REVIEW of: “Girl on Top: How Lena Dunham Turned a Life of Anxiety, Bad Sex and Countless Psychiatric Meds into the Funniest Show on TV” by Brian Hiatt. (Read an excerpt of the article here.)
Lena Dunham (writer, director and star of “Girls”) is the cover girl of this month’s issue of “Rolling Stone Magazine.” The article (by Brian Hiatt) accompanying the cover was beautifully written, delving into Dunham’s childhood, personal life and deep connection with the show. Dunham’s authenticity and honesty struck me; she did not hold anything back in this interview, even discussing her personal struggles and psychiatric medications. While this may seem like an overshare, reading about her background helps you to better understand “Girls” as a viewer. It’s not just a witty television show, but one intimately based on her life.
As a child Dunham suffered from horrible OCD and anxiety, explaining some of Hannah’s phobias and preoccupations on the show (like her fear of what “gets up around the sides of condoms” in episode 2 and her feelings of discomfort towards sex throughout the series). In the article, Dunham explains that the character Shoshanna represents her as a child. “Shoshanna is the part of me that was terrified of sex and felt a little bit left out of the group,” she said in the interview with Hiatt.
Towards the end of the article, Dunham confronts the criticism she has received from “the show’s frequent depiction of sex as awkward and demeaning.” As I have pointed out in past reviews, this aspect of the show is raw, realistic and painful to watch, but necessary.
In the article, writer Brian Hiatt is spot on about this too. He comments that while this aspect may appear “awkward and demeaning” at first, “a closer look, however, suggests that Hannah clearly gets off on being degraded (though not to the point of being peed on)—and that her relationship with [Adam works] because he’s into doing the degrading.”
Like everything else in “Girls,” this portion of the plot comes from Dunham’s personal experiences—“I had to watch out for it more in my younger days,” she said. “I also think I always have had an attraction to depicting degradation that I still haven’t worked out.”
Dunham is a work in progress and an inspiration–“following her dreams, one mistake at a time,” just like the characters on her award-winning television show.