I don’t watch Girls (or anything else with, from, or about Lena Dunham), but I was still interested in Silpa Kovvali’s take on Lena Dunham and privilege.
The clear implication is that Girls is an origin tale of sorts, chronicling what life was like for Dunham before she got it together and made it big. But in reality, Dunham and her castmates, all of comparable pedigree, are by and large playing characters far less privileged than they are. AtGirls‘s worst moments, the show veers dangerously close to mocking people poorer than her. Its most prominent theme — Hannah’s irresponsibility, laziness, and self-satisfaction — seems less a systemic critique of unpaid creative internships than an allegation that middle class kids who wish to pursue the same career paths as their upper class friends are spoiled and bratty. In a particularly grating scene, Hannah’s mother shrilly screams that she is cutting her daughter off because she wants a lake house. But it is simply good parenting for members of the middle class to steer their children away from fields that don’t promise a steady income. They don’t have the luxury of supporting their children forever, even if they’re willing to forego their desire to “sit by a fucking lake.”
Yet when asked about what distinguishes her from Hannah, Dunham shows no comprehension of the degree to which privilege can drive life choices. Frighteningly, she sees herself as less entitled than her on-screen counterpart, whose parents revoke their financial support in the series’s opening scene. “I’m sure that I’ve had some really unattractive, spoiled moments in my years, but I’ve never — that conversation that Hannah had has never happened to me, in large part because when I graduated from college, my parents let me live with them, but they made it really clear that they weren’t going to support any of my endeavors,” she told NPR. One wonders precisely what the starlet thinks supporting oneself means. The most glaring differences between Dunham and her character seem to be that she is far wealthier, better-connected, and has parents who live in Manhattan.
I’ve been reading more and more about privilege and class issues over the last couple of years, and this is one of the more interesting pieces I’ve read.