If you don’t watch the HBO hit show “Girls,” it might not shock you to learn that the lead character, Hannah Horvath, is pregnant and — as of this week’s episode — is keeping the baby.
But those with even a cursory knowledge of its liberal, feminist, pro-choice creator and star Lena Dunham will likely offer a collective “Huh?”
Is Dunham trying to atone for the recent uproar over her off-color pro-abortion remarks? Is this all a long setup by the Planned Parenthood supporter, that will eventually culminate in a (more believable) terminated pregnancy? Or is this just more of Dunham’s typical brand of shock value?
Possibly none of the above. While Dunham is rightly criticized in life for being out of touch with real women, she rarely gets credit for getting them right on in art. And when it comes to millennials and their views on abortion, Hannah is in the mainstream. More on that in a minute.
Dunham’s flippant and confessional off-script persona is often used by conservatives to highlight what’s wrong with modern feminism. She has joked about sexual assault, child molestation, domestic violence and abortion, all while self-righteously touting her independent womanhood and feminist bona fides.
Her liberal politics are as much a part of her celebrity as her “Girls” character Hannah is — they often blend and morph seamlessly into one, to the point that they are almost indistinguishable.
In 2012, Lena released a video in support of President Obama, comparing voting for him to losing her virginity. She filmed a video celebrating Planned Parenthood and campaigned relentlessly for Hillary Clinton.
On “Girls,” Hannah is a prototypical millennial, well-educated, liberal feminist who views the world through a hyper-politicized, socially conscious and meme-aware lens.
But what conservatives sometimes fail to recognize is that “Girls” is nothing if not a fairly brutal and honest depiction of that very archetype. Dunham’s eye for the au courant and her expert incorporation of the cultural artifacts of her generation is met with as keen an eye for the failings and absurdities of her protagonist peers. It’s hard not to see “Girls” as a conspicuously critical commentary on the aimless and self-righteous liberal millennial woman.
In the pilot episode, Hannah is struggling to make ends meet two years after graduating college when her Midwestern parents tell her they are cutting her off. “But I’m your only child. It’s not like I’m draining all of your resources. I mean, this feels very arbitrary,” she complains.
There was the time Hannah had a black, Republican boyfriend whose political differences didn’t matter until he dared criticize her writing. Or the time Hannah flashed her genitals to her boss to “get out of trouble.” “I didn’t do anything that bad,” she insists to her appalled boyfriend. “I’m not like Bill Cosby or something.”
Six seasons later, there’s jobless Marnie, who can’t spend 20 minutes with her grieving boyfriend for fear she’ll miss Physique 57, Quiet Pilates or one of her countless other workout classes.
And, perhaps in the most revealing and perfect quote of the series, Hannah says of herself in the season six premiere episode, “I give zero f—- about anything, and yet I have a strong opinion about everything, even topics I’m not informed on.”
So when it comes to abortion, Dunham’s personal views may be more celebratory than the average millennial woman’s; she has lamented not having had an abortion herself. But in Hannah’s grappling with an unexpected pregnancy, Dunham has written a far more realistic millennial woman.
Almost 80 percent of millennials support prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. Support for making abortion broadly illegal is growing fastest among young adults, and for young people who identify as “pro-choice,” only 20 percent say abortion is an important issue.
Unless she doesn’t read her own newsletter, Dunham is aware of this. In May of 2016, her “Lenny Letter” tackled this topic in a piece about the “ultrasound generation,” which is increasingly moved by science toward pro-life positions. That Dunham would incorporate this into her show is right in line with her other on-trend storylines, like a renewed interest in the Kitty Genovese murder, the popularity of Japanese Kawaii culture, and the death of gallery curation.
Dunham may not know she is an absurdly flawed character in real life, but she certainly knows Hannah is. In giving her a baby, and having her decide to keep it, however temporarily, she shows she can write women far more realistically than she can represent them.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.
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