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Lena Dunham Is Either the Bravest Person on Television or the Dumbest

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrities Are Better than You | March 5, 2014 | Comments ()

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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.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I've never seen "Girls" but I like the way she presents herself in public and I think she's super cute. I'm hoping for the best.

  • Jack London

    I'm not an American so I was really surprised that I could watch the promo (as NBC normally restrict everything to North America), but I need to ask: Is that a typical SNL promo?

    I didn't find it funny but, being ignorant of cultural context, I'm not sure if I was supposed to. I'm just really confused. A little help, please?

  • shagan24601

    I agree with Dustin that the recent trajectory of the SNL writing staff doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for Lena. However it goes down, I'm looking forward to The National.

  • hmm

    I'm sick of being told in articles like this that the reason I hate her is because
    I don't like her character on 'Girls', or I don't like the fact that she gets
    naked a lot, or that I don't like the way she looks - none of that is true. The
    reason *I* dislike her, immensely, is because of the racism she displayed in her
    article for thisrecording about her trip to Japan, and the racism she showed in
    her writing about her travels to India. Those racist Tweets were just the tip
    of the iceberg when it comes to her ignorance. *That's* why a lot of us hate
    her, and I think we're pretty justified to do so.

    Is that okay, United Let’s-Ignore-Lena-and-Miley’s-Problems-With-Race-Because-White-Feminism-Or-Something Writers of Pajiba?

  • googergieger


  • "How many people actually come out ahead after hosting Saturday Night Live? Maybe five percent. Justin Timberlake. Jon Hamm. Joseph Gordon-Levitt."

    My man Aubrey Graham changed some minds.


  • Stacey A

    I am still mystified over this pointed hate at Hannah. It's really, really surprising to me that more people don't understand that Dunham is perfectly portraying the young twenty-something woman (whether you like it or not), and if any woman out there doesn't remember acting like one of the female characters in Girls in some way, then she's decided to block that part of their life out. Is it painful to watch? Yes. Is it difficult to realize that there's a huge percentage of young women out there acting like Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, or Jessa? Oh my god yes, especially when you're stuck on a bus with them. But, for me, I love Girls and watching those characters because I can so easily relate to many of their cringe-worthy opinions and actions because I said and did the same cringe-worthy things ten years ago, and it's fucking hilarious to see. I'm sorry if the world isn't prepared to deal with the fact that most young women aren't Manic Pixie Dream Girls, but Lena Dunham sure as shit won't let that stop her, and that makes me glad.

  • Stacey A

    Additionally: just because Hannah is a "despicable monster" at 25 does not mean she will be a 35. Growth, y'all. She's only at the starting line of adulthood (which, again, is the point of the show.)

  • At 25, you shouldn't only be at 'the starting line' of adulthood.

  • Stacey A

    At this day and age? Sorry, it's 2014, not 1980. Young people are bred to mature late in North America.

  • I think it's more accurate to say that -some- young people are -allowed- to mature late because their parents spoil and indulge them. That protracted adolescence is one of the most obnoxious traits of Hannah and co.

  • Stacey A

    I'm suspecting you're either of that age group to which I apologize if your feelings are hurt (sincerely), or, you've have had the joy of existing around a shit pile of extremely self-assured and polite twenty-somethings your whole life, to which I say, "Fuck yeah, you lucky sonofabitch!"

  • My feelings aren't hurt(I don't take Internet comments seriously enough for that to happen) but I do appreciate that an apology was offered when you thought they were.

    If I'm reading your comments correctly, I'd say we're roughly about the same age (mid-30's). I left home at 18 with a old truck and a new pair of boots and by the time I was 25 I had already bounced around a good deal of the country. I've seen a lot of spoiled princesses (and princes) in a lot of big cities and college towns but I've also seen a lot of kids willing to put in some hard work and who, at 22/23 were well past the starting line of adulthood.

  • Stacey A

    I think our definitions of adulthood are different. I, too, was living on my own at 19, working, traveling, and budgeting (and yes, early-thirties over here now.) However, did that mean I was self-assured and aware of what it means to *really* be an adult, to *really* live in my own skin at 22, 23, 24, 25? Hell no. I mean, 20-year-olds THINK they're self-assured, which is what makes your twenties so difficult: that nagging feeling that everything is going wrong when you're so sure that everything you're doing is right.

