Check out the first 10 installments of Susan L.M. Goldberg’s ongoing series dissecting HBO’s Girls:
July 28: Girls: Best Friends Forever-ish
Lena Dunham is probably the one girl in the bunch with the least famous parentage. Nevertheless, she’s super-sensitive to the criticism that HBO’s Girls stars four white girls with super-privileged entertainment industry backgrounds:
“The whole ‘kids of famous people’ dialogue…that is one that I really can attribute to jealousy. Because, why else would anyone say that? Why else would you be so horrified by the children of creative people continuing on to do creative endeavors, unless you felt that there was something you were owed that you weren’t getting that they were getting.”
Her sharp commentary came off as rather, well, “Republican” in this era of entitlement. It also smacks of sheer blindness when it comes to the relationship between audience and auteur. What is it that we the people demand of our entertainment gods and goddesses? And why? After all, thousands of teachers are the children of teachers, as are lawyers, doctors, firemen, and policemen. In fact, inheriting your parents’ profession is nothing new. So, why are celebrities held to a different standard when it comes to making it big in their field?
The answer lies in the Greek Pantheon:
“The Greek religion was different. Instead of making their gods great, transcendent, and mysterious, the Greeks, in the words of Edith Hamilton, an honorable citizen of Athens, “…made their gods in their own image.” This is the beginning of humanism, for not only did the Greeks make their gods human-like, but actually glorified the human body in their gods. …Through an observation of the often contradictory systems of nature, the Greeks created myths to explain nature. Thus the gods often are pictured as quarreling and fighting in often shameful and base actions. This was a novel idea in the ideas of religion; instead of omnipotent gods the Greeks had created limited human gods.”
We as a culture cancelled Gaea & Uranus’s tribe out of the weekly lineup and replaced them with a newer, hipper celebrity pantheon. Our expectations of our gods and goddesses, however, have remained the same. They must be human, like us, and they must be as limited as we are in our ability to achieve success.
The fact is that Dunham and her co-stars did not face the same uphill battles that us average folk do when it comes to breaking into one of the most difficult professional industries. They could afford the best schools where they made the best connections. As in Dunham’s case, they have the funding at their fingertips to put all that acculturation to good use. In short, they are far more privileged than the majority of their fans and this, above any other reason, should attest to the fact that they are not gods and goddesses to be worshiped.
Yet, they are still expected, if not to suffer, then to produce and give back and make life better for their fans. And when the priests- er, critics – feel they have failed, they rebuke their goddesses for failing them yet again:
“…in a world where the wealthy, white, well-connected Lena Dunhams always seem to end up in the spotlight, those who aren’t part of her elite world shouldn’t have to rely on her for representation. They need the same platform to be their authentic selves that she’s been afforded. Until the divisions between races in America truly become meaningless, it’s the only way our pop culture will ever reflect our particular patchwork of people and experiences.”
And so the vicious cycle of goddess worship and goddess failure continues. After all, these stars are only as human as their audience allows them to be.