Lena Dunham Apologized To Her Mom (But Not To India) For Being Rude And Hating India

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When I first read Lena Dunham‘s multiple quotes about the country of India, I cringed a little bit for her. She’s discussed it more than once, and she never comes off looking very good. For instance, not long ago, she told V Magazine:

“I hated India. I know you’re not allowed to hate India. But I did. I wasn’t happy. And I felt crazy. I’m a hypochondriac. I saw too many puppies that I thought needed me. So my mom and I got in a big fight and I left India. Early.”

That’s right: Lena Dunham felt so much empathy for all the poor dogs forced to live in less-than-ideal conditions that she had to leave. (The people of India can go fuck themselves.)

She also said this incredibly Orientalist thing to Rolling Stone about the experience:

Instead, it was overwhelming on every level, an “onslaught of pure humanity” that was a big challenge to her OCD-driven germ phobia. She ended up leaving early. “We do a really good job in this country of basically sealing off sick people and sealing off toilets and sealing off everything that lets us know we’re animals. And in India not only do they not do that, there’s no interest in doing that.”

Um, I’m pretty sure there are multiple non-profit organizations in India that are very interested in doing just that, because people generally want to stay alive, and stopping the spread of disease helps them to do so. The people of India are not more “animalistic” than westerners just because they’re afflicted with systemic inequality. They did not choose to be poor.

But one of Lena Dunham’s redeeming qualities is that she’s often not afraid to admit it when she’s been an asshole, so I was sort of heartened when I saw her entry in Miranda July‘s “emails from my famous friends” project “We Think Alone,” the latest installment of which features emails various famous people have sent their mothers. It’s an email to her mom about their trip to India. It reads:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Lena Dunham
Date: Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Subject: Laurie/Mom
To: Laurie Simmons


I’ve been thinking constantly about the way I acted leaving India, how hurtful and irresponsible it was. You were nothing but sympathetic to my challenges and I did not show you the same kindness. As happy as I am to be home, I can’t feel good knowing how I must have made you feel and I only ask for the chance for us to talk about it and for me to apologize in person. It’s more than just wanting things to be okay between us- you’re my mother and I need you.

I hope your last days are wonderful, cant wait to hear, about to send a very contrite email to Ed.

I also want to reiterate one thing: how supportive I am of you making a movie. All I want is to make it easier for you to do your work, and for you to feel supported expressing yourself the way that you have always supported me. I am so lucky in that respect, and I want you to feel lucky too. I am here for you in whatever capacity you need me during that process. I love you way more than would fit in an email.


That’s right: she’s not sorry for dismissing the world’s second most populous country, squandering a travel opportunity most people would kill for, or failing to show empathy for her fellow human beings. She’s sorry she pissed off her mom. Why? Because she needs her. That is not selfish at all. Then she goes off on a tangent about her mom making a movie.

It’s great that Lena Dunham has the ability to apologize to the people she relies on for all her emotional needs, but maybe it’s time to think about the world outside her immediate circle. This might be asking a lot of her, but it would go a long way towards proving she is not actually Hannah Horvath IRL. The fact that she was proud enough of this email to release it to the public speaks volumes.

(Via We Think Alone)

Photo: WENN

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    • Samantha_Escobar

      1) Perfect photo.
      2) Wow, I was already fairly off the Lena boat a bit ago because I was bored of Girls, but good god, this is awful. She really, really does seem to be just like Hannah Horvath except the film industry acts as her enabling parents.

    • Kelly

      I hate L.A. There’s alot of homeless people on the beach, and the way people act in traffic reminds me of animals. I would like to leave L.A.

      Oh what sorry I forgot it’s not ok to not like something for personal reasons, and that it’s really not anyone else’s business if I like to be somewhere or not. Not liking a place doesn’t mean someone is uncultured or ungrateful for their opportunity, it means they tried it and don’t like it there. I really doubt India is more offended by Lena Dunham than you are.

      • Cee

        No, just no.

      • Tusconian

        It’s not like she said “I didn’t have fun in India, it was hot and crowded and the traffic was just awful.” A lot of the things she said have some pretty….unfortunate implications.

        Also, I don’t think “India” is offended by anything. Various Indian people who may or may not have seen the quote probably have a diverse range of opinions.

    • perfumeriver

      I had a very good friend have the same reaction when I asked her about visiting India. She said she couldn’t stand seeing stray animals not being cared for, and I thought the exact same thing the Jamie wrote above.
      Travelling is supposed to expand one’s consciousness. You see humans who are born, fall in love, die just as we do, but in a completely different context. It’s a strangely beautiful and often humbling experience, especially as an American (where our standards of living are so high). If one can see other humans and identify only with the animals of said poor countries, that says a lot. At least in my humble opinion.

      I can’t imagine what she would have thought of the Native Americans had she been a pilgrim.

      • 7even

        That they had cultivated crops where the pilgrims had no clue how to grow any? OH SNAP!

    • E

      Okay, so I’d love to ask this Lena Dunham if she’s even aware that the people of India are also forced to live in these conditions. If the people are forced to, their animals will be as well. Excuse India for not being able to buy their dogs pedis and diamond rings, and not having everything Americans do. (Because seriously, American television sometimes makes me feel like we focus on things that aren’t important. There are probably TV shows about dogs living like kings when really, they’re just animals who want to survive. They’re not human.) They live different lives, it’s called “culture.” And I think it’s pretty sad that some people can’t handle knowing that not everyone in the world has the same culture. We can’t and the world would be so boring if we were all the same.
      I am not Indian. I’m a Hispanic born and raised in America. But I have sympathy and a love for all cultures in areas around the world, regardless of, well, anything. But it’s difficult to hate an entire country, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ll ever understand that. But at least she apologized to somebody, I guess, even if the somebody wasn’t the one she insulted. Good for her.

