Does Lena Dunham Represent Our Generation?

September 17th 2014

Alece Oxendine

The New York Times published a long form piece about filmmaker/actress/author Lena Dunham in advance of her new book "Not That Kind of Girl". Publications (especially those based in New York) are making these grandiose statements about her, that her self-proclaimed "voice of a generation" comment from Girls has became somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People have gotten into some pretty nasty debates about her online. One being that Girls takes place in Brooklyn but has very few people of color in the show (FYI Brooklyn is 1/3 black and 1/4 Latino). How can one claim to be the voice of a generation (the most racially diverse in history) but not represent (or surround themselves with characters that reflect) a huge portion of that generation? ​I get it, we want to celebrate a woman's (especially a woman in her 20s) immense success, but please stop making her seem like the best thing since Facebook.

"Dunham has functioned as a proxy for the collective aspirations and insecurities of her generation, or at least a certain educated, mostly white, mostly urban-dwelling microdemographic therein. She is perhaps to the millennials what J. D. Salinger was to the post-World War II generation and Woody Allen was to the baby boomers: a singular voice who spoke as an outsider and, in so doing, became the ultimate insider."

At least the Times acknowledges that she represents a sub-section of our generation. But the logic in comparing Dunham to J.D. Salinger and Woody Allen? The common denominator is that all three represent an elite sub-section of New York and are very much the insiders of privilege. Was Lena Dunham really ever an outsider though? It was reported that her family recently put a 6 million dollar apartment up for sale.

So if Lena Dunham is not the ideal face of our generation, then who is? How about ourselves. Our generation is so vastly different from others that we don't need someone to represent us or speak for us. We can represent ourselves, thank you very much! We are the ones who are not concentrated in New York City, but are struggling with student loan debt, fighting to find work, and the most highly educated in history. There is no one individual experience that defines us with the exception of major life events like 9/11 and the 2008 recession.

I don't fault Lena Dunham for wanting to make herself an authority for our generation. My frustration lies in that the powers that be are trying to fit our generation in a box. We won't fit. Yes Dunham belongs to a sub-section of Millennials, which is part of the thickly woven multicolor tapestry that is our generation. But I reiterate that she doesn't speak for me nor our generation as a whole. So please, New York Times and other New York media sites, let's lay to rest the fact we need a voice of our generation and that Lena Dunham is that person.