Why is Lena Dunham’s character on “Girls” naked so much?
That question made Dunham and her fellow “Girls” executive producers, Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, mad at me Thursday during a Television Critics Association panel. Apatow later said my question was sexist, offensive and misogynistic. He asked me to transcribe what I asked and re-read what I asked Dunham, so here it is:
“I don’t get the purpose of all the nudity on the show. By you particularly. I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you say no one complains about the nudity on ‘Game of Thrones,’ but I get why they’re doing it. They’re doing it to be salacious. To titillate people. And your character is often naked at random times for no reason.”
Dunham said she was naked on the show because people are naked sometimes.
“Yeah. It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think, and I totally get it. If you are not into me, that’s your problem,” she said.
Huh? But I didn’t say that. The conversation continued its personal turn as Apatow asked if I had a girlfriend.
“Sure,” I said.
“Does she like you?”
“Let’s see how she likes you when you quote that with your question and just write the whole question… and tell me how it goes tonight.”
Actually, my girlfriend has wondered about this, too. Here’s why.
“Girls” has more nudity by its lead character than any show, well, ever. But my girlfriend and I don’t understand the reason for it. We’re cool with nudity, and if Dunham wants to be naked, great. I’m not offended by it. I don’t like it or not like it. I just don’t get the artistic reason for it, and want to understand it, because I’m a TV critic.
Later in the panel executive producer Jenni Konner said she didn’t understand why I thought I could “talk to a woman” that way.
Huh? Talk to her like a writer who has made a bold creative decision?
Dunham left after the panel. But Apatow stuck around, and we talked about my question, which he said was “offensive on its face.”
“You should read it and discuss it with other people,” he told me. “It is very offensive.”
“Is it sexist?” I asked. “Because I would ask the same question –”
“It’s sexist and offensive, it’s misogynistic,” he said.
“I’m not saying it’s bad that she’s nude,” I said.
Another reporter noted that if Louis C.K. were naked on his show, we would ask about it.
“There’s a way to word a question about the reason for nudity on the show and it was not done elegantly. If you re-read it and you listen to it you will not be proud of yourself.”
“I’m not un-proud of myself in any way because everyone I know has wondered the same thing. I don’t understand as a writer, what the reason for it is. I’m not against it.”
“That’s another thing. It shows a lack of depth in how you watch the show.”
“I watch the show really deeply, actually,” I said. “I’m trying to understand it as a TV critic. That’s my job.”
“As a TV critic you don’t understand why a show about young people in New York who spend some of their time naked, and some of their time having sex, includes women who sometimes are naked and sometimes have sex?”
“Then why aren’t all of the characters naked?” I asked.
He said a show about me would feature me naked some of the time.
“Then why aren’t all the characters in your movies naked some of the time? … Paul Rudd wasn’t naked,” I added, referring to “This Is 40.’”
“There’s male nudity in ‘Walk Hard,’” he said. “I have people naked when they’re willing to do it. Lena is confident enough to do it so we have the opportunity to talk about other issues because she is braver than other people. If Paul Rudd said to me, I’m willing to be completely naked in the movie, I would use it. If Seth [Rogen] said he was willing to be completely naked — he showed his butt in a post-sex scene in ‘Knocked Up’ — I would use it because it’s more honest.”
“Well then that’s the answer,” I said.
“Read how you asked the question,” he said.
“I said that on ‘Game of Thrones’ they do it for salacious purposes. I’m not giving ‘Game of Thrones’ credit for that. ‘Salacious’ doesn’t have a positive connotation.”
“Just listen to yourself,” he said.
I did. To transcribe my recording of this exchange.
“I’m really, truly stupid then, because I don’t understand,” I said.
“Maybe you just got nervous how you asked it and it came out much darker, edgier and negative than you realized.”
I checked with my girlfriend. She’s cool with what I asked.