National Review's Kevin Williamson has a lead article in the publication's November issue that serves as not only a damning critique of the writer, director and star of one of HBO's most popular shows, but in effect the narcissistic, emotionally and intellectually shallow and clueless generation that she purports to (and may in fact) represent.
Perhaps more strikingly, in the process of reviewing this entertainer's memoir and drawing out its larger implications, Williamson reveals some horrific details about the abuse the star received -- and disgustingly it appears, inflicted upon her younger sister -- and accuses Dunham of conducting a "print lynching" for devastating allegations she is leveling against a not-so-anonymous sexual partner from several years ago.
(Image Source: National Review/Time)
The unlikely figure in question gracing the cover of November's National Review is Lena Dunham, the star of HBO's "Girls" series and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir "Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's 'Learned'". Dunham is perhaps most recognizable to Blaze readers for her 2012 campaign ad urging young potential voters to "do it" for their "first time" -- that "it" being voting for President Obama's reelection.
The opening paragraph of Williamson's scathing piece reveals all you need to know to get a sense as to his impression of Dunham:
Here is a list of things in Lena Dunham’s life that do not strike Lena Dunham as being unusual: growing up in a $6.25 million Tribeca apartment; attending a selection of elite private schools; renting a home in Hollywood Hills well before having anything quite resembling a job and complaining that the home is insufficiently "chic"; the habitual education of the men in her family at Andover; the services of a string of foreign nannies; being referred to a homework therapist when she refused to do her homework and being referred to a relationship therapist when she fought with her mother; constant visits to homeopathic doctors, and visits to child psychologists three times a week; having a summer home on a lake in Connecticut, and complaining about it; writing a "voice of her generation" memoir in which ordinary life events among members of her generation, such as making student-loan payments or worrying about the rent or health insurance, never come up; making casual trips to Malibu; her grandparents' having taken seven-week trips to Europe during her mother's childhood; spending a summer at a camp at which the costs can total almost as much as the median American family’s annual rent; being histrionically miserable at said camp and demanding to be brought home early; demanding to be sent back to the same expensive camp the next year.
When Dunham's character on "Girls" Hannah Horvath calls herself "the voice of my generation," "Or a voice of a generation," Williamson takes her at her word, writing:
Lena Dunham may truly be the voice of her generation: The enormous affluence and indulgence of her upbringing did not sate her sundry hungers — for adoration, for intellectual respect that she has not earned, for the unsurpassable delight of moral preening — but instead amplified and intensified her sense of entitlement.
[sharequote align="center"]"The enormous affluence and indulgence...amplified and intensified her sense of entitlement."[/sharequote]
But beyond Williamson's devastating critique of Dunham's publicly displayed entitlement, lack of self-awareness or intellectual heft, which he chronicles throughout the piece, it is in her personal life that Williamson paints a most grotesque picture [note: graphic sexual imagery coming]:
[T]o dismiss Lena Dunham as an insulated and spoiled child of Manhattan's ruling class is to misunderstand her story entirely. If there is such a thing as actually abusing a child through excessive generosity and overindulgence, then Lena Dunham’s parents are child abusers. Her father, Carroll Dunham, is a painter noted for his primitive brand of highbrow pornography, his canvases anchored by puffy neon-pink labia; her photographer mother filled the family home with nude pictures of herself, "legs spread defiantly." Self-styled radicals from old money, they were not the sort of people inclined to enforce even the most lax of boundaries. And they were, in their daughter's telling, enablers of some very disturbing behavior that would be considered child abuse in many jurisdictions — Lena Dunham’s sexual abuse, specifically, of her younger sister, Grace, the sort of thing that gets children taken away from non-millionaire families without Andover pedigrees and Manhattanite social connections. Dunham writes of casually masturbating while in bed next to her younger sister, of bribing her with "three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds . . . anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying." At one point, when her sister is a toddler, Lena Dunham pries open her vagina — "my curiosity got the best of me," she offers, as though that were an explanation. "This was within the spectrum of things I did."
