Lena Dunham isn’t exactly a victim. At the age of 26, she has a show on HBO and now has reportedly signed a major book deal worth $3.7 million dollars. And if all else fails, she remains a White woman born to parents with some nominal level of fame. Of all people in need of a savior to don a cape and rush to their aid, one would hope Dunham would volunteer to stand in the back of the line in a moving display of self-awareness.
During a recent conversation with TV critic Emily Nussbaum at the New Yorker Festival, Dunham said of this critique about her success: “The criticism that disappointed me was the privilege and nepotism of things. It’s upsetting and confusing…I have plenty of counterarguments to that but it’s not elegant to share them…I’ve had summer jobs since I was 12 but I can’t come out and say that.”
I wish she had expressed whatever other counterpoint she had regardless of how inelegant it may have sounded to her. Not that it’d alter the truth about her circumstances. True enough, Dunham has proven herself to be both a talented and ardent worker; nonetheless, much of her success can be attributed to the opportunities her privilege has afforded.
That is not her fault, nor is she at all wrong for seizing on what’s in front of her. However, Dunham’s failure to acknowledge her status as a White woman of a particular socioeconomic status and the access it provides doesn’t do much in the way of convincing less-fortunate folks not to critique her or, at the very least, to critique what her success means to them. It’s not that most have faulted Lena Dunham one bit for accepting a $3.7 million book advance. Who wouldn’t? Still, I do take issue with the rationale behind it and some of the defense mechanisms launched to shield her from critique.
The role of sexism or any other form of prejudice can never be discounted…but why is it that whenever criticism is leveled in Lena Dunham’s way, somehow it always falls back to gender?
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