‘It’s never easy to be attacked’
Girls’ Lena Dunham’s survival strategies
THERE’S a scene early on in the new season of Girls where Lena Dunham’s bumbling protagonist Hannah is being critiqued – to put it mildly – over her writing talents. (In season four, Hannah has left New York for the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop).
Ultimately, the scene (which was filmed months ago) turned out to be prophetic for Dunham, given the criticism that greeted her recent memoir, Not That Kind of Girl.
“It has this weird connection to my book and the way that my book was received,” smiles Dunham when we meet at HBO’s midtown offices on a snowy New York day.
“So [ Girls executive producer] Jenni [Konner] and I were like, ‘Are we psychic? What happened? How did this occur? Maybe we should enter the lottery’.”
Dunham, a witty, warm and engaging interviewee, has swapped her recent bleached blonde hair for a more Hannah-esque brown.
“There comes a point with dyed blonde hair,” she giggles, “where you start to look like a mum on meth.”
Some of the criticism surrounding her book stung, though, particularly the barbs that suggested she had been sexually inappropriate with her younger sister, Grace, when they were kids. (In the book, Dunham had recounted a childhood memory where she remembered being curious about Grace’s body. For her part, Grace has said she found the ensuing uproar laughable).
“It’s never easy to be attacked,” Dunham says, adding that the main perpetrators are usually “men yelling at me on Twitter”.
“For me the line is really when I feel like it hurts my family or anyone around me – that’s when it’s painful,” she says.
“I really try to protect them and I’m learning how to do that. But for the most part I think I’m getting better at creating distance between me and the negativity that’s thrown my way.”
Dunham adds that she’s “cut down” her “dependence” on Twitter given the abuse she often receives.
“If I think something’s worth responding to, I respond, but otherwise I block it out.”
With a little help from Konner. “Sometimes I have to go around to her apartment and physically get her off Twitter for her own emotional sanity,” Konner says. “I get so protective over her and to see how hurt she gets by what people say, it just upsets me greatly.”
Critics, of course, contend that Dunham has merely made a career out of over-sharing.
“Men over-share and it’s ‘brave’,” she says. “With women, it’s like TMI [too much information]; I hate the phrase TMI, by the way …”
Dunham says she doesn’t have an end game for the show, adding that she and Konner have already started work on season five. Still, some things have changed over the years; where once she would rope in her mates to play characters on the show, now she’s fobbing off Oscar-winners (Reese Witherspoon apparently asked Dunham straight-out for a cameo).
Dunham, however, reckons she’s got no chance of swaying current BFF (and major Girls fan) Taylor Swift to board the L train to Brooklyn.
“I wish,” screams Dunham throwing her hands up, “but she’s too busy taking over the world. She’s going to be president soon. Seriously, she is going to rule the world. And we’re all just along for the ride.”
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Back for more: Left to right, Girls stars Lena Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and Alison Williams.