“U.S. Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ proposal to cover the cost of a one-year freeze in government student loan interest rates by requiring some professional services firms to pay withholding taxes on their income.
The Senate, in a 52-45 vote with 60 required, didn’t advance the plan to avert a July 1 increase in college-loan interest rates to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent. No Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.”—
“You think abortion is wrong? Don’t have one. I think killing people is wrong, so I’m not in the army. My tax dollars still go to fund it, though (in fact about 21 cents of each of my tax dollars). My tax dollars also go to keep prisoners on death row even though I think the death penalty is morally wrong. My tax dollars fund Guantanamo and Bagram, extraordinary rendition, and Jim DeMint’s salary, all of which I find disgusting. So why is abortion, a legal medical procedure, so remarkably different that we have to go overboard making sure tax dollars don’t fund it?”—Sarah Jaffe (via squidwardtheunfriendlyghost, squidwardtheunfriendlyghost) (via neonspandex, neonspandex) (via physicsrules, physicsrules) (via bigdamnhero23, bigdamnhero23)
“That’s the scary thing about theatre—it doesn’t live on. But that’s actually the most beautiful thing about it, too. That’s why it’s more beautiful than film and certainly more beautiful than television, because it’s like life. Real life. Any picture that you take or any video that you make of yourself is not really you, it’s only an image that represents the experience you had. In theater, the process of it is the experience. Everyone goes through the process, and everyone has the experience together. It doesn’t last—only in people’s memories and in their hearts. That’s the beauty and sadness of it. But that’s life—beauty and the sadness. And that is why theatre is life.”—Sherie Rene Scott (via norbertleosbutt)
Thanks to the social-life-suck known as grad school, I’m a bit behind on all relevant cultural phenomena. I have yet to watch an entire episode of The Pauly D Project, for instance, and for that I am ashamed.
But because the end of the semester looms near and my motivation has officially plummeted off a cliff, I’ve given myself permission to catch up on the good things in life, i.e. TV shows and movies. And my first stop on the Anti-Education-Pop-Culture-Catch-Up-Express was Lena Dunham-ville.
Despite holing up in a scholastic cave for the last few months, I’ve managed to keep up with the always informative social networking worlds, and all signs in the Twitter universe and my friends‘ Facebook feeds pointed to Dunham. Plenty has already been written about her 2010 award-winning film, Tiny Furniture, and her new HBO show Girls has garnered so much press, sparked enough debate, and stirred up such controversy, it has launched itself and its creator/writer/director/star into the Angelina’s Leg-level stratosphere of media insanity.
And a good amount of that hype has surrounded Ms. Dunham’s body.
New York Magazine‘s resident television sage, Emily Nussbaum, describes Dunham as “short and pear-shaped.” Maya Dusenberry at Mother Jones calls her “average-weight.” And The Frisky‘s Julie Gerstein notes her body is “less than model-ish.” And many critics are quick to point out how little it matters that Dunham isn’t the typical Hollywood waif, because neither are the rest of us, and that’s what makes her so relatable.
Well I’m definitely not a qualified critic, but I am a twenty-something-year-old woman, and I can say with certainty that as much as it pains me to admit the seemingly superficial truth, it does matter.
This isn’t to say Dunham’s “average” body overshadows her talent, wit, or endlessly impressive ballsiness. She may not be the voice of her generation, but she’s undoubtedly contributing an astonishing amount to the conversation. She’s hilarious, hard-working, and alarmingly shrewd for someone just barely breaking into her mid-20s.
Clearly, Dunham has more to offer than an onscreen representation of the “average” female physique. But while I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, there is something jarring about seeing her frequently uncovered flesh onscreen. Dunham’s body is what women see in dressing rooms, in locker rooms, and in the mirror. But seeing it in a space typically reserved for stick-thin starlets seems somehow avant-garde. And that’s just silly, isn’t it?
Not really. Sad as it is, we’ve been socialized to expect our lead actresses, our cover models, our skincare spokeswomen, to fit a certain cookie-cutter mold. We may not approve of it or even like it, but there is an undeniable body-type norm that exists in Hollywood. Seeing someone unapologetically step outside of it, and more importantly, refrain from making it the center of every interview or storyline, is refreshing, but sort of heartbreaking. Why in the world should it be so strange to see real life reflected in entertainment?
Dunham’s certainly not the first woman outside the size-0 box to shed her clothes onscreen. But while cellulite and belly rolls are often relegated to indie films, Dunham’s work and her body have garnered mainstream media attention. And while it’s unfortunate and rather telling of our societal preoccupation with weight and body image that her physical appearance has stolen some spotlight from her rather impressive brain, it’s also great. Because really, isn’t it about damn time girls, women, men, and boys bore witness to the existence of blemishes, imperfect breasts, and yes, even thighs that touch?
Some may argue that Dunham’s body isn’t revolutionary or radical in the least, because—hellooo—she’s really not “fat.” Plenty of fuller-figured women have given a big “eff you” to cultural body norms in much more subversive ways. But I would argue that Dunham’s not trying to be a rebel, and that’s what makes seeing her body somewhat shocking. She’s not conforming to any side of the spectrum, and she’s unafraid to present herself to the world, as is. It just so happens the way she is reflects the way many real-life women are and the way many onscreen women are not.
Granted, it’s not entirely novel to see different body types on TV or in movies. Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks is often put on a curvy girl pedestal, and she’s one of my personal favorite female beauty icons. But part of me wonders if we’re more comfortable praising Hendricks because her character comes packaged in ultra-flattering 1960s fashions. People have long pointed to Kate Winslet (another one of my faves) as a star who doesn’t fit the skinny standard. But Winslet is also known for her roles in plenty of period dramas. She’s certainly played modern-era women, but many of her roles have called for costumes tailored to a body type that’s no longer “fashionable.” I wonder if Hendricks, Winslet, or any other actress with a body outside the media’s strict beauty specifications would be considered as aesthetically acceptable if they were routinely playing contemporary, un-airbrushed characters.
Nussbaum describes Dunham’s decidedly “unpretty” moments well: “These scenes shouldn’t shock, but they do, if only because in a culture soaked in Photoshop and Botox, few powerful women open themselves up so aggressively to the judgment of voyeurs.”
But Dunham has. And whether the resonating impact her body’s made is good or bad, it matters.
“It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love his daughter, but also her wife. It happens when a soldier tells his unit that he’s gay, and they tell him they knew it all along and they didn’t care, because he was the toughest guy in the unit. It happens when a video sparks a movement to let every single young person know they’re not alone, and things will get better.
It happens when people look past their ultimately minor differences to see themselves in the hopes and struggles of their fellow human beings. That’s where change is happening.
And that’s not just the story of the gay rights movement. That’s the story of America—the slow, inexorable march towards a more perfect union.”—President Obama (via barackobama)