Lena Dunham: seeing success before 30
Producer, Actress and now author of the much-awaited book of essays titled, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned, 26-year-old Lena Dunham is certainly making a mark for herself in the field of arts and entertainment. Hailed as one of TIME’s most influential women of 2013 alongside stalwarts such as Melissa Mayer and Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, she is the second youngest woman on the list, being preceded by 15-year old activist, Malala Yousafzi. Dunham was born in 1986 to parents who worked in the Arts. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2008 where she studied creative writing. Her first film, Tiny Furniture , featured her in the starring role, and won the “Best Narrative Feature” award at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference. In 2012, her television series, “Girls”, premiered on HBO and quickly became one of its most-watched shows. Highlighting the lives and ambitions of three women from New York, Dunham describes the mood and plot of the series as being the “chunk between Beverly Hills 90210 and Sex and the City”; she steers clear of the glamour and high-flying lifestyles presented in both the shows, however, and instead brings out the bleak, broke and sometimes awkward life experiences of the three main characters. What sets Dunham apart from fellow female industry bigwigs, is her brutal honesty and unwavering self- confidence, which is brought out on screen, even at the cost of causing her to be the subject of criticism and controversy. She plays the role of Hannah in “Girls” and makes no bones about bearing her heart, soul, and sometimes her naked body on screen. It is admirable that she possesses the courage and confidence to do this after admitting that her body shape does not conform to industry standards of beauty, which normally lies on thinness. Scenes from “Girls” depict Dunham lying naked and playing with her stomach, which is not flat; she says that the purpose of this particular scene was to talk about body issues and the fact that while her body is not “perfect”, she is comfortable with it, and will not conform to populist perceptions of beauty. Along side her undeniable success and meteoric levels of success thanks to her 2 Emmy award winning, and 4-time Golden Globe nominated series, Dunham has been embroiled in a number of controversies which threaten to typecast her as a rich, self-promoting individual with a rather myopic perspective on the world around her. Dunham responds smartly to this criticism by admitting to belong to the privileged classes, but states that her objective in portraying her own life experiences is to portray stark reality in lieu of the airbrushed perfection which is being fed to young audiences. She steers clear of stereotyping any of her characters in the series, and is an advocate for staying true to one’s self. A recent controversy which involved a gossip website publishing and sharply criticizing her book resulted in Dunham’s lawyer sending them a notice, demanding that they remove the content from their website. They followed suit, but not before adding a few parting comments which once again, called Dunham, “incapable of conceiving a rationale for writing that doesn't serve the goal of drawing attention to herself” Indeed, the above might be partly-true to the most diehard “Girls” viewer, the “me me me” quality of the series can get frustrating, and the constant awkwardness makes one wonder if the characters are intentionally trying to undo the sass and sex appeal of the older, more fashion-conscious version of themselves, i.e. Sex and the City, but the bottom line lies in the number of viewers the series has garnered within just 2 seasons, and Lena Dunham steadfastly refuses to leave her well-earned position as one of the world’s most influential icons and will not back down to either critics or socially-constructed ideas of beauty and glamour. This is what makes her unique, and in the words of her onscreen persona, Hannah, “a voice of a generation”.