    • Tusconian

      I’ve been pretty ambivalent to Lena Dunham up until now, but IME, people who prioritize dogs over other people are the worst types of people. Ick.

    • Landry

      Ugh. I love Girls, but hate Hannah… so.. I can’t say I’m too surprised here

    • Shivani

      Okay, so I’m an Indian, and I clicked on the link to this story expecting something a lot more awful. But it’s just Lena Dunham being a completely self-centered asshole saying half-thought out things again.

    • Evenaar

      I don’t necessarily disagree with this article but I did have a few thoughts and I am curious what others think:

      I have heard so many Americans who don’t care to leave the country and are generally insensitive of cultural differences. So could it be that others who do and are are a bit oversensitive of their countrymen’s statements about not liking other countries? “Hate” is a strong word but if you are really uncomfortable in a place maybe it’s ok to leave? I really don’t like going to places where I feel I am not respected as a woman, one could even say I “hate” that feeling and going to those places in certain countries. On the one hand I want to stay and experience what is daily life for some people, maybe even changing my mind in the process, on the other, I was taught to take good care of myself and stay true to my feelings.

      And about the statement that India is ‘dirtier’ (my word) than the U.S.A. I thought: almost every country in the world is! Many Europeans, for example, find America somewhat ‘germaphobic’. And although India in some parts does have problems with disease and would benefit from improvements in hygiene, it is a bit problematic to think that we can always just go to a country and make it cleaner, more American, more western etc. because there *is* also a cultural component to things (although it’s hard to define). Many cultures are ‘dirty’ by North American standards and it’s ok not to like a culture, not to feel comfortable in it. If you chide someone with OCD for hating India isn’t that a bit like chiding someone with agoraphobia for hating Times Square?

      I guess I am wondering if it’s really the thought that’s offensive or if it’s just delivered in a somewhat unsympathetic way?

    • Kate

      You guys hate on Lena pretty hard. I think that’s lame.

    • NYCNanny

      This is the best. This could have been me. I have been traving (to third world countries) with my family for as long as I could remember. That being said, I HATED my family trip to India a few years ago. I was grumpy and culture shocked and hated seeing the abuse of animals. I begged my family to cut the trip short.
      Lena, I get it. India is hard. I didn’t have a good time, but I’m glad I went. (I’d also go back again with a more positive outlook.)
      She’s not a brat, she’s being honest.

      • Holly

        I kind of agree, I think. I don’t really know who she is. I mean, I know she’s an actress who is in a show called “Girls” or a show that “Girls” is short for, or whatever, but that’s about it. But, I feel like she’s just relaying her observations of herself and her trip without thinking, “I’m famous. I need to word this differently because people expect something of me”, etc, etc. Maybe she is a spoiled brat. Maybe she says terrible things all of the time. I don’t know. But, just this one comment doesn’t seem that horrible to me. Yes, a better outcome, I guess, would have been for her to be all, “It was rough there but instead of leaving like I wanted to because I have issues with germs and puppies, I stayed and started all sorts of non-profit organizations to help fix the problems I saw.” But really, how many people would actually do that? I wouldn’t. If I was afraid and anxious, which I often am as I have issues with OCD and anxiety to the point of agoraphobia in the past, I would probably say these exact types of things to my friends or family. She just said it to more people, I guess. I also didn’t take it that she was blaming the citizens of India for being bad, bad people. She just saw a bad situation and wanted out.

    • Misenhammer

      While I agree with a lot of this, one quick point– please don’t be too quick to jump on people for pointing out animal cruelty and not immediately adding, “oh and the humans, too. Also sad for them.” I understand humans “matter” more. I understand she generally came off as an insensitive, entitled dickhole. But as someone who is particularly sympathetic to animals, I get so tired of saying shit like “man I saw a stray dog eating trash, I’m so sad” and having someone retort “WELL WHAT ABOUT THE HOMELESS HUMANS?? YOU DIDNT MENTION THEM. YOU MUST HATE THEM.” No, I was just super sad about the dog and wanted to express my sorrow. I didn’t realize that that inherently implied I care nothing of humans. With that slippery slope, you basically can never mention something shitty and unfair without also mentioning every other shitty and unfair thing in the world.

      • poop

        the issue is that animals in this country are treated better than PEOPLE all over the world.. your empathy is appreciated, but i can see why others would say this.

      • Misenhammer

        Yeah, I get it. I mean, if you wanna press that logic, yes, animals are treated better in America than a lot of people elsewhere, but animals in other countries also have it shitty, so… There are two random facts. The fact that some american guinea pigs have better lives than some foreign humans do is tragic as fuck. I’m just tired of not being able to express sympathy for animals without then having people patronizingly insist that I must be unaware of or unsympathetic towards humans as well.

    • Jyro

      I’m Indian and also hate India. It’s pretty horrible.

    • nesh

      stupid fat bitch, stop being ignorant and donate some of that money you make to help the animals, looking at her she obviously isn’t a vegetarian

    • K B

      Does these rich have no responsibility for poor countries. Their forefathers colonized & exploited these countries to the hilt. Forgets dogs, humans are not in good condition in India.