Is Lena Dunham Really Fat?

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At first I thought Lena Dunham (the creator, director and star of HBO’s Girls) was fat.

I thought her breasts were underachievers. Her belly, with all of its flouting-the-zeitgeist rolls, made me a little uncomfortable. From there Lena’s litany of nudity crimes piled up: she had no discernible musculature beneath her vampirically pale flesh, her thighs and butt were round and dimpled, her teeth were crooked, her hair was thinnish, her lips weren’t bee stung, her soft shoulders were besmirched by indecipherable tattoos.

What, as a television viewer, was I supposed to do with this body?

Several episodes into the first season my Beauty Paradigm tectonic plates began to shift. I started to admire Lena Dunham. Here was a woman eating, drinking, bathing, making love, shaving, sexting and just just plain lying around in her naked, average body for all the world to see and compare to the insidious Gwyneth Paltrow’s post-baby six-pack you could play zydeco on.  (Screw you Tracy Anderson! Screw. You.)

I decided Lena Dunham not only sports the “11 extra pounds” her character Hannah bemoans, but she also has a cast iron set of balls.

By the end of season one I was a Dunham acolyte. Certainly I was green-to-the-gills with envy that someone so young has achieved so much. But I could forgive her a little because she doesn’t look like La Gwyneth.

Then season two of Girls began. In the opening episode Hannah is torn between two lovers, bounding from one apartment to the next. There’s a scene in the middle where she changes her dress in her bedroom and we’re treated to some side boob. I realized I was no longer uncomfortable gazing at Lena’s small, friendly breasts. They’d become familiar to me. Like mischievous cousins who mooned me from time to time. I didn’t really notice the gently rolling hillocks of flesh on her belly. I didn’t look for definition in her biceps. I didn’t even think about what she should do to shape up, because, I don’t know, she was starting to look, well, adorable.

Then it happened. My Beauty Paradigm did a complete 180. At the end of season two, episode one Hannah picks the lover she wants to keep.  She knocks on the door of his apartment. He lets her in and goes to get something. Without missing a beat Hannah disrobes with her back to the camera.

I caught my breath.

Her skin was opalescent, not Nosferatu-like. Her curves were deeply feminine, not fat. And Dunham’s utter lack of self-consiousness didn’t seem delusional, or political, or revolutionary. Instead it felt hopeful. As if Dunham is single-handedly ushering in a new era where women don’t hate themselves.

Turns out Lena Dunham is really beautiful. It’s just been a very long time since I’ve seen her kind of beauty on display. I leave you with Renoir’s Bathers, round soft beauties from a kinder time.

Nude Redhead

Reclining bather

 Sitting Bather

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fat womenGwyneth PaltrowLena Dunham

15 comments

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  1. Sharon Greenthal (@sharongreenthal)
    Sharon Greenthal (@sharongreenthal) 24 January, 2013, 09:03

    Yes, yes and yes again. I loved that scene when she took off her dress and dove into bed.

    Reply this comment
  2. Sharona Zee
    Sharona Zee 24 January, 2013, 09:43

    I don’t know Lena, but I think I love you :)

    I’ve only recently fallen in love with my 53 y.o. body…not because it magically got better, just because I started cutting it some slack.

    Keep up the great work!

    Reply this comment
  3. Megan
    Megan 24 January, 2013, 09:59

    It’s so strange how twisted our perception is. The funniest part is that if you saw Lena in person, you would probably be surprised at how less rounded she probably really is (camera being what it is).

    We’ve all been exposed to such unrealistic and just plain fake ideals of beauty it’s hard to recognize the real thing until we get to know it better.

    Reply this comment
  4. Johanna K
    Johanna K 24 January, 2013, 13:14

    I find Lena Dunham so brave for showing the world her normal body when most of us have forgotten what that is and are constantly trying to be thinner and more toned like so many hungry and sinewy women on tv are.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 24 January, 2013, 16:54

      I want to see what those women aren’t eating. Perhaps I should eat it for them. This morning I thought I should go to the gym, but my body wanted to sleep more so that’s what I did. There’s a sensuality to not pushing our bodies every second of the day!

      Reply this comment
  5. Meredith
    Meredith 24 January, 2013, 14:37

    I recently scoffed at my husband for stopping me to nuzzle in our bathroom. He said, ‘What’s wrong?’

    Me: I’m naked!
    Him: So?
    Me: There’s a big giant mirror here! And I’m naked!
    Him: Let me be your mirror.

    I didn’t know what to say, but I hope it’s possible for me to see what he sees someday.

    Reply this comment
  6. Dee
    Dee 24 January, 2013, 18:25

    I just found this blog when I really needed to read something funny!

    Thanks for sharing your stories.

    Reply this comment
  7. Alexandra
    Alexandra 26 January, 2013, 19:40

    I love the show too, and it reminds us that it’s not just the perfect skinny girls who get the guys.

    Reply this comment
  8. Julia Roberts
    Julia Roberts 2 February, 2013, 20:54

    Yes and love filled yes.

    Reply this comment
  9. Jay
    Jay 18 February, 2013, 20:11

    Forgive my difference of opinion, but season 2 has had the opposite effect for me. I admired her bravery in season 1. In season 2 it’s like she’s become an exhibitionist, creating opportunities to take her clothes off, even if it requires a good stretch. Most episodes are completely centered on her character as well. She took a hollywood hunk (Patrick Wilson) and made him beg for her. What I’m saying is I don’t think she’s part of some women’s liberation so much as a simple ego trip.

    Reply this comment
  10. M.
    M. 14 January, 2014, 08:27

    It’s really sweet what you have written here though I disagree. Beauty is one thing and health is the other.
    We shouldn’t comfort ourselves that being fat and lazy is ok – it actually leads to various diseases.
    That’s just my opinion.

    Reply this comment
    • LaffyTaffy
      LaffyTaffy 11 September, 2014, 16:41

      Sorry for being late to the party… but that’s the authors point. Lena is not really fat. She’s listed as being 139 pounds and 5ft 3 makin her BMI in the healthy range. I know BMI is not the whole picture but despite the awful clothes Lena wears as Hannah..Lena is actually a pear shaped from her listed measurements meaning she’s not carrying fat where it’s detrimental to health.

      Reply this comment
      • Shannon
        Shannon Author 11 September, 2014, 17:11

        Exactly LaffyTaffy. I love that, as an actress, she is fearless about wearing unflattering clothes in order to evoke the character she portrays. That girl has some serious artistic cajones.

        Reply this comment

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