Dunham is not satisfied with the manipulation of fantasy alone: She seeks to curate, narrate, and direct the real world as though it were an episode of her television show. The worrisome thing is that she is not alone in her apparent inability to tell the representation from the thing being represented. Hers is an endlessly mediated generation, for whose members life is increasingly lived as a performance on the stages of Instagram and Twitter.
Still, to dismiss Lena Dunham as an insulated and spoiled child of Manhattan’s ruling class is to misunderstand her story entirely. If there is such a thing as actually abusing a child through excessive generosity and overindulgence, then Lena Dunham’s parents are child abusers. Her father, Carroll Dunham, is a painter noted for his primitive brand of highbrow pornography, his canvases anchored by puffy neon-pink labia; her photographer mother filled the family home with nude pictures of herself, “legs spread defiantly.” Self-styled radicals from old money, they were not the sort of people inclined to enforce even the most lax of boundaries. And they were, in their daughter’s telling, enablers of some very disturbing behavior that would be considered child abuse in many jurisdictions — Lena Dunham’s sexual abuse, specifically, of her younger sister, Grace, the sort of thing that gets children taken away from non-millionaire families without Andover pedigrees and Manhattanite social connections. (Read more.)
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