Monday, February 13, 2017

Lena Dunham is back (again)

You have to hand it to Lena Dunham – whether you’re a fan of her work or not – she is one spectacular self-promoter. And at no time in the history of the world has self-promotion been more highly valued. In fact, if you’re really good at self-promotion you really don’t need any other skills. Take for example our current president.

Lena at least can write, act, and direct. But her real gift is focusing the spotlight directly on herself. Lately, any time you turn on a TV talk show there she is plugging the new season of GIRLS. Or open the Style section of the New York Times. She’s there too.  Hell, she's the subject of today's blog post.

But it goes beyond that. And again, I give her credit – she knows how to stand out. In a recent appearance on THE TODAY SHOW she managed to rattle host Maria Shriver by throwing around terms like penis and vagina in her live interview. This made headlines. This made for great click bait. And sparked curiosity in her subsequent talk show appearances. Was she going to say something outrageous? Was she going to shatter a TV taboo? The lady’s got savvy.

Meanwhile, no one's talking about Drew Barrymore hawking the Santa Clarita diet on THE TODAY SHOW. 

It's Lena's ability to capture headlines that has kept GIRLS on the air. The dirty little secret is that the ratings are terrible for GIRLS. They’ve been terrible for quite a while. But HBO has stayed with the show because it generates buzz. And that’s thanks to Lena.  Bill Simmons couldn't save ANY GIVEN WEDNESDAY. 

The fact that she can still attract so much attention is really impressive because face it, the zeitgeist has moved on. Lena had her day. Award nominations, million dollar book deals, New Yorker articles, hanging with BFF Hillary Clinton. But now it’s time for Lena to put her clothes back on. Kate McKinnon is the new “it” girl. So is Samantha Bee. And Melissa McCarthy is moving up fast.  Yet, we’re still seeing Lena – promising that this final season of GIRLS will be even more groundbreaking and daring than ever before. (How will Peter Pan be debauched this year?)

The true self-promoters know how to stay in the public eye even when their fifteen minutes are up. When was Madonna’s last hit? When was she last in the news? Yesterday. She’s adopting Malawian twins. Oprah was last seen hijacking the CBS Mary Tyler Moore tribute. And Lady Gaga is either wearing meat, touring with Tony Bennett, or diving into football stadiums. (Although, in fairness, she’s also an extraordinary talent… and a very agile diver.)

Once GIRLS ends I’ll be curious to see what Lena does next. Whatever it is, I know for absolute certainty that I’ll hear about it.


Michael said...

Ken - In this interview Alicia Witt explains why she is using Kickstarter to fund a record she is making and spills a lot of details about how established actors such as herself are making a lot less for guest-starring and recurring roles than in the past. Is this squeeze in pay happening to writers as well?

Betty said...

She blew off her "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" interview this weekend. So they had Stephen Colbert fill in, but asked him the same questions they were going to ask Lena. Very funny!

Dan said...

I don't care what Lena does so long as she keeps her clothes on.

Peter said...

I've not seen Girls, so can't comment on it, but I've seen and read enough about Dunham to conclude she's what we Brits call a try hard, in her case trying just too hard to be shocking.

That used to be Madonna's bag. Every award show she appeared on in the 90s she'd work a "fuck" into her speech, as though it's something really subversive, but her fans and the media lapped it up.

Dunham recently took part in a podcast about abortion and she concluded the piece by saying she regretted never having had an abortion.

There was the predictable outcry from the pro-life contingent, but that's really to miss the point, which is that her comment betrays a still infantile mentality. Her comment, designed to appear shocking and hip, instead came off as the very desperate antics of someone who craves attention, not to mention it's also a nonsensical statement however you look at it.

Genuine artists who shock have always done it organically in their work, whether it's Kubrick with A Clockwork Orange or Salman Rushdie with The Satanic Verses. They didn't just go on TV or radio and spout a pathetic comment to garner plaudits from acolytes about being hip and edgy.

Maybe Dunham felt some victory in upsetting conservative types, which, let's face it, doesn't take much to achieve, but everyone else will just be thinking she really needs to grow up.

