On Friday night the London Southbank Royal Festival Hall hosted Brooklyn’s own Lena Dunham, the writer, director and star of HBO’s Emmy award winning ‘Girls’ and the feature film ‘Tiny Furniture.’ The Festival Hall was packed to see her interviewed about her new book ‘Not that kind of Girl’ with the journalist Caitlin Moran. She filled the venue usually reserved for grand Orchestras with ease. The adoring crowd warmed to Dunham (the self confessed anglophile) as if she were one of their own, to the point where there were times that felt as if it was Dame Judi Dench sat on stage and not a young twenty eight year old woman.
For someone so young, Dunham sat at on a stool with a green bob haircut and a large mug of green tea and read to the audience as if she was sitting in her own living room. Her refreshing honesty on topics ranging from her digging out her mothers nude ‘selfies’ from her New York loft, to her opinions on the representation of women in the media, made it an insightful and thought provoking evening. One to never shy away from media criticism, Dunham defiantly mocked the Daily Mail’s most recent comments about her figure. She said, “The Daily Mail said I had debuted a noticeably slimmer face”. It was so funny. I was enraged from a feminist perspective but also felt like, “Thank you! Enjoy my noticeably slimmer face!”
It’s clear that from her early beginnings via student videos and her two feature films, ‘Creative Non-fiction’ and ‘Tiny Furniture’, that Dunham has used her perception of herself visually and creatively as a source of great inspiration. She talked passionately about how she has always felt women haven’t been represented honestly on screen and she whole-heartedly wants to use her position to bring about change to the industry. She claimed that the women’s bodies she saw on television when she was young were ridiculous, slim, taut and unlike her own. She also thought that sex scenes followed suit with ‘men inhaling a women’s scent before couples simultaneously climaxed.’ She wanted to represent what real women are like and portray all the things that women do but aren’t ‘allowed’ to talk about.
On the topic of her feature debut 2008 film ‘Tiny Furniture’, Dunham was quizzed by the audience about its ambiguous ending. She claimed that, “I know a lot of people were confused about the ending but I’m no David Lynch. It’s just about a girl who’s feeling the onwards march of time. I think it’s really important to look back at your old work and revisit it and hug yourself for trying.” Although she admits ‘Tiny Furniture’ isn’t her most polished work it’s one that helped form the foundations of Girls, as it revolves around a mid-twenties young woman trying to find her feet after graduation.
The only time Dunham came under fire was when the race question was raised about her under-representation of different ethnicities in ‘Girls.’ She adequately defended herself by raising the point that if ‘Girls’ is the starting point to make change in the industry as far as racial representation is concerned, then that can only be a good thing. It’s clear that Dunham has ambitions to include different ethnicities in future series of ‘Girls’ and part of her intentions could be to silence the doubters. However, I feel that she has nothing to prove, as she rightly pointed out it’s up to the predominately white male commissioners in the television industry to introduce these changes and I feel that the quality of her show shouldn’t be questioned because of it. The finger was never pointed towards ‘Friends,’ ‘Frasier’ or any other American sitcom for that matter for their omission of different ethnicities. It is quite possible that Dunham has changed the landscape with the honesty of ‘Girls’ and feels that she is now somehow responsible representing the every-day woman regardless of her ethnicity.
What became clear over the 90-minute interview is that underneath all her anxiety-ridden idiosyncrasies, Dunham is in fact a calm head on mature shoulders, laden with talent, scope and originality.