The Lena Dunham Demographic

Lying in bed watching Saturday Night Live last night, imagine my surprise when Lena Dunham was highlighted as the guest host.  Dunham, really?  I thought to myself.  I was curious if the typical SNL viewer even knew who Lena Dunham was.  Star and head writer of the HBO series Girls, it’s hard to gauge how much pop culture cred she has.  Despite the phenomenon of buzz, of which this show has plenty, it is on HBO, which is a limited universe of viewers.  However ratings have gone up.  The show has improved in its current 3rd season from season 2’s average of 632,000 viewers to 1.1 million for season three.

Why is this important?  I have no idea, and that’s part of the fascination I suppose.  Lena Dunham and her show would normally have been something that would never have come to my attention.  She is a millennial writing a show about millennials for millennials.  As either a tail end baby boomer or post boomer, however you want to count it; I should have no interest in this group.  And I don’t.  That is the Pajama Boy generation.

But when Girls premiered in 2012, my universe of blogs that I read, that generally lean right, blew up about the show.  I could not figure out what the interest was from the right side of the aisle. So I set aside time to watch the first season.

My first observation, which apparently is the same as virtually everyone else’s is, what’s up with all the nudity?  Of course there has been so much written about the nudity on that show it’s pointless for me to rehash it (although that’s a tricky search string if you want to Google it), since I share some of the criticism of the show’s nudity.   But much of that criticism seems to be mean spirited.  As if the criticism is being used as a way to insult Lena Dunham on the sly. I mean, how often do you hear TV critics berate a show and its star because the show has too much nudity?  In fact, in a rather well publicized incident in January, during a panel discussion a TV critic made a comment critical of the amount of nudity on the show.  Of course TV critics are not complaining about the nudity of other premium cable shows, just this one, since Dunham is pudgy and covered with some fairly hideous back and arm tattoos.  When people constantly tell you that they hate seeing you nude, that’s gotta sting.

On last night’s SNL, the over the top nudity was mocked in one of the few funny skits of the episode.

My second and frankly my last observation on the show are the incredible self absorption and narcissism of the characters.  To me, virtually all of the characters are unlikable.  And honestly, I can’t tell if Dunham is writing the characters that way because she is mocking her generation, or if it’s because she is so inculcated into the introspection of her generation she can’t see what horrible human beings they appear to be on the screen.  Then again, to another millennial, these characters may seem perfectly normal.  So after watching the first season of the show, I could judge that I found the show interesting, but totally devoid of entertainment.  I was interested in why the characters were presented the way they were, and why lines were written a certain way, but I could care less about the characters.

The only way these horrible creatures could be redeemed would be if there was a mash up with some other show.  I would like see all of the Girls characters on The Walking Dead.  A one episode special in which they all suddenly had to deal with real survival issues rather than texting on their phones would give me the closure I crave.  None would survive the episode of course.  Now that’s entertainment!

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7 thoughts on “The Lena Dunham Demographic

  1. Apparently Lena is to young to have watched Seinfeld. Otherwise, she’d know that there is “good naked” and “bad naked.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apology_%28Seinfeld%29

    I’ve never seen Girls, but based on the response, it falls into the “bad naked” category. As for whether the show is actually mocking millennials, I tend to doubt it. This is a generation that grew up with reality TV, after all.

    • I think “bad naked” might be an appropriate description for the entire show.

      I think you’re right that Dunham and the writers on the show just don’t get that they are the joke, not society, the working world, or whatever it is. But maybe that’s because I somehow want them to be that clueless. Regardless of what the right answer is, I’ve no doubt that a decade from now Dunham will swear she intended to mock her generation the entire time.

  2. For a glimpse into the mind of proto-Girls, watch “Tiny Furniture” written and directed by, and starring, Dunham. Sadly, far from being over the top caricature, I knew girls exactly like this in college in nyc, complete with the crazy artist moms.

    If only the zombies could sink their teeth into her fleshy tush.

    • During the time I was watching season 1 of Girls I actually did watch Tiny Furniture on Netflix. The character Dunham portrayed was almost exactly like Hannah in Girls. And the movie was very much as you described, a “proto-Girls” only worse.

      I think Dunham might be a one trick pony and this is her trick.

  3. The uptick in interest for a third season came when the writer decided that she was going to stop shocasing so much skin. The overall interest in the actual show came about after her ad for voting came out, where she compared voting to “the first time”. The show doesn’t mock millenials, but rather tries to mak them mainstream.

    It’s a sad commentary on our times.

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