Lena Dunham's forever buzzy show begins its third season on Sunday, and even after it feels like we've parsed the question of Lena Dunham's nudity to death, a heated debate at the Girls TCA panel yesterday seemed to prove that wrong.
It all began when The Wrap reporter Tim Molloy—who has detailed his version of the events here—asked Dunham: "I don’t get the purpose of all the nudity on the show. By you particularly. I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you say no one complains about the nudity on ‘Game of Thrones,’ but I get why they’re doing it. They’re doing it to be salacious. To titillate people. And your character is often naked at random times for no reason." Dunham responded to the question by talking about realism—sometimes people don't wear clothing—adding "if you are not into me, that’s your problem," but it was executive producer Judd Apatow that went on the offensive, asking Molloy if he had a "girlfriend" and if his girlfriend "likes him." Later, EP Jenni Konner, answering another question, said "I literally was spacing out because I’m in such a rage spiral about that guy." Per Entertainment Weekly's Sandra Gonzalez, she said, "I was just looking at him looking at him and going into this rage [over] this idea that you would talk to a woman like that and accuse a woman of showing her body too much. The idea it just makes me sort of sick."
In his follow-up piece for The Wrap, Molloy argued that he isn't "offended" by Dunham's nudity, he just doesn't "get the artistic reason for it, and want to understand it." And while Molloy's curiosity is legitimate, the problem is the original question reads as the kind of body shaming that has plagued the show since the beginning. In the aftermath of the incident other TV writers discussed on Twitter how a question about the show's nudity might have better been phrased. While Alyssa Rosenberg wrote that "the phrasing made me--and the panel--tense up," she suggested: "I actually think a question about how they approach nudity for each character would have been great and specific and interesting."
Dunham has not been shy about talking about why she is so frequently nude ever since the show began back in 2012. In November, she even read an entire essay on the subject from her upcoming book at Carnegie Hall talking about her desire to look at "Who gets to be naked, and why?" The talk of Dunham's nudity reached a boiling point following the season two episode "One Man's Trash," in which Dunham's character, Hannah, spent a lost weekend with a handsome man in the form of Patrick Wilson and spent a lot of that time topless. As Richard Lawson wrote following that episode: "Suddenly we're all blushing prudes — we the same people who barely blinked at years and years of Kim Cattrall's boudoir parts, who have never said much of anything about the sexual squalor of shows like Shameless, like House of Lies, hell like Entourage. But now suddenly it's better for the story that Lena Dunham put her shirt back on."
The new season has more nudity—though, honestly, it rarely registers with this viewer anymore—but also a number of other topics that are worth talking about, and there probably will be as the show continues to it's already announced fourth season. What is, in a way, miraculous, is how these fundamental elements of Girls—elements are now par for the course two seasons in—are still hot-button issues. That's not to say people shouldn't talk about the show, but maybe it's time to move on, or at least figure out a better way to ask the same questions over and over again.