Brave Thinkers 2012 November 2012

Lena Dunham

More

Writer/Director/Actress

You could say a lot about a college girl who posts a YouTube video of herself in a bikini taking a bath in a public fountain: that she’s dumb, cute, narcissistic, asking for it, amateurish, a confused product of our pornified age. But you would also need to call her ballsy. Dunham—who created said video while at Oberlin College—has developed a signature career move that involves trying out many things in public, at the expense of her own dignity, to see how people react. Hannah, the character she wrote for herself in this year’s HBO comedy Girls, is similarly defined by her talent for making colossal mistakes.

These are not cute, rom-com-heroine kinds of mistakes, either. They involve taking the wrong drugs and collapsing in her parents’ hotel room, acting like an underage street hooker to turn her boyfriend on, and propositioning her boss. But with her calculated bumbling, Dunham has taken the soft glow off the “chick flick” and turned romantic comedy into something brutal and honest and sometimes highly uncomfortable to watch. Unquestionably, we will be subjected to Dunham-esque knockoffs in the years to come—the recent movie Bachelorette heralds a new age of female raunch, with a cast of trash-talking, coke-snorting disaster cases. We will not love all these new heroines, or even like them. But that’s Dunham’s radical message: women do not necessarily exist to be liked.

See all our 2012 Brave Thinkers.

Image credit: Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao /Corbis Outline

Hanna Rosin is a national correspondent for The Atlantic.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Hanna Rosin, an Atlantic national correspondent, is the author of the book The End of Men based on her story in the July/August 2010 Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In