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Worst ‘Girls’ thinkpiece ever: Lena Dunham is fat, has tattoos, isn’t Grace Kelly

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Girls

Why can’t they all be Grace Kelly?

In the two-and-a-half seasons Girls has been on the air, it has probably inspired more thinkpieces than any other TV show, a record possibly soon to be broken by True Detective. Some have been good, some have been bad but I figured, whether it’s about its approach to sex, race, nepotism, body image, selfishness, whether the characters are sympathetic or meant to be, “voice of my generation,” that we heard it all. I really believed just about everything there was to say about Girls had already been said.

I wish I’d been right. But now, in 2014, we’ve hit the bottom of the Girls thinkpiece barrel. Christine Flowers, a columnist with the Delaware County Times in Pennsylvania, has topped them all. We’ve got all the hits- a schoolmarmish level of moral scolding, heavy amounts of body shaming, and the audacity to pass judgment on an entire series based on, it appears, a single viewing of one episode of its third season. Oh, and just about every point she makes has been litigated and argued about for going on three years now.

Let’s take it point-by-point:

 I came home from work the other night to a television that, courtesy of Ralph and Brian Roberts, provided me with three viewing choices: a blank screen, the “Real Housewives of Leavenworth” (which involved no actual women,) and HBO, which used to stand for “Home Box Office” but now means “Horrifically Bad Offal,” which conveniently rhymes with awful.

I’m not sure how many channels Flowers has access to through her Comcast package, but chances are it’s more than three. HBO, regardless of whether you like Girls, airs some pretty good shows, both old and new. And come on, you’d think a professional writer would be able to come up with a wittier acronym for HBO than “Horrifically Bad Offal.”

 The show was called “Girls” and to hipsters in the ’hood it represents excellence in broadcasting. Some television critics have praised this sitcom about 20-something women as refreshing, well-written and an authentic reflection of today’s youth. If that is the case, I am quite happy to be several decades removed from regular contact with that demographic as I think I might kill one of them after prolonged exposure, which would put me in danger of ending up at Leavenworth (please refer to first paragraph.)

First of all, “hipsters in the hood”? Really?

Secondly, does Flowers think no one has ever criticized Girls before, for these or any other reasons? Where has she been?

And what’s with all the Leavenworth jokes?

The person I would be most tempted to hurt is Lena Dunham, the creator, writer and putative star of the show. It is fashionable to say that Dunham is talented, just as it was once fashionable to purchase and pamper pet rocks.

No need to want to do violence to someone just because you don’t like their TV show. And the pet rocks reference- very topical.

 To me, Dunham is just a large fluffy skein of wool pulled over the eyes of anyone who thinks that acting involves more than opening your eyes really wide and saying things like “I have to live my truth.” This I could almost accept, if Lena could just live her truth fully clothed. Unfortunately, young Miss Dunham is an exhibitionist who has the doughy dimensions of a “Before” picture and who embraces her Rubenesque beauty with gusto. Except that the Dutch master never painted a woman in a bikini with shoulder tattoos that resemble the residue around your bathtub after the seventh family member has used it

You know, it’s about time someone pointed out, in a mean-spirited way, that Lena Dunham is fat. It’s never happened before, not a single time. And does Dunham’s body type make Girls a bad show in and of itself? I think Flowers would like Girls a lot more if all four characters were Marnie.

By this point you might be saying to yourself and anyone else who will listen, “Christine, you’re just a catty old (rhymes with) witch who exemplifies all that is wrong with our shallow, looks-obsessed society. And your looks aren’t anything to obsess about.”

Moving on…

If, in fact, you did say that, I compliment you on your use of the word “exemplifies.” I also want to point out that I am not obsessed with looks per se but, rather, with the idea that we can be as unkempt and greasy-looking as we want and still demand to be accepted as acceptable.

Thank you, Christine Flowers, for being the one and only single  arbiter of who is and isn’t “accepted as acceptable.” All the times on the later seasons of The Sopranos that the north-of-300-pounds Tony had sex with beautiful women, was his appearance ” accepted as acceptable”?

 A few weeks ago, before it closed, I went to the Grace Kelly exhibit in Doylestown. Aside from the fact that she belongs heart, body and golden-haired glory to us, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the princess we lent to Monaco. Part of it has to do with her immense acting skills, part of it is the memory of that silk chiffon voice, and part of it derives from the knowledge that this Philadelphia Dorothy always came home.

