Lena Dunham is clearly a fan of nudity, harboring a consistent attitude along the lines of “I’m naked, so what?” It should be a refreshing dismissal of entertainment’s constant oppression of real bodies in favor of svelt, flawless figures — an act that simply says, “This is a female body, too” and moves on. Instead Dunham’s nudity, which continues right from the start in Season 2 of HBO’s Girls, constantly twists peoples’ brains into tiny pretzels of disbelief over the fact that (gasp!) a woman with a shape not found in the window of a Forever 21 dares to make us look at her unclothed figure. Thankfully, Dunham continues to strip away the bullshit.
Dunham addresses the unyieldingly popular topic yet again in her appearance on NBC’s Today on Tuesday, saying once and for all that’s it’s really not that big of a deal. “It’s not that brave to get naked if you’re not stressed about being naked,” says Dunham after her co-star Alison Williams praises her for being “the bravest person [she] know[s].” The writer/director/actress’s reaction is a refreshing one in an increasingly body-image obsessed culture – a culture that allows such descriptions of Dunham’s naked body like the one that ran in the NY Post review of Girls’ second season premiere: “giant thighs, a sloppy backside and small breasts.”
It’s a wonder (and a damn sad shame) that descriptions like that still exist. Yet, in the top half of a review of Dunham’s work, we’re talking about her thighs and not one of the four jobs she performs on Girls (writer, director, producer, actress). And while the prevailing discussion should be about her creativity and her writing, for or against, it was and continues to be about her body.
But we’ve been here before. Long before she was wearing her birthday suit on HBO’s Girls, Dunham was filming scenes in the buff. In her 2010 film Tiny Furniture, Dunham is seen walking around in nothing but a short t-shirt, exposing her thighs and her bottom and later exposing it all with clips of her video “The Fountain” (in which she is nude in, well, a fountain). Even then, her proclivity for nudity aroused interest in critics and viewers alike. Some reviewers like Manohla Dargis of The New York Times directed attention to the use of nudity as expression, “This, she seems to say whenever she points the camera at herself, is me, a very real, very human body coming into being.” Others, however, can’t get past the fact that Dunham continues to bare it all.
When Dunham addressed fans during her New Yorker Festival discussion in October, she of course touched on the topic. “It completely sickens me what our culture is doing to women,” she said. Dunham had recently worn an outfit that exposed her legs, from the top of her thighs down to her ankles and received rampant criticism for her “no pants look.”
”I didn’t go out without pants, I had shorts on… If Olivia Wilde had gone to a party with a big silky top and little shorts she might have been told her outfit was cute,” she said. “What it was really: ‘Why did you show us your thighs?’” And that’s the problem with descriptions like that from the Post, which called Dunham’s exposure of her “sloppy backside” a “boon for the out-of-shape and perhaps a giant economic loss for high-end gyms,” as if Dunham’s perfectly normal female form is some sort of expression of anti-establishmentarianism in a world of oppressive physical fitness. It’s as if average women of the world might see Dunham in the buff, throw out their gym memberships, and cry “fuck it” in unison. But again, that’s not the point.
Dunham tries time and again to address the “issue” calmly and with the assertion that it simply isn’t the ordeal it’s constantly made out to be. The woman ate cake naked on a toilet in an Emmys sketch – you’d think with that we could reach the limit of shock, move on, and stop feeling a sense of surprise every time Dunham takes her shirt off on television.
Okay. You’ve got us: she doesn’t look like most naked actresses we see in any form of media. But for the love of all that’s normal, so what? There is no point in uttering a word about Dunham’s ongoing self-exposure if we’re going to make it the yin to the yang that is the Perfect Female Figure According to Hollywood and boil it down to terms that make it something other.
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Season 2 of Girls premieres on HBO on Jan. 13. Watch the full interview here:
[Photo Credit: NBC]