The NY Post Attacks Lena Dunham and Her “Sloppy Backside”

  • Terry Richardson for V Magazine

The new season of “Girls” premieres next week. This means that we’re all about to reach peak Lena Dunham-saturation. I know this because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing online—and, yes, there may only be one thing I’ve learned—it’s that people like to read about Lena Dunham. Also, hipsters and gentrification. People love to read about all these things. And when you put them together? In a cluster of SEO-perfection? Pageview magic.

Anyway, now that I’ve taught you all the secrets of Internet-writing success, let’s go back to talking about Lena Dunham and “Girls.” Season 2 doesn’t kickoff until next Sunday, but the reviews are already starting to trickle in and Linda Stasi of the NY Post has offered up one of the more egregious examples of badly written criticism that I’ve ever seen. In her review in the Post, Stasi doesn’t spend so much time talking about what actually happens in the show because she clearly feels that the more important thing to focus on is Dunham’s body.

The problem with “Girls”, as Stasi sees it, is that it just doesn’t make sense. After all, why is “the gorgeous Marnie…the one who is now totally unlucky in love”? Why are men obsessed with Dunham’s character and her “blobby body”? Stasi admits that the show is unique because “it’s not every day in the TV world of anorexic actresses with fake boobs that a woman with giant thighs, a sloppy backside and small breasts is compelled to show it all.” Yes, imagine that. A woman who isn’t anorexic and in possession of a pair of fake tits is actually comfortable enough with her own body to display it to the world. No wonder Stasi finds the show “both revolting and compelling.”

Stasi goes back and forth between seeming like she is simply one of those disgusting, infantile people who isn’t clever enough to come up with a good critique and resort to making nasty comments about a person’s appearance and…well, no. She is most definitely one of those disgusting, infantile people. But also, she isn’t content to shame someone for the simple fact of that person’s physical appearance. No, Stasi also needs to shame Dunham for having sex that Stasi finds to be “bad and sad” and “in the city — but not Manhattan.” Because all the good sex happens in Manhattan. Obviously.

The laziness of this review is apparent in several ways—I mean, Stasi uses the adjective “blobby” twice, when once would have been too much—but especially in the fact that all that is important to Stasi is what Dunham looks like and whether or not her sex life fits in with Stasi’s idea of normal. A reviewer doesn’t need to think that “Girls” is perfect to understand that it’s intended to subvert many of the norms that we have grown accustomed to on television, namely that only thin and beautiful women get to have sex and that when they do have sex, it is a magical, perfect, and consistently orgasmic experience. But Stasi doesn’t want to look beneath the surface, particularly when the surface has dimpled thighs and resides in Brooklyn. So she professes outrage at the idea of “afternoon anal sex” and “blobbies who are willing to take their clothes off in public constantly” and then…gives the show a 3-out-of-4-stars rating? So maybe Stasi actually liked it?

Hmm. Well, then, I guess the lesson here is that maybe afternoon anal sex isn’t the worst thing in the world. Just don’t forget the lube.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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  1. Defending an attack on a person’s body type is all well and good- although I’m not sure if the author has considered that perhaps some of us would prefer that we see a broad selection of people on television and not just whichever wealthy and well-connected person decides to sleazily seize media power- and ideally would prefer a good looking one who is in shape and has some credible values instead of a fat lumpy pseudo-criminal misanthropic mess. In a way it’s more insulting to the hoards of people with meaningful stories out there. The “anal sex’ subplot thing is just another clear example of how this is a lowest common denominator gross-out titillation melodrama. Which, let’s be honest, is dead on par for HBO.

    But this “review of a review” smacks of a hurried deflection of what truly bothers many of us about this show: It is blatantly anti-feminist and positively DRIPS the slime of the new era of greedy style-less misogynistic patrician financial worker man’s world NYC and their weak, spiralingly anti-feminist rich-but-powerless-against-male-politics “Girls”. Not women apparently, but ‘girls’. Even the name of the show subtly spits in the face of progress. And don’t give me that “BUT IT’S DONE SO TO ILLUSTRATE A POINT” bullshit. It is done so because the producer (Apatow) is a prolific misogynist and is trying to appeal to similarly trained public. Dunham is just a very willing tool, with her own goals that also conveniently fly in the face of ethical story-telling and progressive notions. She would be secondary to the point if it were not for her blazing and purposelessness ambition.

    In short: Dunham is smearing her feces all over the strong artistic hardworking bootstrappy people of New York with her insulting faux-stuggle(pretending to have lived in Brooklyn, playing ‘herself’ while hiding her well-connectedness, posing as “upper(?) middle class” which has specific nuance and distinction that she would rather us not compare to her easily web-searchable upbringing), and demanding to be elevated for…. what exactly? She is a living breathing example of why the system here is broken and we all can’t have nice things.