But a very large part of the reason that I adore Grace Kelly Grimaldi stems from the fact that she was unapologetically perfect. She valued dignity, and understood that authenticity derives from self-respect and not self-exposure. And she wore white gloves without a trace of irony.

Shame on you, Lena Dunham, for not being Grace Kelly. She should have tried a lot harder to be a beautiful blond movie star princess from the ’50s. And three years of Girls so far and… no white gloves at all. WHERE ARE THE WHITE GLOVES, LENA? WHERE ARE THEY?

Leave aside that Grace Kelly, just like every other human, may not have been as perfect as she looked. Would Girls, and every other TV show for that matter, become more interesting if every character were “unapologetically perfect”? I think it would be pretty boring.

There’s actually an actress working on a prestige Sunday night series right now who looks and acts an awful lot like Grace Kelly. Does Christine Flowers know about January Jones? Maybe she should watch one episode of the fifth season of Mad Men and write a column about it.

 Today, it’s unrealistic to expect women, particularly young ones, to go around in white gloves and chignons and classic pumps on a regular basis. It’s not surprising to see all sorts of body art and you’re more likely to encounter piercings of the frontal lobe as opposed to the ear lobe.

 The frontal lobe is part of the brain and not pierced very often. Unless Flowers is talking about the “other” frontal lobe, well… I still think that, unless you’re at a nudist colony, you’re still a lot more likely to see a pierced earlobe.

But these things should not be celebrated. At least, they should not become the new normal to the extent that being slovenly is accepted as “living one’s truth.”

Flowers, like just about everyone else who’s ever written something dumb about Girls, is mistaking the characters for the creators and depiction as endorsement. No, Lena Dunham isn’t really calling herself “the voice of my generation,” and the series doesn’t exist as an endorsement of every action of the characters. Most people who watch TV get that.

 I suspect that at some level, Lena Dunham understands this principle. The “Girls” creator recently appeared on the cover of “Vogue” and in a photo layout. Many of the pictures that appeared in the fashion bible were photo-shopped with nary a bikini in sight. That is a very good thing from an aesthetic perspective because Vogue — unrealistic as it might be for the average woman — doesn’t pretend to serve the proletariat.

And good for that, right? The proletariat doesn’t deserve pretty magazines.

 It represents an ideal standard of beauty. Lena Dunham, even a fully-clothed Lena Dunham, does not. This is not because she is not Grace Kelly perfect. It’s because Dunham quite deliberately spits upon that perfection and demands to be adored as a goddess of mediocrity.

It would be good for Flowers’ argument if she could find one thing Dunham has ever said or written that indicates she “deliberately spits upon that perfection and demands to be adored as a goddess of mediocrity.” Flowers might have a better read on Dunham’s views on the matter, had she watched more than one episode of the show. I think she believes the entirety of Girls is just one long recitation of radical feminist and fat acceptance movement talking points.

I think that’s the part that annoys me the most, this sense that we won’t even try to be presentable. It’s also troubling that challenging this apathy has now come to be considered judgmental. Worse yet, it’s tantamount to strangling poor little Ophelia, that put upon adolescent living inside every grown woman. I’d settle for strangling Lena Dunham.

I’m sure, Christine, that reading your little missive made Lena Dunham question the value and efficacy of her work and that, with her Golden Globe and Emmy-winning TV series, she has done serious damage to our culture by discounting Grace Kelly-style physical beauty, while encouraging tattoos and piercings and forcing people have to look at her disgusting, fat, scantily clad self. The piece could have made a difference, in a way that nothing written about Girls to date has managed to do.

But then you said you wanted to strangle her, and the point was lost.

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  • Maria Falcone

    Hello Mr. Silver
    Love what you wrote here about Christine Flowers’ column about “Girls” in the Daily Times. They printed a letter today that I wrote to her in reply. If you have the time, you might enjoy reading it.
    Maria Falcone

  • Christine Flowers

    Good piece, Mr. Silver. I am honored to have had you do what I did in college, an “explication de texte.” Never heard of you before, as I am quite certain you’ve never heard of me. So, while we’ll agree to disagree about the execrable Ms. Dunham and her writing (which I have had the misfortune of experiencing more than once…the snow has limited my viewing choices) I appreciate the time you took to explain what I meant or at least, what you thought I meant.

    Warm regards

    Christine