As you most likely know, a few weeks ago Jezebel offered up a reward for unretouched photos of Lena Dunham’s Vogue shoot. No doubt they were hoping to capitalize on that same outrage surrounding the recent photoshopped photos of Jennifer Lawrence from the cover of Flare.
You and I both know (even if Jezebel doesn’t) that there’s a huge difference between pointing out the tweaks made on a Jennifer Lawrence, a woman almost universally praised for her looks and banging bod, and pointing out the tweaks made to Lena Dunham, a woman who has been persecuted (yup) for her looks and the shape of her body. The former smacks of “oh, alas, the unrealistic beauty standards we as a society hold our women to!” The latter just feels like bullying. Additionally when we get right down to it, the adjustments made to Dunham’s photos (ones she quite liked, for the record) were not all that bad. I, for one, would welcome the occasional digital assist in yoinking up my neckine. Especially if it’s going to make my cleavage look that much sassier. I dunno. Maybe I have the wrong end of the stick here. Maybe Jezebel’s intentions were pure and feminist-leaning.
But did you catch that Jezebel slam in last night’s episode of Girls? Dunham’s character, Hannah, gets (rightly) called out by her boyfriend for getting news about her editor’s death from Gawker. Adam (already appalled by Hannah’s detachment) asks her:
“When you die, how would you feel if a bunch of judgmental creeps, celibate against their will, snarkily reported on every detail of your body decomposing? …That’s fucked, Hannah, those are a bunch of jealous people who make a living appealing to our basest desire of seeing each other kicked when we’re down.”
In response Hannah defends not only Gawker but its sister site, Jezebel, saying, “it’s a place feminists can go to support one another which we need in this modern world full of slut shaming.” In case the satirical tone is lost in translation here, Dunham is definitely skewering both Gawker and Jezebel. Given that advance screeners of this episode were available for review long before Jezebel sent out their “sisterhood solidarity” call for unretrouched photos, I’d be awfully surprised if the two instances were unrelated.
This is not the first time Dunham has used the platform of her show to dig into her detractors. In the same episode, Marnie tells Ray and Hermie (Colin Quinn) “let’s make fun of the girl who took a risk and put herself out there creatively which, by the way, is not something neither of you have to worry about because no one want to see you and you can’t do anything.” We are, of course, not supposed to sympathize with Marnie here who is way off the rails with this rant, but it’s impossible to ignore the kernel of Dunham truth in Marnie’s delusions.
All in all last night’s episode was a rough one for me. I far prefer the version of Girls we saw last week with a sympathetic and relatable Hannah at the center of the madness. I don’t mind an exploration of what it means to not feel what you’re supposed to when someone dies. I think that’s a fascination subject worth exploring. But I think it’s possible to do that and not make your protagonist look like a self-absorbed sociopath. I don’t like it when Hannah is unrelatable or when she gets put in her place or called out by Adam and Ray. But in this instance, they’re right and she’s wrong, right?