Lena Dunham with Youtuber Chescaleigh
Last night I got invited to dinner and drinks with my new Twitter friend Ashley, and found out a few hours before that Lena Dunham would be there. Now…it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Lena’s or of her show and I’ve had no problem sharing that online. So when I found out that she’d been watching my videos and would be joining us for dinner I was kinda nervous. Would hanging out with her make me a hypocrite? Had she seen the GIRLS recaps I’d done with De’lon? If she said something I didn’t agree with, would calling her out make me a debbie downer? And if I didn’t call her out would that make me an even bigger hypocrite? Instead of worrying about situations that may or may not happen, I decided to go out and just see where things went.
As expected, Lena was incredibly sweet and friendly, asking lots of questions about everyone at dinner, making jokes and just being super personable. She took the time to get to know a little about everyone at the table and managed to casually mention celebrity friends, SNL and GIRLS without coming off as pretentious or braggy. At some point she and I started talking about my panel at SXSW, which was all about recovering from social media blunders in a productive way. To which she joked, “I probably should’ve been at that panel.” Looking back, I’m not sure if it was the joke or the alcohol that then pushed me to say, “Can I be totally honest with you? I’ve never been a fan of yours.” To which she was surprisingly open to. I mean…if someone point blank told me that they didn’t like me, after laughing and chatting with me for an hour I would probably be a little hurt. So maybe it was the alcohol…
I tried to recover by explaining that over the years I’ve taken issue with a lot of things she’s said and done, but meeting her had given me new appreciation and understanding. It also made me realize that in the past, I’ve made the mistake of attacking the person and not the problems when talking about her and the show. Does that mean she gets a pass on things I don’t agree with? Absolutely not. But, I think many of us (myself included) forget that celebrities are real people and that sometimes our criticisms of them can venture into unproductive territory. That’s not something I’m proud of. So last night I had to suck it up and apologize.
As someone that’s had a lot of terrible things said about me online (some of which were completely justified) it doesn’t make me feel good to look back on the way that I’ve criticized her and others. And in this instance I can honestly say that jealousy did play a small part in that. In 2012 I spent a year developing a project at HBO only to be told that I was “too network”. Which I took to mean, “not enough sex”. Which…it’s HBO so yeah, that’s partially true. And to fair, my nickname is Prudy, so maybe I am kinda network. My history with HBO coupled with the problems I found in Lena’s show and interviews, lead me to go on the attack with my criticisms of her. At times I ventured into mean girl territory, which is exactly what I never want to do.
What I learned from our talk last night is that Lena hears the criticisms and is trying to be open to them and bettering herself and the show. But it’s somewhat difficult when valid criticisms are intermingled with digs about her looks/weight and of course the people just trolling to troll. That’s why it’s so important to avoid personal attacks when calling someone out, so the message doesn’t get lost. We both agreed that at the end of the day, you don’t know what you don’t know. And we all have to be more open to acknowledging our mistakes so we can grow and so those that look up to us can grow too. The fact that we came to that point in our conversation, even AFTER Lena’s seen and read some of the not so nice things I’ve said about her, speaks volumes about her character.
I left our chat by encouraging her to continue being open to hearing other perspectives and sharing with her audience the journey to better herself. I think too often we hide our personal growth because we’re embarrassed, when in reality we shouldn’t be. This is one of those times for me. Last night I had to check myself and realize that I didn’t always take the best approach when calling out problems with Lena and GIRLS. Despite those blunders, I’m thankful that she was open to hearing me, accepting my apology and making a commitment to change. I went into last night nervous and a little embarrassed and left really proud of myself, and with a new friend to boot.
Personal growth: you is scary but you is necessary.
Since people love to talk/debate about Lena Dunham around here, I thought it'd be interesting to get the personal, intimate experience from an internet celeb who has been openly critical of her in the past. Plus this piece says some good things about how we critique artists & their work.