The title of Lena Dunham’s HBO show blasts out in bold letters — GIRLS — filling the screen to its edges. Like Lena herself, there’s nothing coy about it. She reclaims the often pejorative “girls” as she does countless other ideas. Her character, Hannah, says she has covered herself in tattoos to gain authority, or authorship, over her body. Lena bares that tattooed body throughout the series, making it clear that it is hers to share.
Lena’s power lies largely in her self-awareness and wit. Like all great comics, she has a joke ready to deflect any jeer. Hannah’s pathetic declaration that she could at least be “a voice of a generation” invites and thwarts many a poisoned arrow. Lena’s true power, though, lies in her transparency. She is unflinchingly, unnervingly honest. She exposes, beneath all that bare skin, a multitude of shortcomings: acute self-involvement, obsessive-compulsive behavior, overeating, oversharing. Hannah is as vivid and raw a portrait as we have seen — nails bitten to the nub — and despite her glaring faults, we ravenously embrace her. Lena’s unique lack of vanity or shame allows us to consider that we may also be able to accept and express ourselves fully. This is not only impressive, it’s important. Because it turns out that girls don’t just want to have fun. They also want to be known for who they really are.
Danes, an award-winning actress, stars in Homeland
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