WBEZ | Lena Dunham http://www.wbez.org/tags/lena-dunham Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en TV writers, showrunners are the new Spielbergs http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-08/tv-writers-showrunners-are-new-spielbergs-108399 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Getty%20Images.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 349px;" title="Jenji Kohan, co-creator/writer/producer of the hit Netflix series 'Orange is the New Black.' (File: Getty Images)" /></p><div>Steven Spielberg may be best known for directing Oscar-winning films such as &quot;Saving Private Ryan&quot; and &quot;Schindler&#39;s List,&quot; but he actually got his start in television&mdash;helming the pilot for a show called &quot;Night Gallery&quot; in 1969, when he was just 23 years old. The star of that show, Hollywood legend Joan Crawford, tried to get Spielberg&nbsp;<a href="http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/cover-story-steven-spielberg-tackling-tv-on-his-own-terms-1200498890/" target="_blank">fired</a>. She did not succeed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Of course, Spielberg went on to an illustrious career in film, but never forgot his television roots. Under the TV division of DreamWorks (now Amblin TV), Spielberg produced the mini-series &quot;Band of Brothers&quot; and several other shows, including Showtime&#39;s &quot;The United States of Tara&quot; and the current&nbsp;CBS thriller&nbsp;&quot;Under the Dome<em>.&quot;&nbsp;</em>Another new series, the sci-fi space drama &quot;<a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/cbs-orders-steven-spielberg-drama-601934" target="_blank">Extant</a>,&quot; will premiere on CBS in the summer of 2014.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But in this day and age, I wonder &mdash; would a 23-year-old Spielberg, full of promise, imagination and exciting new ideas&mdash; simply decide to stick with TV? Sure, innovation on the small screen is not a recent phenomenon (see Norman Lear&#39;s<em> &quot;</em>All in the Family&quot; and Susan Harris&#39; &quot;The Golden Girls&quot;), but with television becoming more high concept and high quality than ever, 2013 is a great time to be running your own show.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The following list is a sampling of the best TV writers and showrunners in the business today. While a few have acheived success outside the realm of television &mdash;&nbsp;&nbsp;like Fey&#39;s &quot;Mean Girls&quot; and Whedon&#39;s The Avengers&quot; &mdash; all have succeeded in bringing unique, compelling and often gorgeously cinematic stories right into our living rooms.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><strong>Vince Gilligan</strong></p><p>Gilligan is the creator and executive producer of the critically acclaimed AMC drama series&nbsp;&quot;Breaking Bad.&quot;&nbsp;He has also written and directed many episodes over the show&#39;s past eight seasons, receiving Emmy nominations for his direction of the pilot and the 2012 episode &quot;Face/Off.&quot; However, Gilligan got his first big break writing the screenplay for the Drew Barrymore film &quot;Home Fries&quot; while still a student at NYU,&nbsp;then by joining&nbsp;&quot;The X Files&quot;&nbsp;as a writer and later executive producer from 1995-2002.</p><p><strong>Jenji Kohan</strong></p><p>Before co-creating, writing and producing the hit Netflix series &quot;Orange is the New Black,&quot; Kohan was best known for creating the Showtime series&nbsp;&quot;Weeds,&quot; which ran from 2005-2012. Before that, Kohan honed her writing skills on shows like&nbsp;&quot;The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,&quot; &quot;Mad About You&quot;&nbsp;and&nbsp;&quot;Sex and the City.&quot; She also produced several episodes of &quot;Gilmore Girls&quot;&nbsp;and won an Emmy as supervising producer of the Tracey Ullman sketch comedy series&nbsp;&quot;Tracey Takes On...&quot;</p><p><strong>Tina Fey</strong></p><p>Fey has the distinct honor of being the first female head writer at&nbsp;Saturday Night Live,&nbsp;which segued nicely into her role as creator/writer/producer/star of the NBC comedy<em>&nbsp;&quot;</em>30 Rock.&quot; Now, Fey is gearing up for <a href="http://www.glamour.com/entertainment/blogs/obsessed/2013/08/tina-fey-just-sold-a-new-show.html" target="_blank">another show</a>&nbsp;that she recently sold to NBC &mdash; a yet-untitled comedy she will be executive producing with Robert Carlock, who also&nbsp;co-produced&nbsp;&quot;30 Rock.