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
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)