Lena Dunham’s Skin In The Game

Girls Nudity

Last week, ahead of the Season 3 premiere of Girls, TV critic Tim Molloy asked Dunham why she does so many nude scenes. Molloy:

I don’t get the purpose of all the nudity on the show. By you particularly. I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you say no one complains about the nudity on ‘Game of Thrones,’ but I get why they’re doing it. They’re doing it to be salacious. To titillate people. And your character is often naked at random times for no reason.

Amanda Hess fires back:

Asking why Dunham regularly appears naked in the show was a legitimate question—in 2012. Dunham’s many answers on the topic—that pantlessness is inherently comedic, that showing average-sized women’s bodies in the media is so rare that it constitutes a radical act, and that the outsized attention and criticism she’s received for it wouldn’t be placed on a naked actress with “tiny thighs”—have demonstrated that there are copious and pointed reasons justifying the choice. For Molloy to approach the question from a place of total obliviousness to that discussion makes his statement not only lazy and dated, but ignorant.

Louis Peitzman, who created the above chart, argues that “show is, by and large, less explicit than True Blood or Game of Thrones“:

Hannah is a full-figured woman, and while she looks a lot like the majority of people in this country, she is not the stick-thin, big-chested woman who often populate our TV screens. Because she deviates from the norm in that way, Hannah stands out. She seems, to some, gratuitously naked, even if she’s only naked for a very small percentage of Girls.

That’s why questions like Tim Molloy’s are met with such indignation. Whether or not his intention was misogynistic or a means of body policing — and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t — that is the connotation the question carries. It’s not about the nudity itself, which is nowhere near constant, but rather how it makes the viewer feel. And in this case, that feeling of “wrongness” is inextricably tied to Dunham’s body, making her defensiveness all the more valid.

So while Girls may indeed be too sexually explicit for some, the nudity question doesn’t merit the kind of serious response Molloy may have been looking for. The characters simply aren’t naked all the time, and when they are, it’s because Girls, as Dunham put it, is “a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive.”

Emily Shire also defends Dunham:

Although I do find nudity gratuitous sometimes, Girls‘ use of it, especially Dunham’s, feels natural. Guess what? We sometimes walk around our apartments naked. When we pee or have sex, at the very least the important parts have to be naked for it to work, and if we’re hanging out with people who have already seen us naked, we may stay nakedish, as Dunham’s Hanna Horvath did during a much maligned ping pong scene in season two’s “One Man’s Trash.”

So, one answer to Molloy’s question about why Dunham is naked if not for the purpose of being sexually arousing is because the show is committed to a certain realism. And as Apatow later stated, “I have people naked when they’re willing to do it.” Not all the actresses on Girls are willing to be naked, but when they are, the show uses nudity to bring that extra touch of reality to their interactions.

Megan Gibson adds:

Girls is peppered with moments that are funny and poignant and Dunham often uses nudity, her own and her casts’, to emphasize these moments. Sure, not every viewer enjoys it, but then again not everyone likes the provocative nudity on Game of Thrones. But what’s really troubling is not the amount of skin that appears on either  show, but the reaction to it. For anyone who thinks that female nudity should solely be about titillation — and are subsequently confused or even angry when that’s not the case — has a disturbing view of women’s place onscreen. And if Dunham and Girls helps shift that view, I say bring on the nude scenes.