Dunham can't write men

Most of her male characters are misogynists or closet date rapists, and none of them are wholly believable

Published April 3, 2013 2:18PM (EDT)

Lena Dunham      (AP/Jordan Strauss/Invision)
Lena Dunham (AP/Jordan Strauss/Invision)

This piece originally appeared on Pajiba.

Pajiba Nevermind that only 400,000 people in her target demo actually watch the show, “Girls,” Lena Dunham is the “voice of her generation,” which is something that people want to keep reminding us of. I’m skeptical about the notion of an entire generation being reduced to one voice — especially when that voice is of a woman from New York who dates rock stars — but I’m sure that there are many things about her particular way of life that Lena Dunham nails, and it’s probably fair to conclude that she is a decent representative of women whose fathers painted overtly sexual pop art and hangs out in multimillion-dollar Brooklyn walk-ups with the children of other famous people.

I also believe that “Girls” is a brilliant show, in many ways for its ability to shed light on the self-entitled obnoxiousness of Dunham’s generation. If you want to know why so many people resent white, privileged America, “Girls” offers examples in abundance. She’s done an admirable job over two seasons of presenting the complexities of 20-something New York women trapped between their calling to be strong feminists and their apparent desires to live out Bridget Jones novels.

But look closely enough, and you’ll also realize this: Dunham is terrible at writing men. Yes, she does create compelling male characters, but they’re not genuine. They are slackers without ambition only capable of being driven by their love of a woman; they are closet date rapists; misogynist meatheads; or they are pu**ies.

Why does Lena Dunham reduce men to walking hard-ons? Because dudes are “simple,” as she tells Refinery29 in an interview published this week.

“I think these girls are more tortured by their relationships with each other, specifically Marnie and Hannah, then they are with their relationships to men,” she said. “Men are, in some ways, simple, while their ability to get on the same page with each other, at the same time, is more of a challenge.”

Exactly! We are simple, aren’t we? Give us a beer, a cheesesteak, and throw us a f*ck every once in a while, and we’re totally content. Our motivations are driven by women: Our natural state is vegetative, and only for the love of woman and sex are we driven toward success. Our relationships with each other are also very simple: We speak in a bro code; we never have falling outs, conflicts, or tension in our relationships with other men; and all over our communication is done via one-word text message grunts. This is true even of our hipster brethren, whose sensitivity and apathy are but disguises for our laziness. But take away our lady, and we’ll CREATE AN APP. We don’t have feelings, we only have different sizes of erections.

What I love about “Girls” is that it presents women of a certain age — warts and all — in interesting and dynamic ways that few shows have done before. Too often, women are presented as nags, shrews or sex objects, but “Girls” presents unlikable female characters created by women, which gives us license to dislike them for the right reasons: Because they are unlikable, not because they are Heigl-ian one-dimensional stereotypes.

I’m sure, too, that someone as insightful and sophisticated as Dunham would afford men the same treatment, if we were worthy of it. But we are not complicated. We are simple, primitive people, really. We just walk around sticking our dicks in things, easy in our relationships with both men and women, just waiting for a woman to ask of us a romantic gesture that we will happily oblige — even if it means running breathlessly through the streets of New York City — no matter how fucked up and damaged the woman of our affections is. We are simple. We don’t understand damage. We only understand that, if we do what a woman wants of us, we will be provided a place to house our c*cks.

And really, why should we bother being anything else when even trendy, intelligent television shows about spoiled but complicated women reduce us to penises with different flavors of one-dimensional dysfunction? Why should we aspire to be anything more than the depictions of men from the voice of a generation. If someone as important and influential as Lena Dunham thinks that we are “simple,” then it must be so.

By Dustin Rowles

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