&quot; A highly-anticipated &quot;Mean Girls&quot;<a href="http://www.glamour.com/entertainment/blogs/obsessed/2013/01/mean-girls-musical.html">musical</a> is also in the works.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>David Simon</strong></p><p>As a former beat reporter in Baltimore, Simon&#39;s insider knowledge of city politics and corruption made his HBO drama series&nbsp;&quot;The Wire&quot;&nbsp;one of the best shows on television. Simon served as executive producer and head writer of &quot;The Wire&quot; for all five seasons. After the show&#39;s cancellation in 2008, Simon adapted the non-fiction book &quot;Generation Kill&quot; into an HBO mini-series. He also co-created the current HBO series&nbsp;&quot;Treme&quot;&nbsp;with Eric Overmyer,&nbsp;which will begin its fourth and final season in December.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Joss Whedon</strong></p><p>Whedon began his career as a<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joss_Whedon" target="_blank"> television wunderkind</a> by writing for shows like &quot;Roseanne&quot; and &quot;Parenthood,&quot; then swiftly transitioned into making his own. He is the creator of the iconic cult series&nbsp;&quot;Buffy the Vampire Slayer,&quot; &quot;Angel,&quot; &quot;Firefly&quot; and&nbsp;&quot;Dollhouse,&quot; all of which have earned him a devoted fan following of &quot;Whedonites.&quot; Whedon is also the&nbsp;co-writer of the first &quot;Toy Story&quot; film, writer/director&nbsp;of&nbsp;&quot;Serenity&quot; (a cinematic continuation of his short-lived TV series&nbsp;&quot;Firefly&quot;), co-writer and producer of the 2012 horror film&nbsp;&quot;Cabin in the Woods&quot;&nbsp;and writer/director of the third-highest grossing film of all time, 2013&#39;s &quot;The Avengers.&quot; His new Marvel TV show, &quot;<a href="http://www.superherohype.com/news/articles/172437-joss-whedons-shield-comes-to-abc" target="_blank">Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D</a>,&quot; is set to premiere on ABC in September. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>Mindy Kaling</strong></p><p>When Kaling first began as writing for the NBC&#39;s &quot;The&nbsp;Office&quot;&nbsp;at age 24, she was the only woman on a staff of eight. Eventually she stepped into the onscreen role of Kelly Kapoor, while continuing to write and direct episodes until the comedy series&#39; end in 2013. Now, Kaling serves as the co-writer, producer and star of her own show, &quot;The Mindy Project,&quot;&nbsp;which will return for a second season this fall. The popular Fox sitcom, which won the 2012&#39;s Critic&#39;s Choice Award for Most Exciting New Series, also makes Kaling the first South Asian-American woman to be the headliner of her own network television show.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Larry David</strong></p><p>David is best known as the head writer and executive producer of&nbsp;&quot;Seinfeld&quot;&nbsp;from 1989 to 1998, and as the co-creator alongside Jerry Seinfeld. But in 2000, David stepped out on his own with the HBO series &quot;Curb Your Enthusiam,&quot; a mostly-improvised comedy in which David played a fictionalized version of himself. The show lasted eight seasons, and won David the Golden Globe for Best Television Series &mdash; Musical or Comedy in 2003.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Amy Sherman Palladino</strong></p><p>After starting out as a staff writer for shows like &quot;Roseanne&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;Veronica&#39;s Closet,&quot;&nbsp;Palladino created the beloved mother-daughter dramedy<em>&nbsp;&quot;</em>Gilmore Girls,&quot;&nbsp;which ran on&nbsp;The WB&nbsp;and later The CW<font color="#c2c2c2" size="1">.</font>&nbsp;from 2000-2007. She also created the delightful ABC Family series &quot;Bunheads<em>,&quot;&nbsp;</em>which was cancelled after only one season in 2013. What&#39;s next? Hopefully, more of Palladino&#39;s trademark snappy dialogue and master-shot filming style in a new arena.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Louis C.K.</strong></p><p>C.K. began his television career as a standup comic and comedy writer for late-night talk shows, but in 2009, he made a rather unorthodox deal to bring his semi-autobiographical comedy series &quot;Louie&quot;&nbsp;to television.&nbsp;He accepted the modest offer of $200,000 to a pilot with FX over prospective production deals with larger networks, because the FX execs allowed him full executive control of the show. &quot;Louie&quot;&nbsp;is shot on a red camera setup, and C.K. edits many of the episodes on his personal laptop. In addition to starring, C.K. has served as the series&#39; sole writer and director for going on four seasons.