No, worse than that [Pause] Mother: What is worse than the street? A pipe in the street [Pause] Mother: Didn't you get cold? Even the most liberal parent might struggle with this, and the same goes for almost everything in the film, in which Dunham plays out her rivalry with her younger sister, her fights with her mother, her disappointment in herself — all the things most families don't talk about among themselves, let alone in front of an audience.
When she handed them the script, wasn't she terrified they'd read it and say are you kidding me? It was all on the table, albeit not in a very direct way. And I was a little worried there'd be some, 'That's how you see me?
So the only rehearsal we did was the three of us sat on the couch and did a reading. Unlike her mother, who hears about her daughter's life practically in real-time and was unshocked by revelations about her sex life, her dad — thank God! There's worse to come for him in the new HBO series, Girls , in which Dunham continues to have fraught twentysomething sex in extremely funny, harsh and graphic detail.
My dad's an artist — his work has sexual content — so I think I've always thought he can handle it, he knows life. Instead, he said to me, 'I'm proud of you, I love what you do, but it goes against the natural order of things to ever see your daughter having sex. Did she, as a child, feel equal squeamishness about the sexual content of his art? But I never truly was. His assertion that who you are and what you make are not the same thing makes sense. I mean, the fact that you can make perverse work and be a healthy person in your own life, that was part of the reason I felt OK with that.
The kind of sex scenes I do, I would not do if I was not directing and producing them. I would have a lot of fucking questions. But it's a peripheral issue. In Girls, as in Tiny Furniture, she never intended to make a political statement. I'm glad if my work can make a difference.
But when I'm making it, there's never a kind of fuck-you, look-at-my-body moment. It's not where I'm coming from. My characters are self-conscious about their bodies, but — I don't know how to phrase this without sounding like a gender-women's-studies disaster — I think women in this culture are reduced to their bodies in a way that can feel very imprisoning. But none of those issues really comes from being 10 pounds overweight.
It went something like, 'Dunham parades around forcing us to look at her ass and thighs. And also the use of the words 'ass and thighs'. I was like, really? That was so shocking. Looking around, there is no one Dunham sees who has quite the career she wants, combining "independent film and directing and weird naturalistic acting", although she admires Tina Fey for her balancing act.
The striking thing about her own show, though, is its modernity; it makes Sex And The City look very old-fashioned, a comparison that Dunham incorporated into the script. She thought HBO would find that element "too cheeky" but in fact it's one of the things that won them over — "They really needed to understand that I was in on the joke.
The show, which revolves around twentysomethings finding their way in New York, presumes sympathy for the tribulations of college-educated young women with generous parents funding their identity crises. It is solipsistic, but rescued from self-indulgence by the satirical edge of the writing.
Dunham's character, Hannah, is working on a book of essays called Midnight Snack which, when she hands it to her parents as proof that they should carry on funding her, appears to be two pages long. It also catches the generational shift of the new slacker, those post-adolescents clinging on to a semi-child status for as long as they're able. The main thing about Girls, however, is that it is quietly very funny. Judd Apatow , who co-produced, was very helpful here, Dunham says.
When she turned up at the studios in New Jersey, next door to the ones where 30 Rock films, she was terrified. It was actually a valuable experience, because it prepared me. So preposterous was her skills gap, she says, that everyone rallied around and tried to help.
Because I've been talking about it for a year and a half. I feel my body changes, like, once a month. And she is starting to write the second season of Girls — it hasn't been green-lit yet, but there is money for development.
The thing she took away from that first taste of fame on YouTube was "the discomfort that comes from being seen. Which is all we want, and yet, we want to be seen the way we want to be seen. Dunham's parents are away, and when she gets home tonight she will pick up the dog and settle into her childhood bedroom.