I am sometimes cynical and that cynicism makes me suspicious of the success of people like Lena Dunham. I read the work other cynics (I’m looking at you Gawker); this adds to my suspicion of the success of people like Lena Dunham. So imagine my surprise at learning that Lena Dunham is intelligent, engaging, charming, funny and entirely deserving of her success. At last night’s reading and interview about Not That Kind of Girl at the Toronto Public Library I had a fantastic time listening to a smart and thoughtful person answer questions and I’m not afraid to say so.
It’s so easy to hate Dunham, isn’t it? She likes Taylor Swift unironically, references her friendship with the late Nora Ephron, lets us see that critics of her work like Gawker get under her skin. It’s easy to agree that she hasn’t earned her success, that her work is trivial and that we could do that too, if only our parents were famous so we had the opportunity.
It’s less easy to hate Dunham when the 28-year old stands on a stage and fields questions about sex, gender, feminism, race, fame, discrimination and education and delivers responses that could be transcribed unedited into a pretty solid editorial. Lena acknowledged last night that she had been very lucky. She was lucky that Tiny Furniture got attention on the film festival circuit. She was lucky to have grown up in a home with artistic, left-leaning parents who encouraged her to challenge ideas and pursue creative ventures. She was lucky to pitch her TV show to HBO at the exact time they were looking for something to appeal to young female audiences after SATC.
If I had Lena Dunham’s luck, or if you did, we wouldn’t have her career. Luck is important but not as important as the talent, work ethic, creativity, and sheer moxie that imbue Dunham’s work. I had a great evening last night and it was only 20% because there was a bar at the reading. With an energetic introduction from my Canadian hero Elaine Lui, a hilarious reading from Dunham and an engaged (if slightly sauced) audience, the Toronto Public Library hit this event out of the park.