    And THAT is what I see in those girls on the show. I wasn't a spoiled brat at 25, but I was definitely clueless as shit, and thank god I don't have to go back to that! Instead, I can watch the show, laugh a little, and be reminded of how far I've come.

  • dude2784

    I vote for the dumbest and a good candidate for biggest hag...

  • e jerry powell

    Kate McKinnon is queen of everything.

  • Manuel Granados

    She's going to be as unfunny and insufferable as 85% of the people hosting SNL. It's the place you go to when you don't want to even trying being funny (unless you are not known for being funny and knock it out of the park like J. Hamm)

  • Eric Davidson

    She is ALWAYS 100% unfunny and insufferable. She does not need any help from SNL.

  • Michael B. Conway

    And Alec Baldwin. And Justin Timberlake.

  • Considering this season of Girls has been absolutely terrific I don't think she has much reason to worry. Also, it's SNL. What comedic writer wouldn't kill to get on there, let alone host?! I really wish another show would hit the air soon so that the hipster blowhards would find someone else to harp on instead of Lena Dunham.

  • Michael B. Conway

    I enjoyed this article, Dustin, but I am so over this notion that actors are brave or courageous. It's acting, not fighting fires. It drove me nuts during the Oscars this year.

    I've been acting for 30 years. I've played gay. I've played rakes. I've played Nazis. I've played monsters. I've played murderers. I've played romantic leads. I've been in many terrible, terrible plays. I've been nude on stage twice. I played the world's tallest elf at a supermarket opening, then two weeks later was cast as Christian in Cyrano De Bergerac.

    Know what? It's the same gig. It's acting. Acting, done right, is being emotionally naked on stage. Being physically naked is no big deal to me.

    Robert De Niro was absolutely horrible when he hosted SNL. He was easily the worst thing about that episode. 11 years later, he's still working.

    Lena, your Daddy's rich and your Mama's good looking. So hush, little baby, don't you cry.

  • Al

    Congratulations on the acting career but I don't know who you are. If you're crap as the tallest elf there won't be millions of people saying despicable things about you on the internet.

    Fighting fires isn't the only way to be courageous. There are levels to everything. Anytime you put yourself out there for judgment it's courageous, whether you're singing karaoke or doing a nude scene on a HBO.

  • Finance_Nerd

    I agree that there are different levels of bravery. For example, it was pretty "brave" of her to wear that blouse in the promo clips. I didn't know Tommy Bahama made a line of camp shirts for women. No wonder she does so many nude scenes - ugh.

  • ellie

    It's not Lena claiming to be brave, though.. she's still going about her life, continuing the nude scenes and hosting SNL despite all the shit people say about her. Maybe that makes her brave or maybe it doesn't, but it's not HER saying "Look at me! I'm so brave!" She's just doing what she wants to do and publicly not giving a shit.

  • Tracer Bullet

    Does that mean we're getting some nudes, Rowles? You been holding out for nearly a decade. The people want some Dustin Dick and they want it NOW.

  • Al Borland's Beard

    I don't know who Lena Dunham is, but why isn't anyone talking about how a Mercer Mayer book character has come to life and is hosting this week's SNL?

  • John W

    Agree with everything you wrote. Hopefully she has a good show.

  • Eric Davidson

    No, hopefully the show ill be good in spite of her hosting.

  • Col. Kickass

    Maybe she's just a narcissist?

  • Dove of Doom

    Maybe we all are. Maybe calling out others for their narcissism is just a defense mechanism meant to convince ouselves that we aren't as self-involved as everyone else.

  • Col. Kickass

    I'm sorry, what was that?

  • It's a Lena Dunham post!
    Quick! Quick, guys - down here! I've got good seats. Grab some popcorn and whiskey from the bar would you!

  • How about Lagavulin?

  • If there's no Talisker, then that'll do fine.

  • DominaNefret

    I have Talisker and Glenmorangie.

  • The only other thing I can find is a dusty old bottle labeled 'For Use In Emergencies Only.'

  • Well if that ain't a sign hinting at, 'drink me', then I don't know what is

  • Alright, but if a genie comes out, remember to be as specific as possible or we're going to find ourselves reenacting 'The Monkey's Paw.'

