Anyone who watches the TV show Girls has probably seen Lena Dunham’s naked body more than their closest friends’. But while her character, Hannah Horvath, has a penchant for doing unconventional things in the nude (like nibbling on a cupcake in the bathtub), she doesn’t really spend more time in the buff than any other average non-‘never nude.’
The question isn’t, as one nosy reporter put it during a panel discussion at the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association, why Horvath is “often naked at random times for no reason.”
It’s why anyone still cares.
Dunham is now entering her third year of fielding questions about why she dare subject HBO-watching Americans to her imperfect shape. It shows. “It's a realistic expression of what it's like to be alive,” Dunham replied calmly. “If you are not into me that's your problem and you are going to have to kind of work that out.” It was an impressively poised and subtly dismissive reaction to an infuriating, redundant, and offensive question.
Her producers were not so polite.
Enraged executive producer Judd Apatow shot back at the reporter. “Do you have a girlfriend? Just ask her that whole question as you wrote it . . . and tell me how it goes tonight.” While the discussion eventually moved on, executive producer Jenni Konner did not. “I'm sorry, I was spacing out because I'm in such a rage spiral about that guy's question,” Konner said, when questioned about something unrelated. “This idea that you would accuse a woman of showing her body too much... just makes me sort of sick."
It’s only when faced with the fleshy body of a real life human being—one perhaps uncomfortably similar to the one they have (or are afraid of having)—that people start to freak out.
They, like everyone else who has endured listening to this senseless debate since the show first premiered, have had enough. No one, especially those who watch any of HBO’s other gratuitously sexual shows, seems to have a problem with nudity as long as the bodies shown are unrealistically sculpted. Game of Thrones’ practice of spicing up boring scenes with nudity is notorious enough to have warranted its own word: “Sexposition.” If anyone is angry about seeing Khaleesi’s naughty bits, we’ve yet to hear about it. True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse and Boardwalk Empire’s Lucy Danziger are welcome to get down with their bad naked selves all day long. A "thigh gap" and/or "bikini bridge" are practically a free ticket to nakedville. But normal-bodied characters, please keep your clothes on.
It’s only when faced with the fleshy body of a real life human being—one perhaps uncomfortably similar to the one they have (or are afraid of having)—that people start to freak out. The deluge of questions about Dunham’s nudity conveys the message that imperfect bodies should be hidden in shame.
The point, which unfortunately needs reiterating, is that Girls is a show about the experience of a group of 20-something Brooklynites. Their trials and tribulations might not always be 100 percent realistic or relatable to the majority of Americans. They’re not supposed to be.
What anyone can relate to is the need—not to mention desire—to be naked. Dunham’s body, and the fact that Hannah, like everyone else, has to shower, get dressed, and have sex in the nude—no matter how curvy, bony, or lumpy they are—is the most realistic part of the show.
Anyone who still has questions for Dunham about her nudity should be forced to ask them in the nude.