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I am an aspiring, young, female film maker. I am also a Creative Writing student and do a lot of writing in my spare time. Despite the slow decay of the gender boundaries, the film and television business is a very difficult one to make it in as a girl. Because of this difficulty I often look for role models in women who have become successful and well known for their work.

Enter: Lena Dunham.

Not only is she a producer and director, but she’s also just recently released her book Not That Kind of Girl, which I immediately requested for my birthday and finished within a week. She’s not stick thin, she’s not Hollywood ‘beautiful’, and yet she’s one of the only cast members in Girls who gets naked frequently. Why? Because she’s comfortable with her body and doesn’t really care about giving the audience what they want to see. She gives them something real.

But her undressing on screen isn’t objectifying to women, nor is it degrading. If anything, it’s a triumph. Anyone who reads her book of memoirs and personal essays will know the struggles she faced as a child and young adult over her appearance, her weight, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive-disorders. She tries to diet, and fails. She dates several first-class assholes and manages to move on and find someone who appreciates her for who she is. She makes friends who just suddenly turn around and tell her they can’t hang out any more. Every kid had dealt with some of these issues at one point in their lives. Lena Dunham overcomes everything that is thrown at her and is now a household name. This book inspired me a lot, because before reading this I didn’t know what I could possibly write in a personal essay that would be interesting. Now I realise that you don’t need to have been trapped in the boot of a car for 24 hours, nor do you need to have been in a hostage situation in order to write something that people would enjoy reading. It’s okay to write about something simple, because someone, somewhere, is going to understand what you’re talking about.

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I wouldn’t have even considered reading Not That Kind of Girl if it wasn’t for the other, ‘girl-central’ piece of work in her life – quite literally Girls. It’s yet another relatable oeuvre of Lena Dunham’s, but only if you understand what it’s like to struggle in knowing where you are going in life and how you’re going to get where you want to be… If you even know where you want to be. If someone asks me where I see myself in ten, or even five years time, I haven’t a clue. I don’t even know what country I will be in and quite frankly, it’s terrifying. Girls starts with Lena’s character, Hannah, being told by her parents that they aren’t going to support her financially anymore. She’s a writer who’s trying to make it in the world, but doesn’t have a paying job. She lives with her best friend Marnie and pretty much floats through life. This show is about making mistakes. It’s about quitting jobs when you shouldn’t just because you get frustrated, it’s about picking the wrong boyfriends and about trying not to mess everything up.

It’s interesting to watch this with my Dad in the room. (Also it’s a terrible idea, I had no clue how many sex scenes there were going to be when I put this on for the first time.) Despite the awkwardness, I do find that it’s fascinating how people of different genders and generations react to this show. My Dad is a pretty liberal guy. He’s a feminist, he votes for the Green Party, he hates authority and the Conservatives, and he taught Creative Writing, Film and Media courses. I wasn’t embarrassed to have him as a teacher, and the people in my class thought he was cool. But… he just doesn’t like Girls. I, on the other hand, love it. That’s probably because (even though I myself would like to think I’m not like any of these characters) I do know quite a few people who mirror the girls in the show.

I know someone who will stand and sing to an audience, even at the most cringe-worthy time.

I know someone who takes herself too seriously and couldn’t ever admit to being wrong.

I know someone who wears bohemian clothes and couldn’t care less about where she’s going.

I know someone who is beyond bubbly, but also naive and irritating at times.

As society changes, so do the ‘characters’ in hip and down-to-earth shows. Right now, those people apply, because they represent the young people of today who are just thrown out into the world, after having taken courses in a very specific subject, and then can’t find any job that has those requirements. We’re called irresponsible and lazy and stupid and told that things were much better in the past generation. But then again, those people’s parents probably told them that too.

So, Lena Dunham is a great role model as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to go around and do the things she did in her book, nor am I going to follow the examples of the characters in Girls. (Although I am quite proud to have spewed a few Jessa-like insults in my time) But I will take inspiration in her conquering of a very male driven industry. I hope she keeps on making films/Tv and writing, because I’d like to see what she comes up with next.

Things to look out for:

Tiny Furniture (2010): An independent comedy-drama written by, directed by, and starring Lena Dunham. It stars her sister and mother as those roles and Jemima Kirke who will later go on to play my favourite Girls character. It’s about a girl who returns home from a liberal arts college with a film studies degree and follows her struggle to find who she is and what she’s going to do. (You see many parallels with her characters in Girls, but this focuses more on a single moment in time whereas Girls follows her over a longer period.)

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” (2014): A collection of personal essays that detail different aspects of her life. A good read and also very insightful, highlighting the best bits, but mostly the low bits. Her willingness to put in some not-very-dignified moments is refreshing and make it easy to have a rapport with her.

Delusional Downtown Divas (2009): An internet television show that is kind of like Girls on drugs. It’s about three young women who were raised in the art world of New York and try to establish their place in it. It’s very weird, and I’m not sure if I enjoyed it all that much, but it is good if you want to see how she progressed from internet TV to winning Golden Globes.

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