As a friend pointed out to me lately, when it comes to Lena Dunham, you either love her or you hate her. I agreed, and then of course immediately after agreeing I realized that I couldn’t decide whether I loved or hated Lena. I’ve seen the first season of her HBO show Girls, and I felt as though I couldn’t distinguish between Hannah Horvath (Lena’s character) and Lena herself, so I read Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” so that I could have an informed love or hate for Lena.
(Note: I realize “hate” is a strong word…)
Recently I’ve experienced a rash of reading celebrity/comedian memoirs, and unfortunately, Lena’s didn’t rise to the top. Here’s the thing: I like memoirs because people who write memoirs usually lead interesting lives, or they’re able to spin their stories into something interesting or at least insightful. I don’t think that Lena succeeded in making her story seem interesting or insightful. She barely acknowledged the fact that she produces, directs, writes, and stars in her own television show–for a twenty-eight-year-old woman, that’s interesting!–and chooses instead to focus on her problems.
What are these problems? you ask. Because problems can be interesting.
And I agree, yes, problems can be interesting. Especially if you’re writing about how you overcame them or learned something from them, or at least if you can talk about them in a funny way.
But Lena doesn’t do that.
In her disjointed book of essays (that’s really what it is), we learn about her years of therapy, read entire pages of her extremely detailed food journal (YAWN. What am I supposed to get out of this? You were obsessed with counting calories like millions of other women?), and hear about almost every single sexual encounter she ever had, including times when she just let men sleep in her bed. We get random lists (what she learned from her father, things she’s afraid will kill her), details about the less-than-great times she had at summer camp as a child, and emails she would send if she had the guts (basically, she wishes she could say these things to these people so badly that she had to print them in her memoir).
Lena comes across as extremely self-absorbed and neurotic, and seems to want to paint herself as some ever-suffering victim.
While I do understand the “everyone has a story that deserves to be told” thing, I don’t understand why Lena, who actually has an interesting story, chose to tell hers in such a verbose, banal way. I think she is a very talented writer and actress, but she should’ve waited about thirty years before penning her memoir. Maybe by then she’ll have gained some self-awareness.
I won’t say I hate Lena Dunham–I still like her show and think she has good things to offer–but I definitely do not love her.