Lena Dunham Explains Why We’re Jealous of Her, Is Totally Right

“People are ultimately threatened by young people taking positions of power. But there’s also this feeling of I could do that, too. People don’t feel rabidly jealous of Larry David or Salman Rushdie because they don’t think, I could do that. And with what I’ve done, I think a lot of people think, I could do that in my sleep. If I’d just met one person along my path, I would have that TV show.” — Get out of my head, Lena Dunham!!!!!1 This interview, which is in the new Esquire, includes a footnote here:” 2. That one person is Judd Apatow, who is a producer on Girls and gives notes to Dunham on every episode,” which, like, RAWR. I think Lena Dunham is a person who would have been prolific no matter who she met. Maybe some meetings hastened her rise, but a meeting with Judd Apatow does not a star make. Lena Dunham is great. Do I wish I was her? Yes. Do I think I could be her? Nope.


33 Comments / Post A Comment

Politely disagree. Life/work is all about connections, and there is no way I or anyone in my circle could come into contact with Judd Apatow. I think it’s about time we start realizing that-it’s part of the problem with art/entertainment, and a hell of a lot of the problem with the concentration of wealth. There isn’t a lot of ‘pulling up by your bootstraps’ going on here-these are people who have famous connections which beget famous connections.
My company has many employees who are related, because they helped get eachother jobs here. The difference is that none of these people are famous/intensely wealthy. Not ALL people who have those connections will become famous/intensely wealthy, you have to have some drive and talent, but it’s a hell of a lot more likely than you or I, even if we’re AMAZING. The idea that Lena Dunham is just there because of sheer talent/work is the same idea behind ‘poor people just don’t work as hard’

People aren’t as jealous of Larry David because it’s obvious that the man WORKED HIS ASS OFF to get where he got, and deserves it.

iffie (#1,911)

@Jake Reinhardt This notion of who deserves it though. She doesn’t deserve it because she has connections? That negates what she’s offering?

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@Jake Reinhardt Agree. I don’t think it’s contradictory to say that Dunham is talented and hard-working AND that she got where she is due to connections. If she hadn’t had the talent and hard work, she would have failed at her endeavors, no doubt. But, she could have been just as talented and hard working and still be laboring in obscurity without the connections. It’s like that in every profession. I get that she’s annoyed at all the criticims directed at her, and maybe a lot of them are catty or unfair, but she needs to recognize her privileged position and try to use it for good rather than just thinking everyone with anything bad to say about her work is Just Jealous. Or not, I mean, it’s her life I guess!

jfruh (#161)

@Jake Reinhardt To be slightly fair in this case — I have no idea whether Lena Dunhum and Judd Apatow knew each other before Girls (and surely they were at most a degree or two separately), but the origin story of Girls is that Apatow saw Tiny Furniture at a film festival and thought it was amazing. So, you know, obviously any number of connections were required to get that film made and art-house/festival distributed, but in theory it wasn’t necessarily based on a one-to-one personaly connection between the two of them.

jfruh (#161)

@Jake Reinhardt People aren’t as jealous of Larry David because it’s obvious that the man WORKED HIS ASS OFF to get where he got, and deserves it.

Also why … is that obvioius? I mean, Curb Your Enthusiasm exists because Seinfeld existed, and Seinfeld existed because Larry David had a less visible showbiz career that included a stint on SNL. Is “work your ass off” synonymous for “has been around longer’ or “I like Seinfeld better than Girls,” or … ?

Blondsak (#2,299)

@jfruh I’m not sure why Jake wrote that, but I do happen to know that Larry David worked multiple customer service jobs while also trying to make it as a comedian/comedy writer, while Lena Dunham has been fairly open about being supported by her parents. Just tossing that in.

jfruh (#161)

@LO did not know that, and it is definately relevant! Though not “obvious,” which I took as a reference to the quality of their respective work.

@iffie I’m not trying to say anyone ‘deserves’ it more than others, I’m just saying the playing field is slanted. She may have the exact same amount of talent/hard work as my cousin in Pittsburgh, and want to do exactly the same things, but she’s far more likely to have the opportunities that allow her fame/success in her field.

