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Girls vs Downton Abbey: Feminism’s Body Politic

What the critical reactions to Downton Abbey says about the critical reception of Girls.

by
Susan L.M. Goldberg

Bio

January 19, 2014 - 10:00 am
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goddessescensored

This week both critics and fans of Girls and Downton Abbey sounded off on the treatment of women on screen, highlighting the horrifying potential of 21st century feminist groupthink.

It all began on January 9 when TV critic Tim Molloy stepped in hot water by posing the following question to Lena Dunham:

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.

Dunham deflected the remark with her usual snotty response that boiled down to nudity is realistic and if you don’t like fat bodies, that’s your problem.  Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, the show’s producers, supported Dunham’s remarks with their own politically correct, vitriolic comments about misogyny and female oppression.

Although Molloy’s question never did receive a direct answer, the exchange generated even more critical angst and bizarre philosophizing. For example, Megan Gibson at Time feels the nudity on Girls has nothing to do with “titillation” and everything to do with comedic value and expressions of non-sexual intimacy. It is questionable whether the primary audience for Girls, those “white dudes over 50,” would agree.

One telling thing critics didn’t bother to notice: All the uproar over Molloy’s question, even from Apatow and Konner themselves, wasn’t to defend Dunham’s honor — but to defend awkward bodies, female sexuality, and women’s rights under the umbrella term of “feminism.” In other words, if Hannah Horvath jumped off a bridge naked, she wouldn’t be a pathetic individual who succumbed to her psychoses, she’d be a mere statement about feminism in the 21st century.

Top Rated Comments   
Downton Abbey is about style,good taste,and noblesse oblige...Girls is about self absorption,bad taste,and proletarian banality
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I understand Dunham replied to those making critiques of "seeking professional help." Rather, perhaps *she* should, to uncover why an overweight, not hugely beautiful young woman would want to keep exposing herself on TV.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The few people who make and watch Girls are motivated by hate. Once this is realized how to deal with their claims and assertions becomes easier.

I don't want to see people glorify stupid decisions or make themselves look ugly because I don't hate them.

They glorify stupidity and ugliness, however, because they hate.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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I continue to claim that Girls is a stealth conservative show. Here are all these 20-somethings trying to live life according to the latest correct opinions — and the wreckage is obvious for all to see.

And by that I don't mean nudity. I mean the mess these people make of their lives trying to adhere to every leftist/liberal point of ideology.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lena's father, Carroll Dunham, is an artist. If you notice a fixation in his art, it might help explain his daughter's views: http://po.st/NKP23k
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, Lena, if nobody likes fat bodies, it will be YOUR problem sooner or later.

And what's non-sexual intimacy when it's at home? Does it involve gratuitous camera shots of gratuitous flabby fish-belly-white flesh?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
While I found the rape in Downton shocking, it did speak to the social mores of the time. The woman wouldn't complain because it might destroy her marriage and social relationships, and the man walked away unscathed. Let's see if what happens if Anna gets pregnant.

I'm just surprised that Anna was raped by another servant and not one of the imperialist, white 1%er males. That's more what I would expect from PBS.

Girls? What is that and who the hell cares?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fail Burton, RE: "Rhetoric of feminists today...". Precisely, I have started to think of myself as a "classic feminist" rather than a "modern feminist". I expect equal pay for equal work & think waiting for my Husband to open my car door is a silly waste of time. But have ZERO tolerance for women who lie in wait to attack men for every imagined slight.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
And that's precisely the divide. There are, were, feminists who wanted equality before the law and in cultural custom and practice. To me, that's no big deal. It sure isn't an attack on me.

But modern feminists, with more rights than ever before in the history of America, have found more to complain about than ever before, and the main complaint is me. I say to heck with that and to heck with them. They can take their "male privilege" and "male gaze" and shove it.

Do they have to sign up for the draft? No.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Downton Abbey is about style,good taste,and noblesse oblige...Girls is about self absorption,bad taste,and proletarian banality
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't watch either show but I'm appalled by the way girls and women dress today. After showing as much of their boobs as possible, they moved to their navels on their way to their butts. What's left?

Top that with wearing stiletto heels with every possible outfit and you have a recipe for the fall of western civilization (or not.) I always laugh when I see men in suits standing next to women in their sleeveless, backless outfits. Don't they feel cold?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's hard to compare the two, because Downton is seen by so many more people; it's ratings in the US alone are like 10 times that of Girls.

The rape was shocking, Downton is basically a live-action Harlequin romance novel, and those things just don't happen in that universe.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I understand Dunham replied to those making critiques of "seeking professional help." Rather, perhaps *she* should, to uncover why an overweight, not hugely beautiful young woman would want to keep exposing herself on TV.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The few people who make and watch Girls are motivated by hate. Once this is realized how to deal with their claims and assertions becomes easier.

I don't want to see people glorify stupid decisions or make themselves look ugly because I don't hate them.

They glorify stupidity and ugliness, however, because they hate.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's true. Anti-oppression narratives today are nothing more than con games to hide bigotry and identity advocacy while even a sniff of too many white males in films get attacked regularly. Everyone else gets a pass.

Meanwhile I'm supposed to feel sorry for all the black and gay folks and women who can't make it in America like Obama, Winfrey, Ru Paul, Jane Lynch, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosey O'Donnell, Tina Fey, Dunham, Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Jordon, Eddie Murphy - the list is endless.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
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