A Conversation With Lena Dunham, Part 2
Meghan O’Rourke talks with the creator of Girls about the season finale, Sex and the City, and why Shoshanna is like that.
O’Rourke: She gets to be this true eccentric.
Dunham: She is, and it’s so funny because she’s the strangest and most normal all at once.
O’Rourke: She’s the one who indulges most in certain stereotypes of “girl”-dom, with the girly bedroom and the pink clothes.
Dunham: And I think she does it because she feels like such a weirdo. I think she’s forced herself to have the kind of taste she thinks is “America’s taste” because she internally feels like such a total freak. In a way, she can’t even deal with the idea of external quirkiness because she’s feeling so much turmoil about I’m not like the others. I’m a mutant.
O’Rourke: How did you feel about Sex and the City? Is that a show that you watched?
Dunham: Yeah. It came on when I was fairly young, like when I was 12 or 13, and I loved watching it. I had watched all of it before I had ever had sex. It was a totally big deal for me. I’d watch it with my mom. I was completely obsessed with it, but I didn’t think about it as relating to my own life, because of my age, because of my interests. I thought of it in the same way that I watch, maybe, Entourage: I really like looking into that world but it didn’t feel like my world. But I really have an incredible respect for it, and I think it opened up a lot of dialogue. I think Girls wouldn’t have been able to talk about a lot of things it talks about without Sex and the City.
O’Rourke: Do you have a favorite character on the show?
Dunham: You know, it’s not Hannah. I mean, she’s so close to me I really get pleasure writing for her, but it’s sort of like I do that without thinking.
It shifts all the time. I really have a lot of love for Adam. I have a lot of love for Ray. I have a lot of love for the boys on the show. My parents. It really changes by the week. It changes depending on where I’m at and who I feel like writing. I will say that I’ve learned a lot from writing the character of Adam. That’s been really informative for me.
O’Rourke: You’re filming the second season now. Do you feel like you’re seeing each of these characters change and develop?
Dunham: I do feel that way. We’re still in process, we’re still beating out the last couple episodes, but you’re really going to see a transformation in their approach, a real maturation. If we were to come back Season 3 there may be a point when it is a show about women called Girls, and not a show about girls called Girls. They’re shifting. They’ll have some of their same trademark attitudes, but it changes a lot. I’m being vague, like I’m guarding the spoilers from Lost.
O’Rourke: “Girls” is a word with a time stamp on it.
Dunham: For sure it’s a word with a time stamp. The part I found funny about the title was the idea that you could have these characters that, at some point, are 35 and have kids and are still called girls. The title actually came from the fact that I was coming up with so many different, too-awful-to-repeat-here titles for the show. And they all had had the word “girls” in them in some form. So I was like, “What about just Girls?” And I remember telling it to my dad, and later, when there was this spate of shows with girl titles on TV, asking him, “Should we change it? Is it going to be too popular?” And my dad saying, “No, you got the meta title. Stick with it.” And I was like, “Great, we have the meta-title. Done.”
O’Rourke: What has been the most surprising thing about watching this season go out into the world?
Dunham: The thing that I love, and I had this experience on a lesser scale when I was putting out Tiny Furniture, was that I spent so much of my time when I was younger feeling like such a weirdo that it was hard for me to imagine that anybody was sharing my experiences. And the fact I put out this thing so personal and specific, where the character is going through emotions that feel so mine, and so many girls have gone, “That’s what it’s like to be me” or “You and I are the same,” it’s really been heartening. It has made the world so much smaller, and I think that has been the most wonderful, educational part of the show actually being released. It’s been amazing to feel that connected when I maybe had a habit of feeling, like, disenfranchised, and like I was a 98-year-old woman trapped in a chubby 17-year-old body.
Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.