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Shonda Rhimes</strong></p><p>Rhimes has come a long way since writing the screenplays for &quot;The Princess Diaries 2&quot; and the Britney Spears vehicle &quot;Crossroads.&quot; Now, Rhimes serves as the creator, head writer and executive producer of three ABC television series: the long-running medical drama &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy&quot;&nbsp;(now gearing up for its 10th season), the &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy&quot; spinoff &quot;Private Practice&quot;&nbsp;(which ran from 2007 to 2013)&nbsp;and the current smash hit&nbsp;&quot;Scandal.&quot;&nbsp;On the horizon: a new ABC series in development called <a href="http://jezebel.com/new-shonda-rhimes-show-revolves-around-trucker-turned-l-883521160" target="_blank">Lawless</a>, revolving around&nbsp;the true story of a&nbsp;female truck driver-turned-lawyer.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Lena Dunham</strong></p><p>At just 25, Dunham created the HBO juggernaut &quot;Girls.&quot; She also plays the lead role of Hannah Horvath, in addition to serving as the series&#39; head writer, co-executive producer and sometimes director for two wildly successful seasons (the third season of &quot;Girls&quot; is currently shooting in New York City). And although Dunham&#39;s first big break came as the auteur of the 2010 indie film &quot;Tiny Furniture,&quot; she has firmly cemented herself as a TV sensation, earning two Golden Globes and a showering of critical praise for &quot;Girls&quot;&nbsp;as the millennial answer to &quot;Sex and the City.&quot;</p><p><strong>Aaron Sorkin</strong></p><p>Sorkin may not be the most recognizable face to the average viewer, but his reputation as an Emmy Award-winning writer and TV series creator is well-renowned. His list of television credits includes&nbsp;&quot;Sports Night,&quot; &quot;The West Wing&quot;&nbsp;and&nbsp;&quot;Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,&quot; in addition to his current lightning-rod HBO drama,&nbsp;&quot;The Newsroom.&quot; Sorkin is also a celebrated screenwriter (&quot;The American President,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;A Few Good Men&quot;)&nbsp;and in 2011, his electrifying script for David Fincher&#39;s &quot;The Social Network&quot; earned him an Oscar&nbsp;for Best Adapted Screenplay. &nbsp;</p><p>Who are your favorite TV writers and showrunners?&nbsp;</p><p><em>Leah Pickett is a pop culture writer for WBEZ and co-host of <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-changing-channels/id669715774?mt=2">Changing Channels,</a> a podcast about the future of television. Follow Leah on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com" target="_blank"> Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-08/tv-writers-showrunners-are-new-spielbergs-108399 Girl problems: Why Lena Dunham gets scapegoated for TV's lack of diversity http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/large_2.jpg" style="width: 449px; height: 280px;" title="(Golden Globes/AP)" /></div><p>If you&rsquo;ve logged on the internet at all in the past year (or even passingly know what Jezebel is), you know that a lot of people have a big, casually racist bone to pick with Lena Dunham. As the writer/producer of <em>Girls</em>, Dunham was being billed as the &ldquo;voice of a generation,&rdquo; one that would revolutionize the ways in which we talk about women in the media.</p><p>The problem for many with Dunham is the inclusion of young, privileged white women&mdash;about which there are many shows&mdash;speaks to the disinclusion of women of color, who have no one speaking for them. The show continued to marginalize anyone not of Dunham&rsquo;s background and social status (as the daughter of a famous artist), and as the show was marketed as a representation of the Millenial Generation, many felt it was a damaging and problematic representation. Rather than pushing things forward, <em>Girls</em> represented a nudge in the right direction&mdash;or more like a plaintive tiptoe.</p><p>But to many, it looked like more of the same. It was White Girl Problems all over again.</p><p>In interviews, Dunham hasn&rsquo;t been shy about speaking to the show&rsquo;s race problem. She mentioned that, when casting the show, race was not much of a consideration, which speaks the ways in which both white feminists and the television industry often don&rsquo;t recognize racial inclusion as being an issue.