Over the past six years Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s Girls has invigorated the white upper class feminist (or what we call a “WUF”). Existing as the herald of the “WUF” population, she’s earned quite a bit of opposition as her characters and their storylines created depressing vapid forms of womanhood. After the accusations about her “possibly sexually abusing her sister” cleared up, a new scandal approached as she released a statement on a personal experience to Amy Schumer.
With the blatant stereotype connection that she threw into her statement, the internet said that they had finally “had enough” with her “marketplace feminism“. That was the final straw for me up into that point. I had always tried to give Lena the benefit of the doubt, because I still believe that it’s outstanding that she created an uber successful show about catty women on a Network that favors the male point of view. The world needed a break from the outspoken “self aware” woman.
Fast forward to a few months later, and the final season of Girls has premiered on HBO. While catching up on the first three episodes of season six, I noticed something vastly different. The overall tone and Hannah herself seemed off beat and more pliable. If you’ve never tuned into Girls before and have no desire to ever start the show, then I understand, BUT if you care about sexism and the subtle but powerful mirco-aggressions that it exudes, then I suggest you take the time to watch episode 3 of season 6 titled “American Bitch”.
Without giving the full plot away, the message of this episode was about the power dynamics between men in charge and the women who rightfully seek to taste a little bit of their power and privilege.
“American Bitch” is a cunning episode; it’s a timely one, too. It has one major flaw, although it doesn’t harm the episode’s effectiveness: Hannah doesn’t feel much like the character we’ve watched for six seasons. That person has acted a bit like Chuck at times: she macked on one middle-aged boss and flashed another; she slept with a teen boy; she nearly forced her sweet boyfriend to receive a blow job he kept rejecting. It’s part of what makes Hannah such an original character: her sexual chaos, her willingness to embrace abjection, the fact that she won’t take a no, even when it turns her into the butt of someone else’s joke.
The Hannah in “American Bitch” feels more like Lena Dunham, in her ideas if not her biography. It’s Hannah’s creator who has become, over six seasons, a voice for feminism, elevating other women’s voices in Lenny Letter; it’s Dunham who talks about rape culture and her experience as a survivor. Of course, that other gray area, the one between Lena and Hannah (and Aura, her character in “Tiny Furniture”; and Ella, from Dunham’s college-era film “Creative Nonfiction”; and Anna, the character that Hannah writes about when she’s in Iowa, who “has to eat every two hours or she faints”), is a big part of the show’s dark-comic engine—just as it has been in every great sitcom throughout TV history, from “I Love Lucy” to “Louie” to “Seinfeld” to “Roseanne.” TV sitcoms are machines that turn private humiliations into something big and wild and public. Through Hannah, Dunham gets to paint a picture of her own house and then paint herself into it. The episode lacks continuity, but it’s a brilliant one-off.
Then there’s the ending, a perfect little shock. In “One Man’s Trash,” Hannah sleeps over at Joshua’s place, and then she leaves, alone, in the morning. In “American Bitch,” she gets trapped in Chuck’s apartment, forced to watch that flute recital: she’s furious, tongue-tied. As the flute merges into the tune of Rihanna’s “Desperado”—“a man whose heart is hollow”—Hannah leaves the building. In “One Man’s Trash,” the street she walks down is empty. In “American Bitch,” it’s full of other young women. They stream past Hannah, facing the other way, and then into Chuck’s building like beautiful zombies. If you want to compliment a creator, tell her she’s singular—exceptional, superior, not like other girls. Chuck’s punishment is that he’s made Hannah feel the ways in which she’s not special. His payback is that he’s made Hannah female again, interchangeable with other women. He’s put her back into that concord of voices, another creative girl with a story that she can never tell. (via The New Yorker)
You have to fully engage yourself in this episode to understand what New Yorker writer Emily Nussbaum is discussing, but as she states above, in this specific episode Hannah doesn’t feel like Hannah. To me, she felt like a malleable, loose lipped, white feminist of the millennial generation instead of a privileged brat from Manhattan. I can acknowledge the absurdity that Hannah and Girls, is non-inclusive material that’s praised as one of the greatest “feminist” programs. HOWEVER I must also recognize the narrative in “American Bitch” because is a reality that many WOC face daily, especially working in white corporate companies. The vulgar power play between men in dominant roles and the subordinate women who want nothing than to break the glass ceilings for themselves, is a dichotomy that is enormously looked over. So while I have deep conflicts over Lena Dunham’s agenda and her perspective, I feel the need to praise her for creating a whole episode about this dynamic.
Since Trump’s administration attacked Trans rights last week, Dunham has pledged to donate money to a Detroit LGBT youth homeless center in support of protecting trans youth. This made me question if Dunham is becoming more woke than I had previously thought.
Challenge your friends! Challenge this administration ✊️ Let's do this, bebes! #protecttranskids
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) February 23, 2017
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) February 24, 2017
Now let me be clear. I’m not writing any of this to say that I have a new love for Dunham or that I’ve forgotten her past blunders, I’m writing this to admit that people who have made bad choices can make good ones as well, and that’s important to be critical of both. Even if she didn’t write “American Bitch” specifically for WOC in the world I can reap my own truth from her lens.
Read more about Lena Dunham transformation here.