Am I Misogynistic for Wondering About the Nudity on ‘Girls'? Nope (Guest Blog)

Am I Misogynistic for Wondering About the Nudity on 'Girls'? Nope (Guest Blog)

The girlfriend drawn into an infamous TCA panel is a friend to “Girls” — and girls

I think “Girls” is a great show. And furthermore, I like girls. I don't hate them. But I do challenge the notion that asking a writer about her bold creative choice might somehow imply that you're a sexist, or a misogynist.

Last week, TheWrap's TV editor Tim Molloy asked Lena Dunham about the show's nudity during a “Girls” panel. She and executive producer Judd Apatow didn't like his question, and Apatow asked Tim if he had a girlfriend. Yes: Me. Another executive producer, Jenni Konner, speculated that I might be “a misogynist,” though I wasn't at the panel and we've never met.

Since they asked, here's what I think.

Also read: Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham Get Mad at Me For Asking Why She's Naked So Much on ‘Girls’

Having spent many years in New York, I relish the show's depiction of the city. When the show is at its best, I become absorbed in it.

And then Dunham's Hannah Horvath plays topless ping pong, and I'm jolted out.

Not because Hannah's nakedness is off-putting, or unattractive. Because it's neither of those things. It's just inexplicable at times and takes me out of an otherwise compelling story.

Also read: ‘Girls’ Review: Lena Dunham Plumbs Awkward Depths in Funny, Messy New Season

The issue isn't that her particular character is naked. I'd feel the same way if Marnie, Adam or Ray ate a cupcake naked in a bathtub. It just doesn't seem to make sense from a storytelling or character perspective, unless she's supposed to be more eccentric than Kosmo Cramer, Latka Gravas or Steve Urkel. Or maybe her incredible body image and self-confidence primarily manifests itself in sporadic nudity.

Whatever it might be, I have no doubt Dunham and the other writers on the show have a very specific reason for the nudity. And yet, the one that Dunham gave Tim – it's a “realistic expression” of life, doesn't ring true. I've never taken naked baths with pals or seen a nudie line outside Magnolia Bakery. But maybe I'm hanging with the wrong people.

Also read: ‘Rake’ EP Peter Tolan Mocks Fox, Les Moonves and Lena Dunham Nudie-Gate at TCA

I was perplexed by Dunham's response – “If you are not into me, that’s your problem.” A TV critic wanted to understand why a TV character is naked at odd times. How's that suggesting he finds the actress Dunham unattractive? How is that an insult to her as a woman? How is it sexist?

To be fair, Tim's question may have been misinterpreted. When framing it, he referenced the nudity in Game of Thrones, calling its purpose salacious and titillating. Even if Dunham thought he implied Girls’ nudity isn't titillating, why not explain its true purpose instead of taking a stance that's counterintuitive to the empowerment and liberation of her show?

Sure, it's not as simple to compare Hannah being naked to Hannah sporadically eating a meatball sub or Hannah playing an accordion or Hannah clipping her toenails, because the notion of female nudity is incredibly charged. But if she was doing any of those things, it would seem like a stunt or a non-sequitur. From a simple narrative point of view, it's a simple question: what does her curiously placed nudity mean?

When it's at its best, we watch TV to learn what motivates our favorite characters. We watch TV to feel something — to well up, or smile, or scream. We watch TV partly to learn. Tim asked a question to learn something. I've wondered about it, too.

  • rfk

    Wow, you're right — she should totally have responded to his backhanded insult by asserting that her naked body was actually tittilating. Good note!

  • David Perkins

    Enough already. ‘Girls’ has excessive nudity without reason because it can. So, too, does ‘Game of Thrones.’ ‘Dexter’ had some nudity, but it also had better writers and story lines. As a result, it wasn't necessary to dwell on the nudity. The same can be said about ‘The Sopranos.’ Shock value is only valuable if it is additive.

  • og

    I honestly don't see her nudity as being misplaced or find it jarring, but I grew up in a hippie artsy community so I am very used to seeing topless women. I don't think it's that strange to talk to a friend while taking a bath, haven't you ever been skinny dipping? When I was younger my friends and I would do it a lot. Sometimes my boyfriend and I will spend the day naked if we have no place to be, why is that strange? Some people are just comfortable being naked. It's fine that some aren't, but if you were I don't think you would need explanation. I think the nudity adds a realness to the show. Perhaps a more insightful question was needed. I'm offended only in that you and Tim cannot or will not understand something that is so basic.

    • Dee

      It is not basic to just jump into nudity for no reason. If it were, we would see it all around us. You are an unusual case.

  • Portia

    He wasn't sexist. You're not a misogynist (how ridiculous is that?) Lena Dunham might be because she hangs out with sexual predator Terry Richardson, and Apatow is a nasty ass jerk.
    The folks on this panel are a bit too touchy. Anything to create a conflict and call attention to themselves. I think, too, that they didn't know that “salacious” is not a compliment.
    If you'd read Dunham's entire comment, she, just like this jackass Apatow, was incredibly nasty right off the bat. Let's put it this way — their tirade didn't end with “that's your problem”.
    Nasty self absorbed people, all three of them.

  • Dee

    “If you're not into me, that's your problem”…this is the crux of the whole thing. It's all about being “into” her. Lena wants to you to be into her and, if you're not, she gets mad and manipulates you into thinking there's something wrong with YOU. Unimaginable ego and narcissism. Where does it come from? Where can I get some? Just realize for a minute what she's pulled off. She's no better writer than my teenage son and certainly less attractive yet, she's got an award-winning show that is coming back for a fourth season even though her viewership has been falling continuously. Imagine that…a pudgy plain girl with little talent and few viewers manipulates Hollywood into, first, giving her a show and, second, continuing it even though it's not making money. Stunning chutzpah!

  • Devin McMusters

    Where I live, anyone just stripping down for no reason can get a heck of case of frostbite.

  • lisa

    Here here, I am a woman and couldn't agree more. The random nudity is at best distracting, and I would find it to be so no matter who the clothes-less character was. It's just not necessary, and looks like a desperate plea for attention by incorporating shock value. Their reaction was childish and reeked of insecurity- and the “how dare you insult/question our artistic integrity” reaction, and switching focus off the question by putting blame on Tim, absolutely proves it.

  • scout

    Boo to Lena Dunham. Her arrogant & self righteous response lost respect from this woman.

  • tdeedee

    Maybe she's just sensitive. Who could blame her? Granted, she's purposely putting herself out there and exposing her vulnerabilities (literally) but the viciousness of some of the attacks has to hurt. I agree that I would have liked a more thoughtful answer and some insight into the character we couldn't glean ourselves but she's human and so from that lens, her answer is understandable. I'd be harder on Judd and Jenni who should have protected her by being the grownups in the room.