</p><p>With the new season, I was looking forward to Dunham taking the internet&rsquo;s criticisms and learning from them, and lo and behold, the premiere practically opens with Dunham carnally knowledging Donald Glover, the black comedian known best for his role as Troy on <em>Community</em>.&nbsp; While they&rsquo;re getting all up in each other, Glover and Dunham keep repeating phrases like &ldquo;You wanted this&rdquo; and &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about damn time,&rdquo; as an overt message to the show&rsquo;s fans. Dunham gets it, y&rsquo;all.</p><p>Many were concerned that Glover was being cast to as a &ldquo;token black friend,&rdquo; and the fact that the show opened with them sexing each other didn&rsquo;t help much, as it looked like just another image of the hyper-sexualized black male. The fear was that Glover wouldn&rsquo;t be presented as a character but an essentialized object, a vehicle of desire. To an extent, that was exactly the case.</p><p>However, Dunham did something interesting: she used Glover&rsquo;s character to call her on her bullshit&mdash;criticizing her for tokenizing him and not being truly interested in getting to know him. Dunham&rsquo;s Hannah was the kind of girl who would date a black guy to feel cool and get to go to the &ldquo;scary&rdquo; part of town. Basically, Glover&rsquo;s character was calling her a hipster racist, which was the major charge against<em> Girls</em> last year. Dunham literally put all of her critics&rsquo; words in Glover&rsquo;s mouth.</p><p>True to her character&rsquo;s narcissism, Hannah ignores them and creates a narrative in which she&rsquo;s in the right in the break up. She&rsquo;s the savior. Life is like <em>The Blind Side</em>, guys.</p><p>Q: Is this progress?</p><p>A: Not so fast. Let&rsquo;s examine.</p><p>Last year, Dunham mentioned that she wrote for white girls because she wanted to write from her own experiences, and this scene serves to narratively let her off the hook for not writing a black actor into the show or doing the work of inclusion. Part of being a good writer is pushing yourself to write outside of your world. Was Dave Eggers an African refugee when he wrote <em>What Is the What</em>? No, but he pushed himself to get inside someone else&rsquo;s head and see the world from someone else&rsquo;s point of view.</p><p>Martin McDonagh, the playwright and director&rsquo;s newest film, <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>, comments on this phenomenon through his lead character, played by Colin Farrell. McDonagh has often been criticized for not writing roles for women, and his lead, a screenwriter, grapples with the same issues in his work. As a part of this meta-commentary, the film&rsquo;s two female characters are vastly underwritten, and actresses Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurlyenko maybe share ten minutes of screen time between the two of them.</p><p>However, McDonagh calling himself on his own bullsh*t lends him an easy out, as he still doesn&rsquo;t have to write a female character. The same is true for Dunham, who gave herself a nice Get Out Of (Hipster Racist) Jail Free card by casting Glover for two whole episodes.</p><p>But what does give me hope is that Dunham has the courage to take responsibility for her show&rsquo;s representation of gender, race and sexuality in a way many shows do not. Shows like <em>How I Met Your</em> <em>Mother </em>and <em>Two and a Half Men</em> have repeatedly bashed transgender people for years, using the idea of transitioning as a cheap ploy for ridicule and laughter. <em>Two Broke Girls</em>, <em>That 70&rsquo;s Show</em>, <em>Sex and the City</em>, <em>Family Guy</em>, <em>Outsourced</em>, <em>Modern Family</em>, <em>Seinfeld </em>and <em>Homeland</em> have gotten away with trafficking in overt racial stereotypes, and shows like <em>Nashville</em>, <em>Mad Men</em>, <em>Raising Hope</em>, <em>The Middle</em>, <em>Enlightened</em> and my beloved <em>Cougar Town</em> have little to no POC representation.</p><p>Even reality shows aren&rsquo;t much better. Food for thought: Neither the <em>The Bachelor</em> nor <em>The Bachelorette </em>have ever starred a minority.