We are not capable of talking about nudity in pop culture. We’re terrible at it. Look at this Girls thing. A journalist asked a poorly-phrased question, which the Girls producers interpreted in the least accurate manner possible. Everybody was their worst self. Then the journalist tried to clarify his question in a post on TheWrap. It’s a well-written post in which everyone comes off terribly: The journalist, the producers, men, women.
Viewed in 24-hour hindsight, it seems clear that the journalist was trying to speak to Lena Dunham The Writer-Producer of Girls about artistic decisions she makes for the show. Viewed in 24-hour hindsight, it’s equally clear that Dunham and everyone else on the panel thought the journalist was asking why Lena Dunham The Actor gets naked so much — gross.
They all flocked to her defense, which is great because women should be defended in the face of sexism, and terrible because treating every criticism of Girls as “sexism” is toxic. One should always be skeptical when millionaires play the victim card. One should always be skeptical when people ask questions about nudity. People click on “nudity.” We’re all just animals pretending to be people. We used to worry that nudity was commodified. Now it’s even worse: It’s become Content.
Let’s just admit something: At this point in time, it’s impossible to talk about the nudity on Girls without sounding like a prude (if you’re a woman) or a sexist (if you’re a man). This is not unique to Girls. For the same reason, it’s impossible to talk about the nudity on Game of Thrones or True Blood. Game of Thrones is a well-written show where half the production design is boobs.
Girls is a show about a generation of men and women and gays and straights and everything in between, all struggling to understand each other, and all just absolutely failing miserably. At its worst, Girls is an NBC sitcom from the ’90s with a yuppie-bohemian garnish and freshman-year-creative-writing oversharing and mournfully metaphorical semen. Some people are sometimes nude. But not Allison Williams, who does not want her breasts on the internet. Does that impact the show’s artistry? Why do we even talk about it? If people on the show talk openly about sex and gender, shouldn’t we? Wouldn’t it help if Allison Williams could make more than one facial expression? Aren’t we all just naked under these clothes?
Let’s just take a pause. Girls is back for a twelve-episode third season. We can all spend the next few months having valuable conversations about the series, or we can spend the next few months bogged down in meaningless conversations — conversations that will look absolutely ridiculous a hundred years from now, when everyone’s a bisexual who lives in the Matrix or whatever. Rage spirals and clumsy questions don’t help anybody.