Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Biased Opinion - Lena Dunham and Aphrodite

Lena Dunham
In the picture to the left is Lena Dunham, the creator, writer, and star of the HBO series Girls. She plays a twenty-something barista living in New York and trying to negotiate her way through the hazards of being single and looking for love and sex. The show is something like Sex and the City, if Sex and the City had actual characters rather than talking manikins. And the fact that she does not look like the stereotypical television leading lady has led to all sorts of idiotic criticism. In fact, she was criticized for the picture here, because she dared to show her supposedly unsexy thighs.

In the series, Dunham's character has the temerity to actually engage in sex scenes. And she has the audacity to be attractive to men without fitting the cookie cutter version of "sexy" that Hollywood pumps out. And this, apparently, has scandalized the media. Because, at least according to the prevailing wisdom of the media, women who look like Lena are supposed to be desperately hungry for sex anywhere they can get it, and when they do, they are supposed to be properly thankful that a man has deigned to find them attractive enough to sleep with them.

Aphrodite, complete with
large thighs and a small bust.
And what has gotten a lot of people's panties in a twist the past few days is that in the most recent episode of Girls Dunham's character Hannah had a tryst with a divorced doctor played by Patrick Wilson. Because Wilson is, it seems, a handsome man. And the shrieks of incredulity from some sectors that a man who looks like Wilson would never be sexually interested in a woman who looks like Dunham have been both hysterical and deafening. Let's leave aside the fact that criticisms coming from people like Linda Stasi that Dunham has "giant thighs", a "sloppy backside", and a "blobby body" are clearly completely off-base and demonstrably false. Let's also leave aside the fact that it is common in Hollywood to have a sloppy, fat, and not very attractive man paired with a beautiful woman - for example Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne Smith in According to Jim, or Mark Addy and Jami Gertz in Still Standing - the simple fact is that these criticisms are stupid. And not only that, they exhibit a level of ignorance about history that is, to put it bluntly, almost shocking.

whose "giant thighs"
and "sloppy backside"
make her clearly
Brian Moylan, a seemingly uneducated lout who writes for Hollywood.com, found Dunham's pairing with Wilson completely unbelievable, writing "[l]ast night when Lena Dunham – the writer, director, star, and all-around powerhouse behind HBO's buzzy show Girls – leaned in and kissed the dreamy Patrick Wilson and he kissed her back, the snarkier parts of the audience (myself included) immediately thought, "Oh please, there is no way that he would get with her!" The rest of the episode, in which Dunham's Hannah spends two days in the loving arms of Wilson's Joshua, was a suspension of disbelief, as we're supposed to imagine that this romantic coupling is accepted by today's society. Their discrepancy was only made more apparent in a scene where Hannah and Joshua play half-naked ping pong and Wilson looks like a bronzed statue of Hercules and Dunham looks, well, not quite like an Aphrodite." [emphasis added]. But even a few minutes of reflection by someone who has at least some modicum of an education will realize that Dunham looks exactly like an Aphrodite. She just doesn't look like the very narrow vision of attractiveness that Hollywood permits. Popular culture, led by the artificial and culturally illiterate band of television and movie executives that turn out popular entertainment, has defined "beauty" down to something so narrow that it is almost wholly at odds with anything that anyone prior to the rise of porn as the medium that defines what women should look like.

Another woman
with a "blobby body"
And it wasn't just that the ancient Greeks thought that women with strong thighs, ample hips, and a modest bust were attractive. Down through history, women who look like Dunham would have been thought as beautiful. Even as recently as the 1950s and 1960s a woman built like Dunham would have been considered attractive, or even, a sex symbol. And woman like Jean Harlow, Jayne Mansfield, and even Marilyn Monroe would be lambasted as fat cows by today's media. Even a woman as beautiful as Christina Hendricks has people talking about how she's beautiful "for a bigger girl". When the plain fact is that she's beautiful, period. And so is Lena Dunham. For centuries, we considered women who look like actual women beautiful. And now we talk about how fat an unattractive they are, to the point where Dunham's on camera sex scenes have been compared to "rape", and a semi-literate moron like Moylan can claim that Dunham looks "not quite like Aphrodite".

And to all that I say: Moylan, you should be ashamed. You should go hide your face for pretending to be a writer while displaying a level of ignorance about Greek mythology that would embarrass a sixth grader. And fuck you for not recognizing beauty when you see it.

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  1. I think I love you :) Great post! Though as a bit of a busty woman, I hope that we can embrace a beauty standard that accepts woman all along the spectrum :D

  2. @Anya: Thank you. Busty women are beautiful too. I think the tragedy of the modern Hollywood conception of "beauty" is that it has become so very narrow. I find women like Courtney Thorne Smith and Kimberly Williams Paisley attractive. But I also find women like Lena Dunham attractive. And in any era prior to this one, popular culture would have as well.