It's always enjoyable when Lena Dunham dives into politics, seemingly disproving every stereotype of millennials as lazy navel-gazers who don't know the GDP from the GOP. During the most recent presidential election, she drove conservatives mad with a clever endorsement of President Obama. And now, she is inserting herself into the race for New York City comptroller, which would be a snooze if not for the late entry of the disgraced "Luv Guv" Eliot Spitzer.
Last night, Dunham spoke at a fundraiser for Spitzer's opponent, the thoroughly sensible and prostitute-averse Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer. The position of New York's chief financial officer is, frankly, a dull one to behold, but as Azi Paybarah notes in his report for Capital New York, Dunham managed to use the evening's bully pulpit to sound off on the plight of artists, who are increasingly having a hard time making it in New York:
Recent college graduates, she said, are "struggling to find jobs and pay the rent and if they struggle for too long, they're leaving New York" for other cities, "even Tampa."
At one point, Dunham spoke about growing up with her family in a Soho loft, where her the rent was "$350 a month, if they just hid their stove from Con Edison. Now, the building that I was born in houses a Victoria's Secret and is next door to a Sephora. Anyway, we can't have our generation's Patti Smith moving to Tampa. That's going to seriously fuck our shit up."
The Tampa comment is making its way around Twitter this morning, and rightly so, as it pretty thoroughly captures the fate of young people in New York City — even if, to some, Girls is little more than an advertisement for gentrification.
In fact, as WNYC recently noted, Mayor Bloomberg's affordable housing plan has not helped make the city more affordable for the middle class. And while Tampa is not yet as attractive as Brooklyn, the likes of Detroit have been calling ever since the recession scrambled the national economy.
As for Dunham's reference to Smith, it is an allusion to what the famed folk singer said back in 2010: "New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city." That's frightening stuff from a woman who loves New York as much as Smith.
It's doubtful that Stringer or Spitzer or, for that matter, any one person can rectify that. Nevertheless, Dunham is right to call attention to this trend. Tampa, we're not ready for you just yet.