Most of the time, Playboy strikes me as the kind of magazine that doesn’t really care to include much about women’s issues. Sure, they’ll discuss the woman on the cover’s legs or her last relationship, but whenever I’ve picked up a copy to read on the plane, I’ve rarely been excited by the questions they ask a female. Fortunately, the Lena Dunham interview for their April issue is mostly fantastic.
First of all, Playboy asked a lot of solid questions. There were ones about her writing, about her critics, about certain hilarious lines she has written in and their backstories. And there were also plenty of inquiries regarding gender, like “Male writers are often criticized for how they write female roles. How careful do you have to be about writing your men, Adam, Ray, Charlie and the rest?” and “Can men just not stop themselves from behaving badly?” To the latter question, Dunham replied:
I never chalk up anything to the gender divide and say, ‘Well, that’s just a male thing.’ I hate the conventional wisdom that men are supposedly complete pieces of shit and it’s our job as women to put up with them. Men are just as sensitive and easily victimized as women are, but there’s not as much of an infrastructure for expressing it. That drives me nuts. We’re all humans and doing human stuff. We’d have a better world if everyone had someone they could pay for talk therapy.
This answer was my favorite of the entire interview, as it is so rare to see a celebrity openly discredit the gender stereotypes that flow through Hollywood so easily, even in 2013. Not only did she state men’s inability to claim “I’m just a dude!” as reasoning to do bad things, she also defended males at the same time — something that showed real balance in how she views gender.
The myriad of other questions included her dating life and sex scenes (it is Playboy, after all), but they did ask one specific question that truly irked me.
Playboy: If you woke up tomorrow in the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, what would you do for the rest of the day?
Dunham: I’d be really disoriented and wonder what had happened in the night. Which enemy had dragged me to the doctor? I don’t think I’d like it very much. There would be all kinds of weird challenges to deal with that I don’t have to deal with now. I don’t want to go through life wondering if people are talking to me because I have a big rack. Not being the babest person in the world creates a nice barrier. The people who talk to you are the people who are interested in you. It must be a big burden in some ways to look that way and be in public. That said, I probably would want to see if I could get free food at restaurants. Then I’d call a doctor and see if she could return me to my former situation.
Okay, when was the last time you heard John Goodman or Seth Rogen or any other less-than-Olympian-sculpted actor being questioned on how they would react if their bodies were suddenly woke up and looked like Ryan Gosling? I get that Dunham’s appearance is a huge factor on why the show is appealing to some audiences and repugnant to others, but could she give one interview or have one piece written about her — ever, ever, ever — that does not mention her body? JUST ONE.
But then, Dunham’s answer also kind of irked me because it almost felt as though she was putting down the women who do look like that. I realize that most people wouldn’t exactly feel sorry for most Victoria’s Secret models, but that doesn’t mean it’s all right to imply that people who speak to them aren’t necessarily interested in who they are. And the whole free food thing? Yeah, I mean, I feel like Lena Dunham has no shortage on free food (this is absolutely not a fat joke — merely me stating the fact that every celebrity gets a hell of a lot of shit for free everywhere they go), so it’s kind of an eyeroll to read her say it like it’s something novel.
Other than that last question, however, I am genuinely stoked on the rest of it. It’s nice to see a men’s publication recognize an accomplished young female writer and ask her (primarily) dignified, excellent questions about her work.
Photo: Alberto Reyes/WENN.com