How Lena Dunham Breaks the Rules of Naked TV & Why We Love Her For It
Lena Dunham Naked
If you don’t know her, Lena Dunham is the star and writer of an HBO television series called Girls. The show is only in its 2nd season, but went from zero to fame in about thirty seconds.
The premise of the show has been compared to Sex and the City, only this time the girls are 20-somethings and dealing with a much more tumultuous period of their lives as they try to transition into the “real world.” Yes, it looks like just another series about young, white, privileged women, but you should still give it attention. Why?
Because Lena Dunham has an average-looking body and isn’t afraid to expose it, affirming to girls everywhere that it’s okay to be average and also NOT be ashamed of your body!
And I don’t mean average in a negative way. Average as in normal. Typical. Expected. Outside of the tiny percentage of women who are tall, wafer thin, cellulite-free, big-breasted and have no curves (otherwise known as the scantily clad women who dominate the media, advertising, film, TV, etc).
Dunham hasn’t been hiding her body as other “flawed” women do on TV. As her character Hannah, she’s been getting naked. The sex scenes provide plenty of opportunity for nudity, but in the latest episode we also see her wearing a see-through mesh top in public. (And Hannah is not the only one getting naked. In a season one episode, “The Crackcident,” there’s some shocking nudity when Shoshanna, another of the girls, ends up on a sidewalk in Brooklyn with no pants. Her nudity is never discussed then, or later in the show. I guess the writers are saying, “hey nakedness is part of life.” Since we all have naked bodies, it is.)
But Dunham’s body has elicited some strong and disturbing reactions from critics. A female critic writes about her in a NY Post review, “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.” Um, and somebody hates her for it? Dunham is a threat to the normal order of things, just by being her real self.
She was also criticized for wearing this outfit at an event in L.A.
Dunham’s response was: If Olivia Wilde had gone to a party in … little shorts, she might have been on a ‘weird dressed list’ or been told her outfit was cute. I don’t think a girl with tiny thighs would have received such no-pants attention. I think what it really was … ‘Why did you all make us look at your thighs?’ My response is, get used to it because I am going to live to be 100, and I am going to show my thighs every day till I die.”
Just by exposing her thighs, she’s challenging the same response to nudity that naturists deal with: “Ewww! I don’t wanna see that!” Naturism also opens people’s eyes to body diversity, ie reality. A salon.com article about Girls’ casual nudity even quoted Nicky Hoffman of The Naturist Society about how naturism empowers women. It always seemed to me like a paradox that it’s not difficult to walk the streets among average Americans and realize that most people are not hiding the super skinny idealized body type under their clothes. And yet to be confronted with this fact is to cause shock, controversy, and disgust. Perhaps I simply underestimate the brainwashing done by the media and advertising industry.
But what’s great is the way Lena responds to these attacks on her body. She doesn’t give a crap! She’s not dieting, not covering up and not apologizing for the way she looks.
Her body has generated not just criticism, but also some really great discussion around important questions – why does nudity make people feel disgust? What’s wrong with showing a different body type on TV? Why is it a big deal? Why does it have to mean anything?
Here are two quotes from articles that attempt to address these questions. In the first, Helen Charman suggests that people’s negative reaction to nudity comes from the “intimacy” of seeing all the imperfections, but we need to start seeing bodies as something other than objects of beauty or sexual desire.
“…in this case the problem is more that the ‘perfect’ body is one stripped of the peculiar intimacy that, by rights, comes naturally with nudity. We are unfamiliar with seeing a ‘real’ body represented on screen, and the intimacy that it creates is startling, and challenging, and the challenge makes us uncomfortable, and discomfort leads us all too often to the kneejerk reaction of criticism and of disgust.
…The naked body is humanity at its most vulnerable and its most truthful, and it should be celebrated not only for its potential to be beautiful but also its potential to be funny, and awkward, and sad, and old, because this in turn is all that we are, and can be.”
“Naked as We Came: What Lena Dunham’s Nudity Says About Us” by Helen Charman, Huffington Post
And a 2nd quote from “The Audacity of Lena Dunham, and Her Admirable Commitment to Making Us Look At Her Naked” by Lesley on xoJane
“The aghast controversy evoked by Dunham’s nudity shows us just how much of this “real women” talk is lip service, and how very far we have to go before we can socially deal with the fact that different bodies exist. Truth is, we’d all probably be a lot less neurotic about our own bodies if we could get used to seeing and accepting the natural variety in other people’s — without shame, and giving no fucks.”
We need more naked Lena Dunham’s on TV! I hope she will keep getting naked and keep challenging the status quo. (We also obviously need more people to try naturism, but we all know it’s easier to put a greater variety of naked girls on TV than to get the viewers themselves to try social nudity.)
Category: Felicity's Nudist Blog By Felicity Jones
About the Author (Author Profile)I'm Felicity, author of Felicity's Blog and co-founder of Young Naturists America. I write about nudism and naturism in today's world along with issues like top-freedom and body acceptance, and various naked topics. Enjoy, and leave a comment when you've got something to say! :)
I was disappointed with the "Naked" episode of Glee that recently aired which I watched only because of the episode title. The main character decided to pull out of a student film because she "wasn't ready" to do a topless scene, whatever that means. Plus, the men from the club prepared to pose nude for a fundraising calendar but "luckily" they discarded the idea because one member didn't feel comfortable participating so then clothes ruled the day.
A fine discussion IMHO. Not having a TV, I've seen very little of Girls. But Lena Dunham, from what I've seen and read, is a real hero, a fabulous rarity amongst so much that's wrong. Now, how to make her less rare . . .
What a great article...and so connected to the current obsession/disgust dialectic we have with the human body.
I have had Girls on my Netflix list. I'm not confident that I'll like it but willing to sit through it.