</p><p>Last year, television critic Maureen Ryan argued that shows like <em>Girls</em> highlight the ongoing racial disparities on television. The problem isn&rsquo;t that Dunham is racist. Television is racist. Currently, the only primetime network sitcom about a black family is <em>The Cleveland Show</em>, which is a) animated and b) crazy problematic. In the 2000&rsquo;s, network TV saw shows like the traditional family comedy <em>My Wife and Kids</em> and the critically lauded <em>Everybody Hates Chris</em> come and go.</p><p>A television landscape that makes room for <em>A Different World</em>, <em>Cosby</em> and <em>The Fresh Prince</em> is largely a thing of the past, and unless it&rsquo;s Kerry Washington on <em>Scandal</em>, people of color are our black friends or casual flings&mdash;like Glover or Idris Elba on <em>The Big C</em>.&nbsp; Remember: Washington was the first black female lead on a network show in almost <a href="http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahs-next-chapter/Oprahs-Next-Chapter-Kerry-Washington-and-Shonda-Rhimes">forty years</a>. Clearly, TV has a race problem&mdash;or else Ken Jeong wouldn&rsquo;t be allowed to be in things.</p><p>However, Americans aren&rsquo;t often trained to see structural racism&mdash;although we&rsquo;re good at pointing out individual acts. (See: the movie<em> Crash</em>, which only looks at racism as a personal problem that can be overcome with a little shaming, yelling and Sandra Bullock falling down some stairs. Inequality solved!) <em>Scandal</em> showrunner Shonda Rhimes spoke to this tendency when she <a href="http://www.tvguide.com/News/Shonda-Rhimes-Bunheads-1048843.aspx">called out</a> ABC Family&rsquo;s <em>Bunheads</em> for not including girls of color, which sparked <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/amy-sherman-palladino-shonda-rhimes-bunheads-338681">fervent response</a> from creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.</p><p>However, Sherman-Palladino also worked on <em>Gilmore Girls</em>, which championed both women of color and full-figured women in its seven seasons. At a time when the Ally McBeal body was the norm, the show was practically bursting with big girls, and it was awesome.</p><p>I find it interesting that whereas showrunners like Larry David, Ryan Murphy, Michael Patrick King, Mark Brazil, Steven Levitan and Seth MacFarlane are often let off the hook for their race problems or lauded as champions of equal opportunity humor, Dunham and Sherman-Palladino are made to pay for our media sins. In my critiques of King and Murphy, many were quick to defend them and defend them as refreshingly un-PC, willing to say what others are not. <em>Sex and the City</em> was actually about that sort of thing.</p><p>However, almost no one has jumped to defend Dunham for the same reason to defend Sherman-Palladino&rsquo;s right to make a show about white girls. In film, directors like Wes Anderson have, for years, gotten away with making movies with all-white casts&mdash;with almost no one criticizing his right to completely leave people of color out. Anderson&rsquo;s lone black character was <em>The Royal Tenenbaums</em>&rsquo; Danny Glover, who had almost no lines, and his most <a href="http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/02/darjeeling-limited.html">racially inclusive</a> movie was <em>The Darjeeling Limited</em>, a film that could have been called <em>Orientalism: The Movie</em>. It was a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oew-pandey10oct10,0,7184917.story">neo-colonialist</a> <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2007/09/unbearable_whiteness.html">fever dream</a>.</p><p>And remember Pagoda? He won&rsquo;t be winning Anderson POC awesome points anytime soon.</p><p>The major difference between Dunham and Anderson is that one is male&mdash;and the other is not. Although the criticism of Dunham is accurate, one of the things that&rsquo;s made her so easy to critique is the fact that she&rsquo;s a woman and, thus, free game for public scrutiny and paternalism. In a tabloid- and blog-driven media, women&#39;s bodies are an avenue for debate, whether that&rsquo;s Jennifer Lawrence&rsquo;s &ldquo;fatness,&rdquo; Madonna&rsquo;s arms, Angelina Jolie&rsquo;s legs, Willow Smith&#39;s hair, Lindsay Lohan&rsquo;s plastic surgery, Megan Fox&rsquo;s thumbs or Jessica Simpson&rsquo;s pregnancy body. We look at women to ask &ldquo;Who wore it best?&rdquo;&mdash;to hold some up while others are destroyed.