The trailer for the second season of Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls just came out. The overwhelming consensus is that it looks pretty good, not that it matters much, as the show was recently picked up for a third season. In recent months, Dunham has also been nominated for an Emmy and scored a $3.5 million book deal. Esequire said she’s “building an empire.” And she casually goes out to dinner with Claire Danes.
When you head home for the holidays, there’s a decent possibility your Mom will ask, “What’s up with Lena Dunham?” Here’s how you should answer.
2. Mom: Do you know this Lena Dunham?
You: Yes. People were kind of iffy on her back in 2011, but in 2012, everyone became obsessed with her!
Allow me to explain. About a year ago, her show Girls released the trailer for its first season. Bloggers wrote and tweeted about the series, mostly because, well, an HBO show about living in Brooklyn written by a then 25-year-old is the kind of thing lots of bloggers like to write about. It seemed promising, but also possibly doomed to fail — like I Just Want My Pants Back, MTV’s one-season attempt at a “hipsters living in Brooklyn” show, did. Some film industry insiders and young culture-hungry types were Dunham fans, a credit to her 2010 film Tiny Furniture. But a large group of naysayers also existed, calling her a not particularly talented product of nepotism. She attracted attention, but as a tattooed 25-year-old who looks different from most other women in Hollywood, she was bound to. Besides, she was barely in Hollywood.
Now she has a show, and a book deal, and an Emmy nomination, and she’s friends with all the celebrities.
4. What is her show about?
Girls is about a group of young women living in New York City. They have fairly disastrous love lives and even more disastrous professional lives.
5. Oh! So it’s like your life.
I mean, in some ways! Like, I would probably eat a cupcake in the shower. But unlike them, I show up for work on time! Also, the sex is kind of messed up.
6. Oh, so it’s like “Sex And The City”!
Well, yes, there are four female friends who live in New York and the main one is a writer who never really does anything. But they don’t buy Manolo Blahniks and live alone in 3,000 square lofts.
7. Gotcha. So I heard she got a lot of money for her book.
She did — $3.5 million. Which is pretty crazy! Especially since she hasn’t even written it yet. But as the creator and lead actor in a popular show, it’s not THAT crazy. Tina Fey sold her book for an estimated $6 million.
8. Wait! So publishers will pay a person in their mid-20s millions of dollars to write about themselves?
Friends, this is the era of Thought Catalog. And Tumblr. And Twitter. And Facebook. Shake your head at young people writing about themselves all you want. But this is the culture we’ve created.
9. Didn’t she make a video for the Obama campaign?
10. Is she successful because her parents are rich and famous?
Many have complained that Dunham is a product of nepotism — and certainly she’s been aided by the benefits of a well-off, connected family. But as she put it herself: her mother is a feminist photographer most people aren’t familiar with, not Angelina Jolie.
Besides, Girls got made because Judd Apatow saw her 2010 movie Tiny Furniture and emailed her about it.
11. Who’s Judd Apatow?
The guy who made Bridesmaids and Freaks and Geeks.
12. Why does she have all those tattoos?!
I don’t know, who cares?
She did talk about it once, saying, “I sort of tend to equate tattoos with prisoners, punks or people with a high level of self-confidence. I don’t necessarily have a covered-in-tattoos personality. So, Judd sort of was like, “Just say something honest about why.” So, I wrote that scene and it is pretty close. I don’t think I would have phrased it that way to myself at the time. At the time, it was like, ‘My friend Marina has tattoos, and I’m gonna get one.’”
13. Okay, so, do you like her? Is she, like, your idol?
Every young writer/aspiring writer/coffee-getter, or anyone generally drawn to creative pursuits I know has inevitably been asked this over the past year.
It’s impossible not to be a little envious of a person near your age making a show about the kind of stuff you and your friends deal with every day — texting, bad sex, weird babysitting jobs.
If you’re a high school football player looking to get recruited, are you going to look up at the people succeeding? Yes, you are.
Maybe so much of the confusion surrounding Dunham’s ubiquity has something to do with the masses not being used to young women who don’t look like runway models running the show. Everyone will just have to learn to deal.