Lena Dunham analyzes three episodes of ‘Girls’
— Lena Dunham finally moved out of her parents’ house last year, buying a modest, one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn Heights. It’s her first place all her own, full of pillows and trophies, located on the top floor of an old building where Dunham is surrounded by elderly neighbors, people the 27-year-old creator and star of the HBO comedy “Girls” calls her “emotional demographic.”
“I love them,” Dunham says, “though some of them are constantly consternated with me coming home at 10 p.m. They think you’re a hooker if you’re out past 9:30. That’s something I’ve dealt with. ‘You guys! I’m 27 and I’m home six hours before all my peers.’”
Dunham’s actual peers have turned “Girls” into one of television’s most talked-about — and scrutinized — programs. Though the series is far from a ratings powerhouse, its small audience is obsessive about following the weekly trials and occasional triumphs of its quartet of young New York women. Placing a glass of lemonade carefully next to Dunham’s prized, paperback copy of Fran Drescher’s “Enter Whining,” we asked her to talk about three of the season’s most controversial episodes.
“One Man’s Trash”
The season’s fifth episode found Dunham’s Hannah playing house — and having a lot of sex — with Joshua (don’t call him “Josh”), a gorgeous doctor played by Patrick Wilson. Hannah’s 48-hour tryst gives her a glimpse of a grown-up life far removed from her usual dodgy, day-to-day existence. The episode generated a fair amount of talk over whether an attractive, well-heeled doctor would hook up with Hannah.
Mismatched couple? It’s such a funny response, the idea that a handsome, 42-year-old man would never sleep with an awkward, 24-year-old girl. It felt so oddly mathematical, like it was a bunch of scientists who had done a calculation rather than people who had a real grasp on the realities of being alone in the city. There’s so many forms of human capital, and they’re not all looks.
OK. But Patrick Wilson? That was the only argument I heard: “It feels weird to me.” And I’m like, “Dude, I get it. It felt weird to kiss an actor that looked like Patrick Wilson.” I get so tired of having to cry out “misogyny,” but that’s what’s going on in this situation. People questioning the idea that a woman could sleep with a man who defied her lot in the looks bracket hews so closely to these really outdated ideas about what makes a woman worth spending time with. Really? Can you not imagine a world in which a girl who’s sexually down for anything and oddly gregarious pulls a guy out of his shell for two days? They’re not getting married. They’re spending two days [having sex], which is something that people do.
Fantasy fulfillment: Richard Shepard, who directed the episode, would use the word “dreamy” to talk about the stylistic choices he was making. And some people thought maybe the whole episode was just a dream of Hannah’s. That was an interesting angle. But this isn’t “Twin Peaks,” you know? I think for Hannah, just sleeping in late is a fantasy. And if you added up the thread counts in her entire house, the linens on Joshua’s bed would probably beat it.
“On All Fours”
Hannah’s obsessive-compulsive disorder resurfaces, as does the alcoholism — and self-loathing — of her ex, Adam, who has an awful sexual encounter with Natalia, his new girlfriend.
Scariest sex of the season: Questions were thrown out about the idea of consent. Did what Adam do constitute rape? That’s hard for me to answer. I’m a rabid feminist. and no woman should ever be placed in a sexual situation that leaves her feeling degraded or compromised. That’s not what sex is supposed to feel like. But I don’t think Adam is a villain. If he thought he had even touched the R-word, he would be unable to live. To me, it seemed like a terrible miscommunication between two people who didn’t know what they really wanted.
Too much? A moment like that, which is so humiliating to Natalia, wouldn’t be visceral enough unless you show the offending substance. My dad’s personal trainer thought it was too much semen. Everyone’s a critic.
Rebuke to porn? In some ways, all the sex on the show is a rebuke to porn. So much of what happens sexually today is from porn. My entire sex life has been against that backdrop. What did it used to be like? I totally don’t know. I’d have to sit down with my mother and compare and contrast her early 20s sex life, and that’s not a conversation I feel like having.
The season finale reunited Hannah and Adam, and Marnie and Charlie, and put Shoshanna back on the market. It was marked by a sweeping romanticism previously unseen in the show.
Adam makes viewers swoon: That’s as romantic as I can get as a writer. Adam running to Hannah via FaceTime speaks to the intensity of rom-com endings. Don’t people just meet at the coffee shop rather than run to the aiport to find somebody? But we also all want someone to run to the airport to find us. So we wanted something that did both.
Sorry, Charlie: I’ve had so many concerned Twitter followers ask: What are you going to do without Charlie? (Actor Christopher Abbott left the show.) I want to say, “If the show ‘Girls’ relied on guys, we’d be up a creek without a paddle.” Don’t worry. I’ve tried to come up with an emotionally honest version of the end of that relationship.
Too happy an ending? People are always complaining that there are no wins for the characters. Well, we had an episode of super-wins! It’s funny. I don’t experience life as being this series of downs, but I’ve never been drawn to writing about characters experiencing great joy and triumph. Let’s just say I’d be the wrong writer for the bright side.
Full coverage: Emmys 2013
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