When television critic Tim Molloy decided to inform Lena Dunham that he didn’t find her nude body titillating, it’s a good bet he had no idea how quickly his incendiary remark would catch fire – and the blaze is still not contained. Molloy’s question – and Dunham’s response – have given voice to a generation of journalists who are clamoring to come to the defense of Dunham’s rear view.
In case you haven’t been able to weed through the overwhelming number of retorts to the infamous Molloy – Dunham conversation, we’ve found seven must-read commentaries that cut to the heart of society’s skewed image of beauty.
1. Emily Shire
In her insightful commentary on “TheWeek.com,” Emily Shire emphasizes the naked truth at the root of Lena Dunham’s use of nudity. The core point of the piece is to skewer society’s limited notions about attractiveness, what counts as sexy and, ultimately, the value of women as more than objects of desire. Shire cites Dunham’s choices in “Girls” as a challenge to viewers to “question the way they use attractiveness to view a woman’s behavior and what she deserves in life.” Noting that an episode in which Dunham’s character spent a sexy weekend with a successful, attractive guy played by Patrick Wilson caused uproar because some critics found it unbelievable that a girl like that could get a hottie like Patrick. Shire’s piece proceeds to rightly ask, why not?
2. Elizabeth Renzetti
With sensitivity and understanding, Elizabeth Renzetti crafted a piece for “The Globe and Mail” that acknowledges Lena Dunham not as the voice of a generation, but it’s body. Emphasizing that Dunham is “bulky” in every way, including her physicality, Renzetti’s take is more about the larger scope. Dunham flouts traditional misconceptions about women through her nudity, yes, but also through her willingness to be “the loudest voice in a room.” Renzetti declares Dunham’s choice to put herself out there in the face of all “the denizens of the planet Impossibly Perfect” like Julianne Margulies or Kerry Washington as not brave, but real.
3. Nico Lange
Nico Lange waves a huge banner of support for Lena Dunham’s nudity, calling it a revolution. “Dunham is forcing us to reconsider what bodies we value and why. It isn’t just nudity. It’s revolutionary.” Lange admonishes viewers to examine why they award value to a human being based on a body type and highlights feedback from viewers who have struggled with their own body image and are now seeing glimmers of hope for their own sense of well-being. The bottom line of Lange’s message is a call to action: stop asking Dunham about her body and “start celebrating it.”
4. Kelly Faircloth
Using pragmatic observations like, “Some of us just like to brush our teeth naked, so we don’t get toothpaste on our shirts. (Seriously, try it for a week, it’ll change your life.),” Kelly Faircloth approaches the controversy from a place of wondering why it’s a controversy at all. In her “Jezebel” article, Faircloth expresses impatience with a society that can’t seem to move on from limited, unrealistic ideals about women and would rather fixate on normal-girl nudity than what she deems more worthy topics such as the lack of diversity represented on “Girls.” Shifting the focus from too much naked to too much white might be one way to score one for all the other Botticelli babes of the world.
5. Amanda Hess
In her “Slate” article Amanda Hess opts to deconstruct the psyche of critics who are “so casually unaware of that landscape” that they’d rather throw up their hands than search to understand the deeper layers of Dunham’s work. Hess unapologetically calls out Tim Molloy as stale and naïve in his approach, even stating that questioning the use of nudity on ”Girls” was a valid question, but in 2012, not 2014. Hess conducts a post-mortem of the entire interview and when it comes to Molloy, she definitely finds something fishy.
6. Jill Filipovic
Jill Filipovic’s thoughtful examination on “TheGuardian.com” celebrates Dunham’s strategic use of nudity on “Girls” as a storytelling device rather than a tactic to “light up the temporal lobe, stoking a viewer’s arousal.” Filipovic challenges the public’s blind acceptance of nudity as a signal to sex, citing both television and advertising as primary perpetrators of viewers’ Pavlovian response to a flash of skin as the cue to start some sexy time for no other purpose than the notorious titillation factor. She presses home the point that sex is a part of life, and that the role it plays in reality – and on “Girls” – is more complex and important than just a few minutes of voyeuristic pleasure.
7. Melissa Stetten
A gushing love letter to Lena Dunham – and her boobs – is at the heart of this concise commentary by Melissa Stetten. After she gets her fangirl fanaticism out of the way, Stetten brings to light the damage women are causing themselves by buying into the criticism of Dunham’s “youthful, natural body” that includes parts that (gasp!) are not perfectly toned. Stetten posits that if only everyone on TV were naked, “young girls might stop killing themselves to fit into size zero jeans.” Ultimately, her message is a call for women to stop being mean girls and show a sister some love.
Has Lena Dunham’s use of nudity made you question your ideas about what’s sexy and/or beautiful?
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