</p><p>If you look at shows like <em>Revenge </em>or the <em>Real Housewives </em>series, we root for women to be taken down or torn apart&mdash;to be called out and shown for the frauds they are. For instance, check out that Buzzfeed <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/why-do-people-hate-anne-hathaway">article</a> on Anne Hathaway, which bashes every single facet of her career (and her &quot;stupid face&quot;)&mdash;but for what gain? Even if someone is gracious, hard-working and seemingly perfect, as Hathaway is, we can despise her anyway. As Slate <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/01/31/why_do_people_hate_anne_hathaway_one_reason_is_simple_sexism.html">put it</a>: &quot;Why do people hate Anne Hathaway? One simple reason is sexism.&quot;</p><p>And our media culture of lady hate sets up a discourse where we feel free to tear Lena Dunham apart&mdash;for her privilege, her non-normative body and the fact that she doesn&rsquo;t live up to our expectations who she&rsquo;s supposed to be. A parody of the show&rsquo;s poster&mdash;which re-titled the program as &ldquo;Nepotism&rdquo;&mdash;went viral before the show even aired, before Dunham&rsquo;s work even got the chance to speak for itself. The backlash against her was almost built-in, like the media&rsquo;s dogpiling on Diablo Cody and Kathryn Bigelow.</p><p>Compare the constant criticism of Sofia Coppola for &ldquo;always doing the same thing&rdquo; to Woody Allen who gets awarded for it. The Oscar-nominated <em>Match Point</em> was lauded as a return to form and his best film in 25 years, despite being a virtual remake of his own film, <em>Crimes and Misdemeanors</em>.</p><p>Of course, I don&rsquo;t think the fact of her gender lets her off the hook for the criticism lobbied against her. In her Golden Globes speech, Dunham thanked HBO for letting a misfit like her into their space, as girls who look like Lena Dunham aren&rsquo;t often allowed to sit at the table. However, Lena Dunham needs to use her power of representation to allow others the same privilege and use that power for good. Rather than taking the easy way out, her show needs to do the actual work of inclusion by letting others sit at the table, too. Dunham needs to realize she isn&rsquo;t the only girl in the world and make room for the Issa Raes and the Mindy Kalings.</p><p>However, the burden of change isn&rsquo;t on Dunham alone. The industry itself needs to see racial inclusion as an issue, and we as a public need to hold ourselves accountable to seeing the bigger picture. While critiquing Lena Dunham, we need to hold the industry to the same standards and ask why one of our <em>Two and a Half Men</em> can&rsquo;t be black or our <em>Two Broke Girls</em> can&rsquo;t be Asian. If we&rsquo;re serious about making TV a better place, we need to expect change out of more than just one show and one girl and stop asking women to make it better while the rest of us sit back and watch.</p><p>Dunham has clearly got girl problems, but fixing all of ours isn&rsquo;t one. We all need to call ourselves on our bullsh*t.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. </em><em>To talk more about Gilmore Girls, follow Nico Lang on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 Lena Dunham: The voice of a generation? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-01/lena-dunham-voice-generation-105194 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Girls .png" title="From left: Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet and Allison Williams: the stars of HBO's smash-hit 'Girls.' (Hollywood Reporter/HBO)" /></p><p>Lena Dunham and I have a lot in common.</p><p>OK, we&rsquo;re not<em> exactly</em> alike. I don&#39;t share Dunham&#39;s <a href="http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2013/01/lena-dunham-gets-criticized-for-blobby-body-in-nasty-girls-review.html">much-maligned</a> body type, and my mother is not a <a href="http://www.lauriesimmons.net">famous artist</a> with a $2 million loft in TriBeCa. I also don&rsquo;t co-write, direct or star in my own hit series on HBO (except for in my dreams) But in many ways, I consider Dunham to be a kindred spirit, or at least a wacky spirit guide for surviving my mid-twenties.&nbsp;</p><p>Her character on <em>Girls</em>, the awkward yet somehow endearing 24-year-old Hannah Horvath, is an aspiring writer trying to make it in New York after her parents cut her off financially. Replace Brooklyn with Logan Square, and that&rsquo;s my life in a nutshell. Also, since Dunham is essentially playing herself (albeit an exagerrated version with fictional monetary woes), her stories of personal and professional struggle bizarrely reflect my own.