Monday, November 22, 2010

Lena Dunham opens the door

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.


Crystal Lee said...

Her world view seems very narrow, which is a bit of a turn off. Indeed, it is a very strange position to hold at this day in age - that someone from a working class family would not grow up to be an intellectual. How fucking boring would it be if all artists were bred from privilege? and cut the cord already, lady. However, I do think everyone is like their parents in some ways – often in the ways we are most embarrassed to admit.

Judy Gloom said...

Oh, I totally agree that everyone is like their parents to some extent. Of course! But growing up, most of my friends regarded their parents as "other" (myself included). To me, it's just seems really exotic for a kid to regard their parent as inhabiting the same world. And certainly, privileged kids rebel against their parents all the time, but it's interesting to think about how class differences inform the way adolescents perceive that rebellion. I didn't ever rebel against my mom. For the most part, we got along fine. I just knew I didn't want to be like her. And I couldn't have felt less similar to anyone regardless of whether or not that's true.