@jfruh I think maybe by ‘obvious’ I meant ‘he’s old, and been around for a long, long time, and is not attractive in a conventional manner’ and also that one wikipedia click makes things pretty obvious. Oh, and I also think it’s fairly obvious that he works at a very different quality level than she does, even though I enjoy her show.

jfruh (#161)

@jfruh just to continue on this thread and to broaden what I said earlier, I think it’s also worth noting that creative-type-people who are friends often reach out to each other initially because they’re mutual admirers of each other’s work. Like, it’s easy to say “oh, so and so got to do this because he knew whatshisname,” but often they only knew each other in a professional context because whatshisname though so and so had talent, not because they went to Andover together or whatever. Instead of Andover, it’s “that UCB sketch class” or something similar. It’s still based on personal relationships, sure, but those relationships aren’t necessarily disentanglable from the creative work.

jfruh (#161)

@Jake Reinhardt Well, obviously Larry David has been working longer than Lena Dunhum because he’s … a lot older than she is? I just mean that his own success has been informed by his industry relationships as well as his hard work and talent. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” wasn’t a show that popped out of nowhere just because he was funny, and neither was Seinfeld.

As for the question of whether Larry David is convenitonally attractive, or Lena Dunhum is, for that matter, I guess I don’t know any male comedians who have used their conventional attractiveness to rise to fame. Dane Cook, maybe? We could talk all day about what this says about how gender works in the entertainment complex, but I’d rather not, I guess.

julebsorry (#1,572)

@LO Yes, exactly. Like the interview she did where she said “I’ve been taking this long, stuttering period of moving out. … I feel like I’m constantly asking them to please stay out of my work life but also to please bring me soup.” To think it’s a normalized experience to have your parents supporting you (to the point of still getting the benefits of childhood, with doting mothers bringing soup on demand into your mid-20’s) and to fail to recognize that enthusiastic parents with fat rolodexes of media contacts gives you a huge edge over an equally talented and hard-working person…it really makes it hard for me to appreciate her success. Yes, she works hard, and yes, she has talent. But I hate seeing people who didn’t benefit from her advantages, which are now apparently necessary to succeed in the biz, as “just jealous”. Having her kind of safety net and environment allowed her to take risks that others wouldn’t have been able to take,and I sorta wish she’d just recognize it.

deepomega (#22)

@jfruh Well right. Being young does, in fact, indicate that she has “not worked as hard” because she’s had less time to work. My problem with the Dunham-ery is this two-fold meritocracy assumption. 1) The assumption that getting a teevee show is built just on merit, and 2) The assumption that talent is something you are ~born with~ so there’s no point in paying any dues or working hard, you’ll just be able to jump up and write awesome shit.

For the record, I think Dunham is a solid, funny writer who needs a few more years in the oven to really get how one-liners can be paired with actual human being characters, and how to let the plot unfold from how characters respond to things rather than from what scene the writer wants to write yet.

Blondsak (#2,299)

I waited to try to watch “Girls” until just two weeks ago, what with all the opinions and commentary flying around 4-5 months ago. I got through a few episodes before I went “meh” and turned it off.

Here is probably where I should add a comment about what I think about Lena Dunham or respond to this article in a meaningful way, but honestly, “meh” is pretty much all I got when I think about anything related to her or her show. I’m not jealous, not awed… yeah, I got nothing.

iffie (#1,911)


Blondsak (#2,299)

@iffie “I’ll be here all day, folks!”

julebsorry (#1,572)

@LO Haha yes, having nothing to do with my opinions on Lena Dunham, I tried to watch the show without prejudice…but turned it off after the introduction of the wonderful Chris O’Dowd playing a terrible, terrible character. It was CHARACTER ASSASSINATION, I tells yah! :D

wearitcounts (#772)

@LO yeah, i have never watched the show mainly because i’m just plain not interested in it. but somehow, i’ve still sort of developed this “omg not THAT chick again” feeling about lena dunham due to media overexposure.

madrassoup (#929)

Logan, I can abide a lot but your blind love for Lena Dunham is really testing me. Unless you want people to think that you agree that every person critical of her and her show (for her/its treatment of characters of color as marginal figures at best, for her limp justifications of her choices, et cetera) is just a hater. Because that would mean that you’re pretty much saying you want to be the very personification of the stereotypical millenial who equates any kind of non-fawning feedback with jealousy.

And I even like her show! The point is that it’s possible to like it AND agree that she’s got her faults WHILE ALSO agreeing that people are sexist in their treatment of her.

deepomega (#22)

@madrassoup I think you misspelled JEALOUS JEALOUS JEALOUS

blair (#1,962)

I had a conversation with an editor this summer about Dunham’s then-recent New Yorker article where we pretty much both concluded EXACTLY that we or any of our friends could have done it too. And I don’t know how to feel about it! Because on the one hand it’s like “you had a weird relationship in college?! at OBERLIN, of all places?!?! no way TELL US MORE!!!” but on the other hand I don’t think it’s good form to slag on people who are living their dream just because it’s also sortakinda MY dream, too. I want to listen to Tina Fey’s Bossypants advice and remember that I’m in competition with everyone, not just the other 20-something females, and keep working hard because that’s what success is made of! (this sounds like it should be a song?)

