The award-winning HBO comedy Girls, starring Lena Dunham, creator and producer, was at the center of a nude tangent during a question/answer session in Los Angeles Thursday. Dunham was asked specifically why there was so much nudity in the program and why it was her character who always wound up in her birthday suit.
The reaction from the 27-year-old actress and filmmaker was not as fiery as her fellow producer Judd Apatow’s, which bordered this side of aggressive. While the poor journalist, The Wrap‘s Tim Molloy, who asked the question could be forgiven for asking the question (it was a valid argument after all), Dunham’s response was pretty much fitting for the child of Carroll Dunham, the notorious painter of “vulgar” female pop art.
Dunham said that if Molloy was not “into her,” that was fine by her. Fair enough, but Apatow accused the TV critic of being misogynistic.
It seems that women in the entertainment industry want it both ways, or to put it another way, prefer to have their cake and eat it, too.
On the one hand, we have females in the industry screaming like a scorched panther if they are asked to disrobe and show it all off for their art. The women who do drop their panties and bra to appear in the nude are dragged through the dirt as being too sexualized by an industry that is clearly misogynistic.
It is currently a hot subject of debate among professionals and amateurs about how sexualized females are in the media. Just recently, in a move to prove their point, feminists in the entertainment and advertising worlds shot several “female” commercials with men posed in what the lady artists insisted was an overly sexual and suggestive manner.
In their defense, looking at the men lounging uncomfortably with their nether regions pointed out and up did indeed look ridiculous as well as awkward. Women are photographed differently because, quite frankly, their “equipment” looks better when presented that way. At least, from an entirely sexist and chauvinistic standpoint, they do. But…
Is it disrespectful, if not downright misogynistic? Certainly. But sex sells, baby, and don’t you forget it. In the entertainment industry, a nude scene with a great-looking leading “gal” will guarantee butts in movie seats. Of course, a naked leading man, if, for instance, it is one that women find wildly attractive, will also bring in revenue to a film studio, but not anywhere near the same as the naked leading lady.
The reason for this is as mystifying as it is irritating for any woman who is not Lena Dunham or the male producer of a hit female-oriented television show. In the trade, “it’s a man’s world.” It always has been and, most likely, always will be. Dunham’s annoyance at the question of nudity, which prompted Apatow’s outburst, has more to do with her background and, just maybe, because she likes taking it all off for her art.
But let us not be distracted from the real issue here. Which is what, exactly?
That some women in the industry do want it both ways. They do not want to be exploited sexually. The female entertainers who fall into this category are right to feel this way. It is, as they used to say on the playground, not big or clever. People in the industry are trying to stop this belittling practice of demanding that the pretty girl in the film take her “kit off,” as they say in England.
Of course, just as many actresses have no issue with taking off their clothes. Some, like Miley Cyrus, seem to revel in their sexuality in public, and others see it as just another one of their “acting” tools, like makeup or channeling.
What is amazing about the entire incident is the “shocked” reaction by the other journalists in the room when Molloy asked just why it always had to be Lena Dunham who appeared naked for no discernable reason. Apart from Apatow’s defensive response, the only other person who reacted disproportionately to the question was Girls executive producer Jenni Konner.
Konner stated that she was filled with rage at Molloy’s question, which, to be honest, was not really offensive unless you look at the actress/producer it was aimed at–Lena Dunham, whom shock jock Howard Stern referred to as the female equivalent of actor Jonah Hill (“a little fat chick” was the phrase he used) but then, we are talking about Stern. And that was obviously why both Apatow and Konner took offense.
The implication was, of course, that Molloy was asking why the “little fat girl” was taking her clothes off at the drop of a hat. Presumably, the idea was that if Dunham was a little less robust in the weight department, and presumably did not resemble a feminine Jonah Hill, then the question would never have been brought up.
Once again, however, the issue becomes one of wanting to have it both ways and presuming an innate prejudicial attitude against someone who is not a “10” in the body department. At the end of the day, the question was not untoward unless the recipient wanted it to be. No one mentioned the “f” word, which, in case you missed it, is “fat,” or, heaven forbid, the term “unattractive.” The world has Howard Stern for that sort of behavior; it is, after all, the man’s job to court controversy.
For the record, Lena Dunham reacted quite well to the question posed by Molloy while her colleagues on the panel went on a nude tangent. In reality, Molloy asked about the relevance of Dunham’s character’s nudity on Girls. Why was it imperative for Hannah Horvath to be naked at “random times”? He did not ask why “the little fat” girl was naked. Rather than being applauded for his lack of misogyny, Molloy was vilified for asking a perfectly legitimate question and accused of being misogynistic. Two words here, folks. Cake and eat it, or, perhaps, Howard Stern?
By Michael Smith
Detroit Free Press