&nbsp;</p><p>Dunham isn&rsquo;t a role model per se, but she does represent a faction of society that currently dominates popular culture: postgrad twenty-somethings. Or as the baby boomers like to call us, the &ldquo;entitlement generation.&quot;</p><p>That being said, I can see why so many people hate her. Dunham was born into privilege, attended one of the<a href="http://images.businessweek.com/slideshows/20111025/most-expensive-colleges-2011.html#slide14">&nbsp;most expensive art colleges</a>&nbsp;in the country&nbsp;and apparently <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/07/152183865/lena-dunham-addresses-criticism-aimed-at-girls">didn&#39;t grow up around too many black people</a>. Her pet project&nbsp;<em>Tiny Furniture</em>&nbsp;got picked up by several film festivals in 2010, prompting Hollywood hitmaker <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2012/10/16/163012161/judd-apatow-and-lena-dunham-talk-about-comedy-on-iconoclasts">Judd Apatow</a> to take her under his wing and launch <em>Girls</em>&nbsp;with his new protègè front and center. No wonder her critics keep making <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/confidential/howard-stern-big-fat-meanie-girls-star-article-1.1238991">fat jokes</a>! They have to bring her down somehow.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Rk0-irdPGhU" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&quot;Bad Friend,&quot; an episode&nbsp;documenting Hannah&#39;s misadventures with <a href="http://jezebel.com/5979536/girls-finally-tackles-ladyblogs">blogging, clubbing and cocaine</a> that aired on Sunday night, is a prime example of why&nbsp;<em>Girls </em>is one of the best shows currently on television. Hot off the heels of two <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/13/girls-golden-globe-best-comedy_n_2466394.html">Golden Globe awards</a>, one for Best Comedy Series and the other for Dunham as Best Actress, the series continues to top itself week after week and shows no signs of slowing down.</p><p>Dunham and <em>Girls</em> co-writer <a href="http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/grown-up-behind-girls-jenni-konner.html">Jenni Konner</a> have been<a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/10/girls-season-2-of-hbo-s-lena-dunham-comedy-soars.html"> showered with praise</a> since Season 2 began in early January, especially in addressing the <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/04/lena-dunham-girls-race.html">&quot;people of color&quot;</a> issue that had been previously overlooked in Season 1. Dunham recently acquired a $3 million-plus <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/07/lena-dunham-book-_n_2259575.html">book deal</a> as a result of the show&#39;s success, and HBO has already announced a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/girls-season-3-hbo_n_2117810.html">greenlight</a> for Season 3.&nbsp;</p><p>But while <em>Girls</em>&nbsp;became a commercial and critical darling almost overnight,&nbsp;Dunham&#39;s public persona is decidedly less beloved. She has been called fat, ugly, racist, talentless, stupid, elitist, sexually grotesque and offensive on every level. This doesn&#39;t seem to bother her though, as she continues to <a href="http://www.thegloss.com/2012/09/23/culture/lena-dunham-naked-cake-toilet-emmys-728/">eat birthday cake naked</a> and makes no apologies for it.&nbsp;</p><p>A lot of people hate Lena Dunham because they believe that her lifestyle--a white, privileged and excessively tattooed hipstergirl cavorting through Bushwick--does not represent them (and how dare you suggest such a thing!) However, coming from a wealthy and well-connected family doesn&#39;t make her any less clever or insightful, and being a &quot;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/07/152183865/lena-dunham-addresses-criticism-aimed-at-girls">half-Jew, half-WASP</a>&quot; with lots of white friends doesn&#39;t automatically make her a racist.</p><p>We are all the product of our environments, and Dunham happens to tell some very funny stories about hers. The voice of a generation? I wouldn&#39;t go that far. A symbol of her generation? Absolutely. So say what you will about Dunham as a cultural icon, but she&#39;s going to keep <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/lena-dunham-chubby-teenager-cake_n_2434138.html">eating her cake</a> (and enjoying it too!)</p><p><em>Follow Leah on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/leahkpickett">@leahkpickett</a></em></p></p> Wed, 30 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-01/lena-dunham-voice-generation-105194