    I am all for holding reviewers to the fire if they have ulterior motives, and calling them out for contradiction. But please understand that Girls is a big problem for many of us, and one person who mismanages their anger does not invalidate the pain and disingenuousness that we all associate with this monstrosity.

  2. Girls who like Girls –

    You, ma’am (or sir), are an idiot. I continue to be appalled by the disgusting attacks on Dunham. Don’t like the show? fine. You’d rather not spend your time watching self-absorbed twentysomethings obsess over themselves and make mistakes? Fair enough. But, forgetting the fact that Dunham grew up privileged, it’s amazing that someone (you) take such offense at a woman who dares to bare her imperfect body and soul in an effort to depict the true messiness of life as a twentysomething. Sorry if self-obsession/loathing, codependent relationships and sexual humiliation are subjects that go against your ridiculous, fascist notion of what constitutes “progressive” and “ethical” storytelling. To paraphrase Andrew O’hehir in his defense of Zero Dark Thirty, “Art is an amoral and ruthless enterprise.” You’re no better than a fundamentalist Christian who demands that no work of art offend their delicate sensibilities by depicting how people actually are.

  3. LOL. Art is not amoral. If you believe that, than….. I don’t even know what to say. As for the ‘defense of body issues’ y’all constantly howl about: fine. I agree that people should not be maligned for their looks weight etc. But ‘people’ are people. They are not shoved at me from my television, thrown up on billboards, and tacked up in posters spouting misogyny and class ignorance all over my neighborhood. Dunham is taking up a significant portion of the airwaves and media, thus she bears a greater weight of scrutiny.

    NOTHING can be held completely removed from morals. The word for that is evil. I will not accuse you of ‘evil’, but please keep in mind the people who think that ‘business is amoral’ are wrecking our country. Is ‘amoral’ art so different?

    Thank you, btw, for accusing me of fascism, and fundamentalist Christianity. You forgot misogyny, littering, and puppy-kicking. Remember if I comment these things they are inextricably tied to me but if I do it in a tv show they are perfectly fine and I should be lauded 😉

  4. Alright, so I was a little hungover and on edge this morning, and I flew off the handle when I initially commented. Not a constructive way to debate. Sincere apologies.

    I’ll say in a more measured way – I find your stubborn insistence on judging depiction apart from intent extremely perplexing. There’s a brutal honesty to Girls that is rare in shows about twentysomethings. It’s popularity stems from a recognition of the familiar, and a particular kind of familiar that is not often portrayed on television. What do you propose as an alternative? What, in your estimation, is the antidote to the “monstrosity” of Girls?

    Your fixation on and overuse of “misogyny” as a buzzword is telling. Can you explain how Girls is misogynistic? Tell me about this rampant misogyny of which Judd Apatow is the mastermind. And please expound on the misogynistic relationship between Girls and the Apatow-less Tiny Furniture, which is essentially about Hannah (i.e. Dunham) two years ago, fresh out of college.

    Portrayal is not endorsement. Dunham’s character is clearly her own worst enemy, and like many girls who should know better but are still growing into themselves, frequently subjects herself to humiliation and abuse. These are the life lessons that cultivate wisdom. The male characters are not portrayed as better or worse than their female counterparts. The bottom line is that everyone on the show is kind of a selfish asshole. If that turns you off, if you do not enjoy watching selfish assholes, if you cannot relate to them, that’s a good reason to change the channel. But to accuse the show of being derelict in its moral/ethical/progressive duties and to accuse Dunham of being a willing pawn to Apatow’s misogynistic vision is some seriously pretentious undergraduate bullshit.

    And yes – art is amoral. Its a mirror held up to ourselves without comment. It allows for subjective interpretation, and can be used for both evil and good. Bad “art” telegraphs a lesson, carries an agenda, refuses to challenge, makes the viewer feel safe, and is soon forgotten.

    The “business is amoral” analogy is kind of ridiculous. Yes, art and business are very, very different. If you really need me to explain those differences, I’d be happy to.

  5. Again, thank you for describing me as *ahem* stubborn, fixated, pretentious, undergraduate(?), ridiculous, and in real need of some explicit explanation as well. At this point I feel as though I need to accuse you of something, and so here it is: You are massively defensive about Miss Dunham’s show because you derive some sort of pleasure or possibly reassurance(!) from her portrayal of vacuousness and hypocritical self-aggrandizement as an ‘important’ narrative.

    I don’t care about validity, or rather won’t comment about it because it is too subjective. I certainly don’t want to censor anyone. But that includes myself, and anyone who doesn’t have an ulterior motive for defending Girls can see that it is a bag of crap. Beyond that assertion I don’t think I can continue on with this exchange; there are too many points from the above comment I disagree with and I simply don’t have the time or energy to respond to them all. In short: I disagree.

    Also either stop saying ‘Art is Amoral’ or cease accusing people of pretentiousness 😛