Opinion: Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling take on the body shamers

If you think Lena Dunham’s nudity in “Girls” is a revolutionary act because her body doesn’t conform to Hollywood’s skin-and-bones-and-boobs ideal (and I do!), then you really have to give her props for taking that unapologetic attitude about her figure to another level in last week’s episode of “Girls.”

Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath, is often seen in various states of undress, but those scenes usually take place in the privacy of her apartment. In this episode, however, we rarely see her fully clothed.

Instead, she spends most of the 30 minutes in a green string bikini. Which makes sense given that the episode, “Beach House,” takes place in the New York vacation town of North Fork. But she doesn’t even cover up when the girls go into town for groceries.


It’s one thing for viewers to see Hannah get dressed in front of her boyfriend. But brazenly wearing a bathing suit in public, something that makes a lot of women cower with anxiety and self-shame? Now that’s really flying in the face of our unfair cultural expectations.

“Think about the female stars of your favorite shows: Julianna Margulies of ‘The Good Wife,’ Julia Louis-Dreyfus of ‘Veep,’ Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen of ‘Modern Family.’ Not an ounce of visible fat on a single one of them,” Times columnist Robin Abcarian wrote.

Commenting on the episode, Abcarian praised Dunham for being a role model and embodying “the kind of self-love we’d all like to see in our daughters.”

I agree. (Not that I have a daughter, but I am a daughter, and I like the idea of moms holding up Dunham as a role model.)

I’d like to extend that praise to Mindy Kaling too. Like Dunham, Kaling defies Hollywood’s narrow standard of beauty, and she too is using her TV show “The Mindy Project” to make a statement.

Sure, her character’s shtick is girlier and more self-conscious than Dunham’s Hannah. In that way, Kaling’s character Mindy Lahiri is, at least for me, more relatable. But like Dunham, she’s confronting our perception of what’s beautiful and empowering viewers to accept their curvy, womanly figures.

In the recent episode “Danny C Is My Personal Trainer,” for example, Mindy decides to get in shape before going on a getaway that would require her to wear a bikini in front of her boyfriend. She admits to feeling bad about all of her perceived flaws, and it’s a horrible laundry list that too many women can relate to. But then we get a heartwarming, reassuring moment when Danny gives it to her straight: “You’re a woman and that’s good; look like a woman.”

But the truly beautiful moment in the episode is her nude self-appraisal. As the A.V. Club’s Gwen Ihnat wrote in her show recap, “accepting the full-on version of herself (and why not, she looks great) is not only helpful for Mindy but for everyone who has the tendency to body-shame themselves.”


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