Dunham describes herself as an "unreliable narrator," which in the context of a memoir or another work of purported nonfiction means "liar," strictly construed. Dunham writes of incorporating stories from other people's lives and telling them as though they were her own, and of fabricating details. The episode with her sister’s vaginal pebbles seems to be especially suspicious. When Dunham inspects her sister's business, she shrieks at what she sees: "Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. . . . Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been such a success." Dunham's writing often is unclear (willfully so, it seems), but the context here — Grace has overheard her older sister asking whether her baby sister has a uterus — and Grace's satisfaction with her prank suggest that Grace was expecting her older sister to go poking around in her genitals and inserted the pebbles in expectation of it. Grace is around one year old at the time of these events. There is no non-horrific interpretation of this episode.
In a disturbing personal episode later in life, Williamson reveals that Dunham was allegedly raped. She outs the accused rapist from her undergraduate years at Oberlin, albeit indirectly [note: more graphic sexual imagery coming]:
Lena Dunham never actually writes that she was raped by a mustachioed campus Republican named Barry at Oberlin College. She leads up to it with a long story about her childhood misuse of the word "rape" — she accuses her little sister of raping her and tells people that her father sticks a fork in her vagina when she misbehaves — and dwells on her lifelong fear of being raped. She describes two different versions of the same sexual encounter, in the latter version insisting that she did not consent to what happened. And in a remarkably dishonest turn, she has other people describe the event as "rape," thereby dodging any intellectual or moral responsibility for making the claim herself.
...In Dunham’s telling, she had been at a party, drinking and taking Xanax and cocaine, and went to bed willingly with Barry. But the encounter turned rough — so rough, she says, that she required medical attention — and she noticed mid-coitus that he was not using a condom. She told him to leave; he left. She relates an encounter between the same Barry and another woman that turned so violent that it left the walls spattered in blood, "like a crime scene." But neither Dunham nor the other woman felt the need to press charges, file a complaint, or otherwise document the encounter. The latter woman, in fact, reports that Barry accompanied her to the campus clinic the next day for morning-after pills, joking about naming the baby they weren't going to have. If any of this is true, then there are medical records at Oberlin supporting the story, but the release of Dunham’s records would require Dunham’s consent, and the second woman’s records would require the consent of the second woman, if she exists.
Williamson argues that based upon the information given, he was able to ascertain who Barry was within minutes. He believes that
Dunham’s writing all this is, needless to say, a gutless and passive-aggressive act. Barry is not a character in a book; he is a real person, one whose life is no doubt being turned upside down by a New York Times No. 1 best-seller containing half-articulated accusations that he raped a woman in college, accusations that are easily connected to him. Dunham won't call him a rapist, but she is happy to use other people as sock puppets to call him a rapist. She doesn’t use his full name, but she surely knows how easily it can be found. She wouldn't face him in a court of law, but she'll lynch him in print.
This portion of Williamson's article has generated controversy.
Time wrote that Williamson "turns Lena Dunham’s story about emotional and physical trauma she experienced after realizing a complicated sexual encounter was, in fact, rape into a story about the trauma the publication of Dunham’s story may present for her accused rapist who was identified in the book by a first name only."
The left-wing Salon published an article titled "The right’s Lena Dunham delusion: Anger, misogyny and the dangers of business as usual," with the sub-headline "National Review's screed on Dunham is abhorrent, but its misogyny is not unique. Here's where we go next."
The Washington Post's style blog wrote a post presumably to discredit Williamson's article by questioning its lack of substance, titled "National Review is obsessed with Lena Dunham’s sex life and body."
For what it's worth, Williamson concludes of Dunham that she is:
busily building an ever-thicker cocoon of fantasy, prescription drugs, and weaponized celebrity, manipulating reality to her own specifications. If she is emblematic of her generation, it is in that her life, in her own telling, is a reminder that being ruined by comfort and privilege is as easy as (perhaps easier than) being crippled by privation and abuse.
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