I admit, it takes me a while to process new things and truly understand their meaning. For example, when I saw Lena Dunham in a knee-length lemon yellow dress in a sea of black tie during the Grammy’s, I couldn’t help wondering what that was about? Attention-getting? Possibly. But she was there with Grammy winner Jack Antonoff of the band Fun, and I don’t believe she’s the sort to try to steal her boyfriend’s thunder. Besides, she gets a lot of attention, usually about removing her clothes instead of what she’s actually wearing, so I didn’t think that was it. Then I received an email ad from Bergdorf Goodman’s. (Why, you ask? I’ve no idea.) And there was a model wearing the same exact dress as Lena’s. I just didn’t get the memo in time. Lemon yellow is the new black. Or…
Perhaps it was a clever publicity strategy since Lena Dunham and Jenn Konner are developing a new series based on All Dressed Up With Everywhere To Go, an upcoming memoir from New York fashion doyenne Betty Halbreich, 85, a longtime personal shopper and celebrity stylist based at the Bergdorf Goodman department store. Among her clients are Glenn Close and Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City. (A show that I think sounds awesome! Imagine Maggie Smith, Betty White and Anna Wintour all rolled into one!)
Now, for some reason, I hadn’t gotten around to watching the show Girls beyond the three episodes that screened at the WGA way back when the series began. So I recently decided to do a Girls marathon to see what everyone loves and/or hates about this show, and why Lena Dunham is such a lightning rod of controversy. And so now, I’m willing to add my own humble opinion to the discourse!
It is true. Lena Dunham, reigning queen of awkward personal revelations, does take off her clothes a lot. With abandon. With joy. And seemingly with no sense of shame. (Playing ping pong naked is a new sport that should definitely be further explored.) And why not? Sure, she’s a few pounds heavier than the ‘usual’ portrayal of a girl/woman her age. Or any age, on either TV or in film. But, at least to me, she’s got a Rubens-like quality to her body, which the cinematography mightily exploits, particularly in one of the most recent episodes called Trash. Don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but several Rubens paintings, and even an occasional Renoir, comes to mind while watching the shots of Lena in her assorted naked poses. Given her art background, perhaps it’s her way of subliminally reminding us that full-bodied naked women with smooth-skinned curves in luminous settings were considered beauty and art long before our current entertainment media made hard-bodied females with perfectly perky silicone boobs the norm. Of course, Lena looks like a teenager, as she’s only six years away from being one (which raises other disturbing issues that I’m just going to ignore for now) — and so she’s not quite as brave as say, Kathy Bates in the hot tub scene in About Schmidt, an acting choice that made her my hero forever.
I don’t care much for the depictions of low self-esteem, occasional rants to address her critics disguised as dialogue, and her character’s willingness to be humiliated and sexually denigrated in the name of ‘feminism’ and ‘sexual adventure’. (I also do enjoy the occasional cameo/walk-on by her agent Peter Benedek.) But Lena’s best and most attractive self lies in her refusal to accept the ‘beauty norm’. I don’t know about her being the voice of a generation. It’s not my generation, so I’m not an authority. But by having her characters frequently declare that her Hannah character is beautiful, she may just be able to convince a new generation to return to Rubens’s standards of beauty. I certainly hope so — ’cause I’m getting awfully tired of going to the gym and cosmetic surgery will never be an option!