  • BlackRabbit

    I had an experience like that once. At least, he SAID it was a Monkey's Paw. Having more experience with monkeys now, I do not think it was a "paw", per se.

  • If a genie comes out then The Monkey's Paw'll be the least of our worries: last time I encountered a genie I wished for three Monica Belluccis. Apparently that's two more than the universe can hold, and now I'm on some sort of blacklist for almost collapsing existence.

  • I don't know whether to curse you for your foolishness, or applaud you for your daring to dream.

  • I'll gladly take either, or both.

  • Repo

    I agree with the sentiment here but am slightly conflicted. You seem like you're talking about yourself for a good part of this article, since you represent the largest podium here for critique of the work (via the SNL recaps) than us commentators can. Yet you make it seem like Dunham should get a pass if her episode sucks, yet Parsons should have been held more accountable because you hate BBT. So the message I'm getting is what you're really upset about is that Parsons is better liked in the world than Dunham, right? I know you despise BBT, but this seems like a odd way to hammer that point home.

  • Well, I think that IS kinda his point. That Parsons really is better liked than Dunham for really silly reasons. Nobody is gonna hold Parsons to task for last week's episode, but we are gonna hear TONS of bullshit about this one. Even if some complaints are gonna be justified, they will be drowned in the utter deluge of people just wanting to talk about clickbait like Dunham. Jezebel alone will be insufferable (more than usual!).

    The thing is, it will all only be online. And only in the echo chamber of pop culture sites that trade around the same talking points. Let's face it, TBBT is a massive hit show, and yet it had practically no online presence. Girls is talked about on just about every TV-related site out there, and yet it could barely be considered popular when the numbers come in.

    That is what is mystifies me. When you really think about it, Dunham doesn't have nearly as much cachet as people only act like she does. Seven out of ten people watching SNL this week are not going to know who the hell she is. Two of the remaining three will only know her from online coverage of the show.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    This is all well and good, but why aren't we talking about how awesome it is that she's going to be writing some Archie comics?

  • asherlev1

    I know, I KNOW, I'm going to sound like a broken record. But this sort of thing matters to me, and it is NOT something I can easily brush aside. So I ask again - how does someone reconcile this very ill-advised tweet and tone-deaf apology with an appreciation of her merits? http://www.thefrisky.com/2012-...

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    Well, I guess I would say you could reconcile it by acknowledging that she made a dumb mistake and apologized for it.

  • asherlev1

    Except her apology doesn't indicate that she understands WHAT she should be apologizing for. She thought the timing of the joke was the issue and not the content itself. Everybody makes dumb mistakes. Owning up to them is what leads to forgiveness. I don't think she owned up to the offense she caused with her tweet.

  • JJ

    Because at some point you realize that you don't have to validate terrible, superficial judgments and let the fear of Internet reprisal stop you from doing or experiencing things.

  • Dove of Doom

    Dunham should come out for her opening monologue "nude" with her body blurred and everybody should just never acknowledge it, like it's something they're too afraid to touch. And no, I'm not saying anybody should be afraid to touch Lena Dunham's naked body, just all the baggage her body brings with it. But I'm not saying her body is like a load of baggage, I'm just...

    Never mind.

  • Sean

    Actually, it wouldn't be a surprise if she did just that.

  • LL

    Mhh... based on those promos, the show may remain just as crummy as last week.

  • Jezzer

    Does it have to be either/or? Couldn't she also just be horrifically self-involved and highly overrated?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    AARHGHAHGH. "despicable monster"

    Do you watch shows with serial killers and master criminals and the 20something narcissist gets the "despicable monster" description?

    Regarding Lena Dunham, she's interested in playing and pushing the boundaries of what's comfortable, so this seems right up her alley. I hope the writers are up to the task, and not in the general stupid "let's spit food into each others' mouths" kinda way.

  • Sean

    The writers are not up to the task. Last week clearly proved that. I actually think Dunham is much smarter than the horrible Parsons. But it still won't matter. The producers and writers of SNL are not good enough to make anyone look good right now.

  • Eh, the serial killers tend to be entirely more charming, so I'm willing to overlook a few bodies.

  • People said the same thing when tearing down Skyler White.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    That is pretty much the reponse I expected. I just wasn't sure who it would be coming from.

  • AudioSuede

    A dead-on analysis of the situation, and of Dunham herself. Terrific work.

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