ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

There's a limited amount of time your show can be the counter cultural, revolutionary response to the norm before that show becomes the norm itself. This is the paradox that exists with much of HBO's programming. Being edgy and challenging often makes you the most talked about thing on TV, but then you have the problem of being the most talked about thing on TV. You become the standard to beat, or worse, respond to. No show seems to have hit this problem harder than Lena Dunham's Girls.

Now approaching Season 5, Girls seemed to come out of the ether in 2012 off the heels of Lena Dunham's indie drama Tiny Furniture, aided somewhat, but not too much, by Judd Apatow. In every other respect, Lena Dunham is a complete show runner, driving Girls with her own sense of authorial ownership unmatched by most other shows. In the approach to Girls Season 5, the problem arises that after it's cool to like something, it becomes pretty cool to trash it.

Despite not being about Girls as a show, this sketch does a great job of highlighting what a strange show it is when viewed from a class perspective, and exhibits that surreptitious stigma towards Dunham right at the end.

As a product of our time, Girls is shrouded in layers of complexity. It apparently isn't enough to simply have a show driven from a female perspective that challenges a male constructed image of the young, urban middle class. Regardless of whether Hannah, Shoshanna, Marnie and Jessa have distinct narrative voices, their perspectives are still from a closed off, relatively affluent bubble. It's become somewhat fashionable to point that out, and the image damaged most by this power play of what is cool to say isn't cool, is Lena Dunham herself.

Why the hate for Lena Dunham?

This goes beyond the concept of hipster-bashing (which is a completely redundant term when used as either offence or defence). Any aggression towards Dunham likely spawns from the old case of someone gaining a large amount of fame and artistic power, and not appearing to deserve it. Now when it comes to success, it's extremely rare for someone to actually both deserve and manage it well, but I believe here, it may just be a case of people not being used to what they're seeing.

Pictured: An apparently challenging person
Pictured: An apparently challenging person

I will concede that, with being the next big thing and, by your own notoriety, effortlessly trendy, someone can develop an astonishing lack of self-awareness. Bear in mind, Dunham can spout sentences like "I won't get married until all gay people can get married". Oh really, Lena? You're so big, you can hold the very concept of marriage hostage? I'm sure the supreme court will get right on that for you! It's this sheer conviction in who she is that both makes Girls such a potent work, but also incites such vitriolic criticism. People get mad because they feel like very little of what they say gets through to Dunham, and somehow, she knows that.

Can Girls Season 5 Survive?

Girls is almost as stubborn a figure as Dunham herself. As a short glance at the above sketch will attest, it is at once inviting of mockery and completely closed off to it. How will Girls Season 5 fare in a world that has built up such hostility towards its creator? Well, it will probably push on just as it has always done. Lena Dunham herself shows no sign of creatively adjusting towards criticism that paints her as culturally ignorant, so it seems the show won't budge either.

Still the standard for now...
Still the standard for now...

Girls is just too much of an authorial venture to begin detracting from a figure like Dunham. Her control is absolute, and while I'm still skeptical of a fictional representation of an entire generation being headed by one person, I can see how the show has legs just by ploughing on with the same determination it's had from the start. Giving in to hatred towards Dunham would damage Girls Season 5, not the hatred itself.


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