Lena Dunham Is Either the Bravest Person on Television or the Dumbest
Lena Dunham is set to host Saturday Night Live this weekend, offering her the biggest audience of her career so far (an average episode of SNL receives around 5 million viewers, while Girls is seen by less than 1 million) and I’ll be honest, I am terrified by the prospect. Why? Because while I loathe Hannah Horvath with the fiery passion of the Earth’s core, I truly and honestly like, admire, and respect Lena Dunham. In fact, I like, admire, and respect Lena Dunham even more because, in Girls’ Hannah Horvath, she has created a despicable monster to the detriment of her own public persona.
That’s where Lena Dunham’s bravery comes in. She could’ve created a show in which she is seen as the voice of reason among a group of self-centered, entitled assholes, but instead, she not only to includes herself among them, she made herself the worst offender. Now, of course, hundreds of thousands of people conflate Hannah with Lena, but instead of backing down from that or softening her character, she confronts it.
She’s also brave, of course, for doing nude scenes on Girls, just as anyone who is willing to expose their bodies in full view of a large audience is brave. But Dunham is braver than most, because she continues to do so in spite of the horrible, awful things that are frequently written about her, not only by Internet commenters, but journalists, bloggers, and reporters themselves. When I get taken to task for something I write on the Internet, it has been known to break me into a million little pieces. I can only imagine what it must feel like to have one’s body assessed, picked apart, and insulted by thousands of people, and then go out and do it again.
I would find it crippling, so crippling in fact, that I couldn’t imagine opening myself up to an even bigger audience. And here’s the thing about hosting Saturday Night Live: She’s in a no-win situation. Jim Parsons hosted what I thought was one of the worst Saturday Night Live episodes of all time this last weekend, and you know what? Jim Parsons is going to go back to Big Bang Theory, and that whole experience will be forgotten about by next week. How much blame did Parsons even get for a bad episode of SNL? Not enough that people will hold it against him.
But Dunham? If it’s a bad episode (and unless the writers turn it around really f*cking quick, there’s a reasonable likelihood of that) all the Hannah Horvath naysayers are going to lay that blame at the foot of Dunham. It’s a whole new arsenal of ammunition. If it’s a good episode, all those Hannah Horvath naysayers are going to attribute it to the writing staff. Either way, Lena Dunham is not going to come out ahead.
Worse still, much of the ugly criticism of Lena Dunham/Hannah Horvath comes from those who have HBO or are exposed to Girls. There’s a huge swath of America full of terrible, judgmental people who are going to be exposed to Lena Dunham for the first time on Saturday night, and their terrible, superficial judgements are going to spill all over the Internet on Sunday morning and well into Monday. It’s not going to be a fun place to be.
Why would Lena Dunham subject herself to this? How many people actually come out ahead after hosting Saturday Night Live? Maybe five percent. Justin Timberlake. Jon Hamm. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Most everyone else is either completely forgotten by Tuesday, or the sour memories of their time on SNL carry over into their other projects. And it’s such a crapshoot, depending on the mood of the writing staff, the week’s headlines, or the random pop-culture events that leak into the show, that it hardly seems worth it. So why take that risk? Why put herself through that?
Because she’s a courageous fucking human being, that’s why. Either that, or completely impervious to pain. Either way, she gets all of my respect. I wish her the best of luck this weekend.