Joan Rivers is not known for being a celebrity’s best friend, nor is she known for her subtlety, her open-mindedness, nor her ability to pass up an opportunity for a derisive, attention-grabby, celebrity slam. This time, it is Lena Dunham who takes the hit. During Rivers’ appearance on The Howard Stern Show Tuesday, March 25, she decided to pummel her repeatedly with obesity insults, which Dunham has been a victim to frequently in the media and is continually defended by her fans, her support staff, and the general concept of feminism.
Rivers’ remarks were so out-of-bounds, that Stern himself interrupted her to stick up for the young actress, writer, director, college graduate. Stern’s good-naturedness was a bit of a shock, considering last year he had slammed Dunham himself, calling her “a little fat girl who kinda looks like Jonah Hill.” Stern did apologize at a later date when she called into his show.
“I think the thing we love about her is that she doesn’t give a s—,” Stern explained.
Rivers’ ridiculed Dunham’s skirt length, intimating that she is not skinny enough to wear a dress cut above the knee. Rivers’ concludes that since the young star is comfortable enough with her body to wear whatever she likes, Dunham is therefore sending the wrong message to today’s female youth. Unless Dunham starts trying to look better, Rivers is worried ladies are going to stop trying to look better. That they’re going to give up. Get fat. Get diabetes. Lose their fingers. Die. All over the place. Obviously, seeing this average shaped young women in a short dress is creating a domino effect only Joan can detect. Dunham’s “fat knees” are so scandalously inappropriate they are going to drive young girls into diabetic comas. What horror. Somebody, get Lena a pair of leggings!
Stern, 60, defended Dunham again as a result of the erroneous insults Rivers spewed regarding Dunham’s apparently ill-considered obesity and the merciless victims in its wake. Stern paraphrased for Dunham, saying: “That’s your thing. My thing is, ‘Hey. I’m free. I don’t sit and think about what you think or what anyone else thinks.’” He even attempted to turn the mirror in on Rivers, “She would say to you, ‘Listen Joan, I’m not going to be the type of woman that needs to do the Botox and face lifts and all that stuff because I’m going to live my life the way I am.’”
Is the 80-year-old fashion police diva showing her age by being so appalled at a young woman’s knees? When did Rivers become so Puritan? Or is it simply that talking about Dunham’s recurring nudity in her hit show is such old news that Rivers needed to attack whatever body part of Dunham’s that was visible? Dunham’s choice to reveal herself “as is” in her HBO sitcom, Girls, has garnered a lot of attention, due to her “less-than” Hollywood-looking frame. Some viewers have critiqued her choice to bare it all as being gross, while others have seen it as a tribute to honesty and a real mettle.
Rivers did make a backhanded attempt to try to relate to Dunham on a girl-to-girl platform. She claims that she loves the show, is happy for Dunham’s success as a funny actress, yet Rivers could not contain her arrogance in her special, wicked-step-mother sort of way. “Don’t let them laugh at you physically,” Rivers extends to Dunham. In this statement, not only is Rivers undermining a woman’s choice to become a physical comedian, but she is also completely off-base. Dunham is not getting naked for a laugh. She gets naked, because that is how people take baths. That is how people have sex. Dunham has previously stated that her nudity is not intended to invite laughter, but an attempt to “depict life as lived.”
Throughout the media frenzy revolving around how Dunham looks naked, or just plain looks, she has remained collected with her integrity in check and generally un-phased by the controversy. She claims she is not forcing anyone to look at her body. They have a choice to look and a choice to decide how they are going to feel about what they see, nudity or not. The overall message is about positive body image. If Howard Stern can get the message and defend the rising star against Hollywood’s oldest curmudgeon, Joan Rivers at her most victim-shaming, obesity insults or not, Lena Dunham has already won the battle.
Opinion by Stacy Feder