Bob said...

Hi Ken, love your blog and the podcast!

This Vulture article about the GIRLS writing room begins, "As the story goes, the Frasier writers room was deafeningly quiet: If and when you spoke, you’d better have been damned sure you had a good joke to share. One couldn’t find a better counterpoint than the unruly, generous writers’ room for Girls, the HBO series created by Lena Dunham that begins airing its final season tonight."

Can you comment on the Frasier writing room? In my opinion, Frasier was about 1000x funnier than Girls, so maybe there's something to the silence?

Ralph C. said...

Kubrick, Rushdie....and Howard Stern.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Lena is the Left's answer to Ann Coulter.
Coulter is a GREAT self-promoter. I mean, even most conservatives don't agree with her on a host of things. But she uses her 'ok' looks, and her shocking statements to self-promote the hell out of her books, etc.
I do think the big difference is that Coulter does it all with a nod and a wink. That's why she goes on mostly Liberal talk shows in order to get a rise out of the hosts and other guests. And she can hold her own.
But once a while she is very astute:

Lena, only goes on shows that she assumes will agree with her, and I think Lena actually believes what she says 100%.

Peter, I believe her statement about abortion was not just regretting not having one, but wishing she had one.
as you said, VERY infantile, and obviously ignorant of the what women actually go through physically and psychologically when they have an abortion.

The Kardashians are STILL the best self-promoters, dare I say, EVER.
No skills, no talent (is being pretty a 'talent'?), and yet always followed and talked about.

Aaron Sheckley said...

The ability of Americans (and yes, I'm American) to worship loudmouthed idiots seems to be limitless, whether it's Lena Dunham or Donald Trump. I can understand it if you watch them because they're clowns and you derive some entertainment value from that, but why on earth do people seem to care about the opinions of this type of personality? Are we really that envious of people who don't seem to have that internal filter that prevents the rest of us from saying things that make us look stupid, or boorish, or ridiculously unaware? Does someone hear Dunham say something stupid like that abortion comment and think "wow, I wish I had the balls to say that, you go girl!!"?

Peter said...

I agree, Bumble Bee, regarding Coulter. She does hold some crazy views but amongst her diatribes there will occasionally be a sensible comment, and whenever I've seen her interviewed on British TV, she displays an easy going and humorous attitude, the nod and a wink you refer to. Plus, she agreed to appear in a cameo in Sharknado 3, so she does have self awareness of how she's perceived and is willing to have fun.

Cap'n Bob said...

You would have to search far and wide and dig very deep to find someone I couldn't care less about.

Mike said...

No, Samantha Bee isn't popular, even though the press keeps tries to sell the illusion that she is.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Peter, I give Coulter credit. It's almost like she wants to be the JR Ewing of pundits.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Lena Dunham deserves high praise for creating, writing, directing, and starring in her own show.

But why does watching Girls make me feel like I haven't changed clothes for a week?

Is that a Friday question?

ScottyB said...

An odd little Friday Question for Ken: I was watching an episode of 'Becker', written by you, in which Becker's office is vandalized. During the scene where Becker and the rather large police inspector are at the diner counter for lunch, I swear to god those must've been the hugest burgers I've ever seen served on TV. So here's the question: Where does the food come from?

gottacook said...

As long as we're amassing Friday questions, here's another:
I've just discovered that one of my favorite series, Lou Grant, is entirely on YouTube. I already knew of Gene Reynolds' importance to the series; he both produced and directed the pilot, and remained a producer (and occasional writer and director) until the end in 1982. Do you have any idea how early the idea for the series was conceived, when and how Brooks and Burns brought in Reynolds from MASH to help create the show, etc.? I realize he left the MASH staff just as you were arriving, but perhaps the whole idea - spinning off an hour-long drama from a sitcom? - was sufficiently unusual that you'd have heard a few details about it at the time.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Speaking of Santa Clarita Diet, have you seen it? A lot of really good throwaway lines. A show you definitely have to listen to closely.