Erstwhile It/perennial fall girl Lena Dunham is on bloggers’ hit lists again thanks to her latest interview with Esquire. This time, what’s pissing folks off is her response to the question of how she deals with envy and ill will toward her. To wit: “I kind of get off on it because I had a liberal-arts education and a huge part of that is just like sitting in class with people who are saying, ‘You know nothing, my godfather died of AIDS!’ It’s a really self-righteous, annoyed, argumentative world. And I loved it. But I don’t wanna engage with people. I think you look crazier when you engage with someone who doesn’t have a fully formed argument.”
Where’s privilege denying dude when you need him? This isn’t Dunham’s first brush with controversy, as you probably know. This past Halloween, Dunham posted an offensive tweet for her Canadian fans. Then there was that not-so-hilarious time she faked wearing a hijab and said she had a “real goth/fundamentalist attitude when I woke up from my nap.” Adjacent to this, of course, was former Girls staff writer Lesley Arfin’s tweeted response to the Girls-is-too-damn-white criticism that accompanied the show’s premiere. I’m starting to wonder if Dunham is perfecting a “sorry I’m not sorry” curtsy for these incidents.
Many sites have discussed the myriad of reasons that she’s being singled out by critics and haters. Despite the fact that she’s acknowledged these claims before with an “I’ll fix it next season” mea culpa, now it’s a cool “I don’t care.” But a casual dismissal of what dozens of respected writers pointed out to her hardly seems mature. And it not just a case of singling out Dunham; I’d say exactly the same to the writers behind supposedly progressive sitcoms like Modern Family and 2 Broke Girls. Just because the omission of diversity that’s going on Girls isn’t anything new doesn’t mean it’s okay. Pretending like Black and brown folks don’t exist in Brooklyn isn’t just a matter of equal representation in media—it’s an ethnic whitewashing of the area onscreen that reflects a real threat of gentrifying neighborhoods and displacing families.
So while I think she’s right in ignoring the critics who call her “fat,” not all criticism is created equal, and the problematic erasure of race isn’t something to be blown off with a snarky interview response or pointed tweet. Sure, the tradition of all-white leading actors and shows started way before she was born, but it doesn’t mean the trend should go on unabated and unexamined. And shutting down dialogue—despite her brush-off, plenty of Dunham’s critics do have fully formed arguments—isn’t conducive to building an audience. I do have hopes that Season 2 of Girls won’t repeat the same mistakes as its first, but you can’t change what you don’t see as wrong.