I’d never heard of the 24-year-old writer/filmmaker Lena Dunham until reading Rebecca Mead’s profile in the November 15th issue of the New Yorker. I still haven't watched her Youtube videos or acquainted myself with her considerable internet presence. Therefore, I have no opinion of her work other than it was born from a place of privilege that is entirely foreign to me.
Dunham’s parents are both successful New York artists, about whom Mead writes, “Laurie Simmons makes photographs in which dolls and doll-house furniture are arranged to unsettling effect; Carroll Dumham makes exuberant, antic paintings that often feature a masculine figure with a penis where his nose should be.”
Dunham didn’t do well on her SATs, and therefore, spent her first year of college at New York’s New School (she later transferred to Oberlin). In the article, Dunham discusses the classmates she encountered during her freshman year and the unsettling experience of being on her home turf, but surrounded by provincials. For me, one of the most striking things from the profile is this quote about a New School classmate: “There was this boy who was really smart and really intellectual and he came from, like, a steel town in Pennsylvania, and his family called him ‘the freak.’ I had never met a person who was different from their parents before.”
Whether or not this is actually true isn’t relevant because I believe the sentiment is. Certainly she had met kids who were different from their parents, but she either never noticed or paused to consider the distinction.
As a person who regards close parent-child relationships with an instinctual suspicion, her statement I had never met a person who was different from their parents before was like peering into an alternate universe and having the door hit me in the face.