But also Nora Ephron was Lena Dunham’s mentor TOO and that just makes me so envious I can’t handle it because ahh

I am not sure exactly where all the Lena Dunham-specific hate comes from. It could very well be that I do not work in the media industry so I am not as close to it as people who write for my favorite websites. However, I do work in fashion and of course people who have well-connected parents advance their careers a lot faster.

Why isn’t there all the vitriol for Stella McCartney, Sophia Coppola, or even Nicholas Cage, all of whom have insanely well-connected parents?

Also, a lot of people who are working on their creative work live with/are supported by their parents these days. Is it the “I could have done that” factor?

The truth is that she did it and other people didn’t, it happens.

awk (#840)

@KathleenD@twitter Stella McCartney et. al. did not work their way up during the age of interwebs commentary.

I totally agree with your points. I mean, if all kids just followed in the footsteps of their parents, they could get ahead a lot faster in their careers. If I wanted to work in the water pump manufacturing industry like my father, he would totally hook me up! Fortunately for the world, most people want to do different things than their parents do.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@KathleenD@twitter I think a lot of people’s issues with her are not about her success, but her reaction to (some legit, some not so much) criticism she’s received since that fame came along.

sockhopbop (#764)

@LO I think you’re right about her responses to criticism riling some people up further. The only criticism I really care about is the show’s lack of diversity. In the interviews I’ve read she’s handled feedback respectfully (unlike another member of the pilot’s writing staff) and she’s promised to make some changes to address it in the show’s second season. Which is a start. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/07/lena-dunham-fresh-air-girls_n_1496780.html ( I don’t know how to do fancy links!)

As for her responses to other criticisms, I’m glad she’s playing defense. People are totally within their rights to feel whatever way they want about her, but I don’t want any funny, talented young woman to feel like she has to go around apologizing for her life all the time — leg up or not.

plasticpalace (#2,665)

@KathleenD@twitter HAHA you think Sophia Coppola got a free pass to the indie darling she is now? GIRL clearly you don’t remember the vitriol she got when her dad put her in Godfather 3. Every critic under the sun called nepotism the moment Mary Corleone opened her mouth.

Alice (#392)

@plasticpalace To be fair though, that’s because she was AWFUL in that movie. She wasn’t given the job because she was the best actress up for the role (there’s just no way that’s possible), she got it because her dad was the director. If she’d been amazing as Mary, no one would have said anything, other than maybe an aside that she was Coppola’s daughter.

That being said, her directing career is something different – I’m sure that being a Coppola has helped her get her films off the ground. I’m sure it hasn’t hurt her, in any case. Her films also really good, which is why you haven’t heard much “God, are they still letting Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter make movies? Nepotism, blah, blah, blah.”

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@KathleenD@twitter Sofia Coppola was Mary Corleone because Winona Ryder dropped out at the last minute. But yeah, she is a terrible actor. Have you seen the movie Peggy Sue Got Married. It’s another one of her dad’s films and both Sofia and Nicolas Cage are in it and they are equally awful. Even when I was a kid, I hated the girl who played the little sister because she was such a bad actress, and of course it ended up being Sofia. And Nicolas Cage was almost fired from the movie because he speaks with a Gumby type voice through the whole movie. But the movie is great!

megsy (#1,565)

Honestly, I am a little bit jealous but only because I cannot get into the show – I tried when it first came out but it’s not funny and the characters just seemed pathetic – and I am jealous that anyone would get THAT much attention for what seems, to me, to be really mediocre work. I feel as though people like Girls only because they are supposed to like Girls.

Trilby (#191)

I think Lena is talented for sure, but I fall on the side of the argument that says connections are hugely important. Show business is closed club– the rule is Nobody gets in. And from there they make exceptions. To be one of those exceptions is magical. And after you get in the club, you generally forget about how you got there and believe you owe it to your talent alone.

Trilby (#191)

@Trilby Oh, Wow… I feel so dumb when I comment on a story that is a month old. Why did it come up on the site like something new-ish?

AKA (#4,015)

Hint: it’s because her life has been one giant cakewalk from hothouse (St.Ann’s, Oberlin) to penthouse. Not many people in creative fields have the luxury of that path in life. She is basically the only artist to have never struggled besides maybe Mozart, and if you’re even thinking of comparing their talent, your humanity card is revoked. Now that this moment of blinding obviousness is behind us, can we please talk about someone else?

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