In a recent interview Lena Dunham explained why she thinks people are so quick to criticise her. 'People are ultimately threatened by young people taking positions of power,' Lena says, "But there’s also this feeling of I could do that, too. People don’t feel rabidly jealous of Larry David or Salman Rushdie because they don’t think, I could do that. And with what I’ve done, I think a lot of people think, I could do that in my sleep. If I’d just met one person along my path, I would have done that TV show.'
At 26 I had an impressive overdraft, a badly paid job and a sofa-bed in my sister’s sitting room- to her great annoyance. At the same age, Lena Dunham has written, directed and starred in in her own hit HBO show. Comparatively speaking, Lena wins.
So why, rather than being heaped with praise, is she dealing with a storm of criticism? Perhaps she has a point- are we threatened by her success?
When Girls first aired in the US it was lauded as the voice of a generation- Sex and the City for the 21st century- then, just as quickly, the tide turned.
First critics attacked the lack of ethnic diversity on the show, claiming it was all about “white girls, money and whining.” Then they turned on Dunham herself- criticising everything from her size (not zero) to her fashion sense (knicker-skimming hemlines), and enthusiasm for acting out mortifying sex scenes.
Yet she is smart, self-confidant and outspoken- on the face of it, a great role-model. So couldn’t the real problem be just a tiny bit of jealousy?
As a rule, we celebrate talent. Competitions such as the Olympics are designed to root out the best of the best; people who can set a benchmark for the rest of us to strive towards. But success like Lena’s is a different thing. Her talent isn't measurable; she can’t run like Usain Bolt or sing like Amy Winehouse. She’s like you and I- but doing much better.
There is nothing like a high-achiever to put our own accomplishments (holding down a job, paying the bills, maintaining some semblance of organisation) into perspective. What makes it more galling in Lena's case is that not only is she streaking ahead in the game called life, but at 26, she’s only just started playing.
We like our success-stories to do some toiling before they hit the big time. The over 30’s category on X-factor turns out more successes than it probably deserves to- there’s nothing like striving in the face of adversity to win public support. Just look at Van Gogh, no one begrudges him.
Yet here is Lena; young, confidant, with her whole life ahead of her and a book deal from Random House for which she’s reportedly been paid $3.5 million- not fair is it?
Maybe not, but whether or not you think Girls is a masterpiece, you can’t deny that Lena had the balls to try. As a 20-something in a competitive industry I don’t doubt that she was laughed at, patronised and condescended to along the way. However short the hemline, she's earned her place on the red carpet.