Wendy Wasserstein would be very proud. I loved Wendy and I own everything she ever wrote. I always felt bad because Wasserstein died without feeling she had really changed the game for women in the arts, particularly in the driver’$ $eats. But she definitely started something. And though Dunham mentions Wasserstein not once, I can’t help feeling she’s picked up where WW left off and is going to go the distance.
Here are the differences between Wasserstein and Dunham: They grew up in different eras in New York. WW’s came from a fragmented, malfunctional family of immigrants; Dunham grew up in an atypically warm, loving, artistic family. Here are some parallels between : Both are New York girls, who typically drop the kind of parlance that only New Yorkers get: New York is New York no matter when you live there. Both have that self-deprecating quality that comes from having a Jewish background. Both looked for love in a lot of unusual places. Here’s the main difference, according to me: Wasserstein’s heart was most significantly broken by the lack of sisterhood among the very people she thought should stick together, as stated in her Pulitzer-prize winning play, *The Heidi Chronicles*: “I thought we would always be there for each other.” Dunham’s girls, lie Dunham’s “Girls” have their differences, spats and fallouts, but ultimately pull together as a team.
I have never seen “Girls” – I don’t have HBO, there are other shows I want to see first, and I’m a single mom who needs to make choices with her not-so-free time. I wanted to read NTKOG anyway so I could see what kind of girl Dunham really was to make her what she really is. Unless you live under a rock (which my kids claim I do), you know that Lena Dunham is the creator, producer, director and star of “Girls”. You also know that she appears naked for much of it, and that her body type is, shall we say, a bit unique to be doing so. Dunham and her “girls” represent the rest of us, the ones who aren’t 5’10” and 98 pounds, the non-prom-queens. I wanted to know what made her so tough, so confident, so out there.
Lena Dunham has a lot to say. She probably drops more F-bombs, in all contexts, than “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Even within her categorized chapters, she rambles. But it’s her book, and it takes a special kind of brain to ramble as compellingly as she does: about sex, about bodily functions and failures, about the physical pain of illness and the psychological pain of growing up and out. My favorite chapter by far is “I didn’t F— them, but they yelled at me.” This chapter is brave and classy because Dunham outs a lot of the sleazy behavior of the maie heirarchy in Hollywood without mentioning any names. I love nudity when it’s on an emperor. Wasserstein loved it too. As she neared the end of her life and her writing career, the disparity between male and female power in all aspects of the working world trumpeted more loudly in “Old Money* and in “Third.” Somewhere out there, Wendy Wasserstein is now smiling.