Women and Gender

Bethel: Dunham making strides for feminists in entertainment industry

Lena Dunham. She’s the female powerhouse you’ve probably heard about by now. As the creator, writer, director and lead actress of the HBO show “Girls,” Dunham is a force to be reckoned with.

Her series has inspired young women across the country to be bolder and less ashamed of making mistakes. She is becoming a voice of our generation, and we could all learn from her unusual-yet-captivating advances in the entertainment industry.

As the daughter of artists Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons, Lena grew up in an inspiration-filled environment. She attended Oberlin College and majored in creative writing.

Dunham originally intended on pursuing a career as a poet, but ended up finding her passion in playwriting. Frustrated by the impermanence of plays, Dunham shifted her focus to film where work has greater longevity.

In 2010, Dunham’s first independent film, “Tiny Furniture,” premiered at the South by Southwest festival and won Best Narrative Feature. After this she was hooked, and two years later “Girls” made its big debut on HBO.

The show gained a variety of feedback after its first season. Dunham was named one of The Atlantic magazine’s “Brave Thinkers” – and rightfully so. What she is doing with her character’s raw and honest personality is powerful.

Dunham plays Hannah, an aspiring writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is a passionate individual who openly expresses her feelings about friendships, sex and the everyday struggle of figuring out who she is.

The show’s brutal honestly is unique to anything else on television.

Some criticize the show’s sense of humor, and feel the sex, drugs and blunt narration is too crude. But those who disapprove are missing the fundamental point of what the show represents: an unrelenting tenacity for the truth.

The content may be controversial, but its honesty provokes reaction. “Girls” has become popular because of its march-to-the-beat-of-its-own-drummer type of composition. Dunham has made outrageous the new normal.

Dunham has admitted to using personal past experiences to create the characters and situations in the show. The raw authenticity between characters is what hooks viewers.

That veracity is what gives an element of surprise to the episodes. Even the most loyal of fans cannot guess for certain what scandalous dialogue is going to come out of Hannah’s mouth next.

She effortlessly rouses conversation. Whatever battle a character is dealing with, whether it is abortion or losing a job, Dunham is able to get the audience engaged.

Dunham asserts feminism in contemporary conversation.

In Interview Magazine’s February issue, Dunham discusses her excitement for how “Girls”is reintroducing feminism into our vernacular today. This is important, as many feel feminism is no longer an issue worth talking about.

It takes a person with a strong will and vision to withstand such mixed feedback. Dunham has proven to not only be strong, but resilient. She speaks her mind and hasn’t let the pressures of the media curb her opinions.

She most certainly does not color anywhere inside the lines. Her resistance to conformity in the entertainment industry is what trademarks her appeal and makes her an inspiration to many.

You can love her or you can hate her, but one thing is for sure: you can’t ignore her.

Paris Bethel is a sophomore advertising major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at pbethel@syr.edu.

Top Stories

Remembrance Week 2014

Coming full circle

When John Tummino arrived at the first meeting for this year’s Remembrance Scholars in August, he brought a Notre Dame hat that he got from his third-cousin, Wendy Giebler-Sefcik. But, it was not just any hat. Read more »