Why does a question about female nudity from a male reporter spark charges of misogyny?
People, I’m confused. Why is Tim Molloy, our TV editor, considered a misogynist for asking Lena Dunham about why she’s naked so often on “Girls”?
That’s what a Salon writer said, and some other more obnoxious writers elsewhere. “What is the point of a naked woman if not to give heterosexual male journalists erections? “ writes Katie McDonough, as if even curiosity about the issue is transgressive.
In a journalist scrum after the news conference, Judd called Tim sexist and misogynistic. I think that’s really unfair.
Before we proceed, here’s a bunch of disclaimers:
* Tim Molloy is TheWrap’s tv editor, so I’m biased.
* I adore “Girls,” so I’m biased.
* Judd Apatow is a friend, so I’m biased.
* TheWrap named Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner to our list of Innovators Who Are Changing Hollywood last year, so we’re biased.
* I’m female, so I’m biased.
What I don’t get is why folks are getting so mad that a journalist asked a question at a press conference about Dunham’s pushing the nudity envelope, when the purpose of her show is to artistically push the envelope? (See the Emmy promo photo of Dunham, poking fun at herself, naked on the toilet.)
I don’t buy the argument that Tim is off-base for asking the question because… it’s Season 3. There isn’t a statute of limitations on questions about the substance of a show. Maybe it was the topless ping-pong scene last year that provoked the thought. Maybe the nudity is feeling tired by Season 3. Or maybe no one called on Tim the last time Dunham, Apatow and Konner faced the TV press.
Who knows why? It’s a question, and reporters ask questions. The brave ones ask uncomfortable ones which are even more uncomfortable at clubby TCA (Cue earlier version of myself asking NBC why they aired the Golden Globes, voted upon by a few dozen freelancers, circa 1997. I got hissed in the room and one glorious pat on the back.)
“I don’t get the purpose of all of the nudity on the show, by you particularly, and I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you go, ‘Nobody complains about the nudity on ‘Game of Thrones,’ but I get why they are doing it… They are doing it to be salacious and, you know, titillate people. And your character is often naked just at random times for no reason.”
Maybe the “Game of Thrones” reference was unneeded – and good luck to anyone asking questions in public – but it’s inaccurate to say that Tim told Dunham her nudity did not titillate him, which is what Dunham presumed in her response. He said that the purpose of nudity in “Game of Thrones” is titillation. Which means he believes that the nudity on “Girls” serves a different purpose.
He asked what that purpose was.
This commenter on our site has it just wrong: “Here is the offending sentence – ‘By you particularly.’ As if she isn't good enough or thin enough to be naked. That the writer's girlfriend doesn't get this just shows she's never been under the Hollywood/media scrutiny where only thin is beautiful.”
Dunham’s response – that the nudity was “a realistic expression of being alive” – was in bounds. Not sure why she made it personal by saying, “If you are not into me, that’s your problem.”
As intelligent viewers, let’s own what Dunham – who is quite beautiful when she wants to be – is deliberately doing: creating her character to break the conventions of beauty and weight, privilege and self-obsession. (I love that about her.)
As a viewer with a different perspective, it’s possible that Tim doesn’t connect with Dunham’s method of artistic expression, or he may feel – as so many commenters have noted — that the nudity had started to feel gratuitous.
Either way it’s a fair point for debate: When is nudity an honest expression, and when does it start to feel like a stunt? I’m thinking that hundreds of people are arguing the point on our site and thousands sharing the article because the question resonated.
As a writer and a journalist, I have to come down on the side of defending provocative questions. Just like I come down on the side of defending Dunham’s right to her own artistic choices.
Let’s keep the insults out of it.