Don’t judge a show by its body

Caroline Madden, ’Doah Staff Writer
March 6, 2013

'Doah photo courtesy of HBO

‘Doah photo courtesy of HBO

It is no secret that the film and television industry has an obsession with physical appearance. This obsession has led to women being heavily scrutinized and criticized for not meeting the ideal body type. Since HBO’s “Girls” premiered, it has received much recognition. It is written, directed and produced by 26-year-old Lena Dunham. Dunham recently won Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Comedy Television Series and Best Comedy Series for the first season of the show.

“Girls” depicts the struggles of women, and a few men, in their 20s, dealing with financial and relationship issues. The show resonates with many young adults and has been praised for its honesty. Dunham has an understanding, unique view and an ability to articulate what it is like to be living in the working world of 2013. However, despite the accolades and critical praise, the majority of commercial press focuses on Dunham’s body.

Part of the refreshing frankness of “Girls” is Dunham’s no holds barred attitude towards nudity. The nudity, and sex scenes, are far from glamorous, and more of a reflection of real life. Like life, sex and nudity isn’t always pretty or perfect. However, because Dunham isn’t as skinny or physically fit as most conventional film actresses are, she is relentlessly picked on for her body. The focus shifts from the quality of writing on the show to how “repulsive” Dunham’s body is, just because it doesn’t match up with an unrealistic standard.

Howard Stern said on his radio show, “It’s a little fat girl who kind of looks like Jonah Hill and she keeps taking her clothes off and it kind of feels like a rape. She seems — it’s like — I don’t want to see that. Good for her. It’s hard for little fat chicks to get anything going.”

Stern’s comments on Dunham’s body are incredibly appalling and trite. He likens seeing a woman’s body that isn’t “attractive” to the violent act of rape. This comment is offensive to victims of rape and people of different sizes. Unfortunately Stern is not alone in his cruel opinion; numerous criticisms can be found on the Internet claiming that Dunham’s body is “disgusting” and that she should “cover it up.”

Instead of looking at the work that Dunham has been doing, people only unfairly and harshly focus on her weight. This is not right. It appears to me that people are afraid to see a body naked on screen that isn’t perfectly toned, or considered culturally “acceptable.” This is something that needs to be changed.

Shenandoah student Lauren Ebbin said, “I am pleased to see that Lena Dunham has begun to revolutionize what we see on our TVs. It’s not even a show about ‘hey I’m chunky and can still be loved!’ It’s a show starring a woman, with no disclaimers needed. If she can be herself without any clothes on.”

Instead of focusing on a woman’s body, we should focus on her work. Sean Dunavant, who also watches “Girls,” said “I think Lena Dunham’s nudity is amazing. I love how naked she is all the time. You don’t have to be a stick to be beautiful. Everybody has their own shape and their own body. I love how the show isn’t afraid to have the lead character appear less than average. It makes the show more relatable. Real human beings aren’t perfect model types.”

People should criticize the work, not someone’s weight. It isn’t even an issue that needs to be addressed. We are conditioned to think that any girl on screen needs to be skinny. Or, if they are heavier it is usually used for comedic relief, such as Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids.” In “Girls,” we have someone in between the two extremes who is a lead character, and is comfortable being naked. This seems to baffle numerous critics and audience members who aren’t used to seeing someone who looks like them on screen, and this drives many to ridicule Dunham.

The film and television industry needs to realize that in life there are men and women of all sizes, and if they want to reflect reality they need some diversity in their characters.

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