Lena Dunham said something controversial. You’re shocked, right? Yeah, me neither. There’s no doubt the actress evokes strong feelings, you either love her or you hate her. So, maybe speaking out about how unfair Hollywood is to women isn’t all that dastardly, but being a bit of a Hollywood buff, I still have a bone (albeit little) to pick with her.
During her now annual pilgrimage to SXSW in Austin, Texas, Dunham, the star and creator of HBO’s “Girls,” gave a keynote lecture. While discussing her show and her past with SXSW, she also touched on misogyny in Hollywood. It struck me as pretty ironic that the female star of a hit show would be complaining about the lack of roles for women.
When asked about her costars, Dunham said, “People are ready to see Adam [Driver] play a million different guys in one year – from Lotharios to villains to nerds. Meanwhile [co-stars] Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke and Zosia Mamet are still waiting for parts they can get interested in. … the girls are still waiting patiently for parts that are going to honor their intelligence and their ability.”
I have mixed emotions here because she is right. A new study shows female characters accounted for only 15 percent of protagonists in the 100 highest-grossing domestic films of 2013.
Overall it’s difficult to commiserate with Dunham. The current state of the film and TV industry compared to its misogynistic past is colossal. For example, “I Love Lucy” was, on the surface, pro-women. In reality, it centered on Lucy taking care of Ricky while her ambition to be a star was always shot down. Not complaining, for the era, it was appropriate and it was definitely hilarious!
Yes, women’s roles were generally playing the eye-candy, murder victims or moms. Toward the ’60s, there was some improvement with movies like “Pillow Talk” where the lead female is a hard worker who happens to fall in love. Rest assured though, once married, her job was at home taking care of the hubby and kids! If they tried to pull that today, they wouldn’t even make it to air but again, at the time it reflected the masses. Women were venturing into the work force en masse.
Today, the vast improvements aren’t only welcome, the old stuff is downright funny. Websites like Buzzfeed often run “Sexist Ads” slideshows (don’t miss the “perfect bridal shower gift”). “Mad Men” highlights how women were delegated to the front desk in the ’50s, can you even imagine? If things had remained the same, more than just Dunham would be voicing their disgust, there would be a mass revolt.
Correlations between Dunham’s “Girls” and Dunham herself are often made simply because it’s admittedly biographical. The gushier reviews call her show “so real” and “groundbreaking” which may lend a clue as to why Dunham isn’t satisfied with Hollywood catching up. Didn’t she watch “Daria” or “Buffy” growing up? Maybe the roles she’s looking for are nowhere near the characters she would write herself. In fact, Dunham has only been in roles she developed herself.
Like Dunham, Millennial’s were partially nurtured on improvisational comedy that was meant to be ironic and often ackward. Movies like “Old School” and “Road Trip” were done in a totally new style. The king of the game is easily Judd Apatow with films like “Superbad,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and “Bridesmaids”. As the producer of “Girls”, he definitely brings that flavor to the show. Obviously a great talent, but when he said that “Girls” would give men “insight” into “realistic girls,”, well…just no. So, so not realistic.
Dunham almost seems like a caricature of the richy-rich girl with the wealthy parents (which she is) and an Apatow character. That’s not to diminish her desire for equality or being what she calls “an agent of change specifically for women and girls,” but it’s like trying to find a fix for something already being repaired. DailyLife said the most common complaint of “Girls” is, “Dunham is from a privileged background (she is) and the cast is comprised of other people from privileged backgrounds (they are.)”
Maybe her background is the reason she, and apparently her costars are disappointed with what’s offered. uut her background also puts her in a very elite place in Hollywood. With all the causes out there for Lena Dunham to support, maybe emphasizing this “War on Women” dialouge should be set aside. In the meantime, she should check out “Gravity,” “Castle,” “Rizzoli and Isles,” and some of the other movies and TV shows with female leads. I’ll be hitting up my cable TV for my weekly dose of chick flicks!
Photo: Fortune Live Media/Flickr
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