Dunham and her work exist in a frenzy of praise and criticism; Dunham’s book, however, is a book in its own right, entirely separate from her TV show. Regardless of personal taste, she has come to stand as a role model of female empowerment and honesty, no matter how flawed—a position that has been waiting to be filled for a while. While the very premise of the book is for us to figure out what kind of girl Dunham is, it simultaneously explores the complexity of understanding one’s own individuality.
Dunham’s collection of essays begins in an act of justification: “There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman.” While promoting female memoirs and the didactic nature of them, she preempts criticism, but by the same vein, she has already self-aggrandised the task which she nobly sets herself. Throughout the collection, there is a sense that Dunham is stuck between the theoretical importance of the author and her own irrelevance. Her work is based in her individual experiences while promoting a universally shared experience, and refusing inhabit it.
There are moments in which Dunham could acknowledge her narrow field of vision; it’s the privilege discussion. The same criticism has landed on a lot of her work, and yet here too she refuses to be baited by it. Dunham’s book is sprinkled with experiences and life lessons alien to many of the lives reading her book. In Dunham’s world, therapists become a ubiquitous requirement, a designer-clothing store fills the post-degree void, “artist” is a financially sound career choice, and, duh, you live in New York City.
Yet for all its distance, Not That Kind of Girl felt like reading one of your best friends’ diaries. Unflinchingly honest, well-written and exercising her crafting skills, with a blend of modern language and imagery, it was refreshing and felt important to read. She’s had weird sex experiences too! She hated her body too! She felt bored and frustrated while studying too! Reviewers liked to compare her honesty within the book to her nude scenes in Girls. I get that. But being privy to her mind, and heart, her vaginal and uterine dilemmas, her anxiety and fear, her trials of love and loss, ambition and self-doubt, was a much more fulfilling experience than seeing Lena Dunham naked, or Marnie getting her butt eaten out.
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