips to every episode.

  15. Yeah, everything you just said would be right… If we were in 1400s Italy. But we’re not. So she’s going to forever be perceived as relatively unattractive. But good for her for making some bank in the meantime.

    • I think “forever” is a long time, and quite cynical. If we all keep working towards creating better examples of strong women in entertainment and media, hopefully our children won’t be stuck having these sorts of conversations.

      Marissa A. Ross | 2/13/2013 12:02 pm
  16. I really liked this last episode. I don’t understand why it seems so far-fetched to people, and I thought it was a nice window into Hannah’s inner workings. I can’t say I agree with the sentiment that it’s “empowering” to go out and sleep with random men, but I think Lena is lovely and embodies much of what is good and bad about the current generation of twentysomethings. Say whatever else you will about her, she is very true to life.

  17. oh – one more thing – STUNNING at the Grammies, Lena! Absolutely STUNNING!

  18. Although Lena’s looks are average by comparison to the rest of Hollywood standards she gives me hope that people disregard looks for actual talent. She’s talented and before watching Girls I thought she was average to star in a HBO show. Then, I saw that Judd Apatow helps with the show and it made more sense. He’s gotten normal looking talented people an outlet to do what they’re good at. I’m not saying that Lena is successful because of him but I am glad he’s attached to that show. Remember Freaks and Geeks!!?! That show was a total GEM that started the careers of James Franco, Busy Phillips, James Frances Daily, Seth Rogen, Jason Segal. That said, after seeing her on the show and watching her in interviews I find her incredible. She has a beautiful soul and I am glad she is doing T.V. I saw her recently on the cover of a magazine with Apatow and it was beautiful too. I wish people would quit focusing on her looks too because she isn’t a reality star she’s a HOLLYWOOD STAR with actual talent! Looks aren’t what’s important even though she’s beautiful anyway.

  19. 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.

  20. 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…

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