The Lena Dunham/Patrick Wilson Conundrum

Lena Dunham and Patrick Wilson (Girls)

Lena Dunham and Patrick Wilson (Girls)

I know you all watched Girls last night and have some seriously complicated feelings about it. I know I do! Most people have been talking structure, since this strange little episode was such a diversion from the show’s loosey-goosey multi-character narrative flow. But, when Lena Dunham spends so much time naked, we know we can’t just talk cinematic decision-making, we have to talk about the body politic.

Jezebel headlined their recap (which I thought was mostly on target) with “What Kind of Guy Does a Girl Who Looks Like Lena Dunham ‘Deserve’?” and I think they’re asking the right question. To sum up, she spends the weekend banging an older, blindingly handsome, chiseled Patrick Wilson. He looks like he just stepped off a yacht in the Vinyard while filming a Land’s End spot, and she looks like a very average, very pear-shaped girl who probably sat next to you in the library and tried to surreptitiously eat a donut while reading Foucault. Mismatch made in heaven? Apparently not, according to many a commenter, who go as far as to say this pairing is so farfetched it must be a dream sequence.

But is it that farfetched? Let’s grant that if you polled Americans, Patrick Wilson is about a 9.7 and Lena Dunham is, say, a 5.5. I am making up these numbers, but the point is that they are more than a standard deviation or two apart. Does that kind of perceived aesthetic mismatch ever work out?

Amber Valletta and Kevin James (Hitch)

Amber Valletta and Kevin James (Hitch)

Adam Sandler and Salma Hayek (Grown Ups)

Adam Sandler and Salma Hayek (Grown Ups)

Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogan (Knocked Up)

Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogan (Knocked Up)

Wait, weren’t you saying it’s ludicrous to even think that a vaguely unkempt, less sophisticated schlub might land a smoking hot partner? Oh I seeee, it’s only ludicrous because she’s a lady and ladies are supposed to be the smooth, shiny ones. I get it now, this is just your basic old-fashioned double standard. Got it, glad we’re all on the same page.

But Seth Rogan is so scruffy and adorable! But Adam Sandler is so hilarious! But Kevin James is so cute and cuddly!  Women have other reasons for falling for these dudes in the movies, so it all makes sense. Actually, doesn’t that seem about right? We all want to end up with someone we find physically pleasing, but most adults acknowledge that there will inevitably be a thousand other things we love about a person too. Even though not everyone can look like insert-your-dream-hunk-here, we will “compromise” because they are delightful and lovely in all of the ways that really count. You know, kindness, smarts, humor, that kind of lame “personality” stuff.

Why is this such a shocking concept when the genders are reversed? I find it both offensive to the ladies (you are nothing if not decoration!) and insulting to the dudes (you are shallow and only want decoration!) Why is it hard to imagine, in theory, that Patrick Wilson might have found this overly earnest quirky hipster girl on his doorstep sweet, cute, funny, or interesting? Or also hot? Which brings me to my second point…

I would like to brag about something now. It will seem like just straight-up patting myself on the back, but it is in service to a point, so stick with me. I have slept with some good looking gentlemen, some if-you-polled-America-they-would-tell-you-that-he-is-fiiiiiine kind of men. Here’s the kicker: back in the day (young, naive, blah blah blah), I used to be surprised that they wanted to sleep with me. Not like, “oh poor little old me, I’m not a supermodel” surprised, but just kind of curious, the kind of curious you are when you’re a plus size girl who is most definitely in the Lena Dunham camp, the she-of-the-thunder-thighs camp, not the Salma Hayek/Amber Valletta/Katherine Heigl camp.

So here’s what I know. People like all kinds of things. They like all kinds of bodies. They like all kinds of people. This is in spite of the Esquire Hot 100 list, or the Maxim Ladies We Love, or the Bro Mag Chicks We Dig column. There is certainly a segment of men who would only go for the willowy model-types (just as there are women who won’t date men under 5’9″). But there are also men (more than you think), that have a wide ranging palate. We are deluding ourselves if we let the beauty mags tell us what men like, because men will tell you that, yeah, that 36-24-36 is nice, but so is this, and this, and that, and sometimes this, and when I’m in the mood, that too. Human sexuality is a complicated thing, yo, and it’s pretty freaking arrogant to think your taste is the only one that makes any sense.

So I guess what I’m saying is no, I don’t think it’s impossible that Patrick Wilson went for Lena Dunham, and yes, I do think y’all are seriously narrow-minded if you can’t see that.

Related Post: My kind of porn tumblr (NSFW).

Related Post: Does being fat-positive mean you have to throw skinny girls under the bus?



Filed under Body Image, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Sex, Uncategorized

13 responses to “The Lena Dunham/Patrick Wilson Conundrum

  1. Just watched the episode like 10 minutes ago and I have SO many feelings as well.

    The last three episodes, perhaps even more so than the entire first season, have been essentially little morality plays about the dangers of “experience” over “connection.” Elijah and Hannah’s cocaine trip, Jessa’s dinner with Thomas-John’s parents, etc.

    In this instance, when Dunham so deliberately juxtaposes her body type with Wilson, we experience her gratuitous unflattering nudity as a coy acknowledgement of the self-sabotage artists must undergo to gain our trust. Your examples above (Sandler, Rogan) are relevant, but a comparison I don’t hear enough for Dunham is Woody Allen. He constantly surrounded himself with 9s and 10s and we all felt uncomfortable about it–but his effete nature served to indict our own insecurities in our physical relationships.

    What was that line she had about “I wanted to have all these experiences and warn people about them… but I just want the fridge and the bowl and the stuff.” It’s one of the SADDEST lines I’ve ever heard–but as someone who once fancied himself a writer SO TRUE.

    Anyway this was a ramble and I have to go to bed–but just had to chime in given that I had so recently finished. Thanks as always for the post.

  2. Katie

    I don’t know who Patrick Wilson is but he’s not that cute. PS world: I’ve banged way hotter and I have thunder thighs, so get over it.

    • Agreed, Katie. Men aren’t even half as interested in a woman’s size or “rating” than women are… at least not straight men. If he didn’t notice your blouse, haircut, or nail polish, ladies, it’s cuz he really, profoundly does not care. Be grateful, not angry…

      And you’re right Evan, Lena Dunham’s pulling a Woody Allen all the way. I was so offended by Whatever Works, I could barely sit through it. And I think Interiors is my preferred, in part (I’m sorry to admit), because there’s no astoundingly, hubristic hobgoblin scurrying hither and thither, complaining ceaselessly about all the beautiful women who won’t leave him alone.

  3. acertainmrloewy

    I am sure that some of the people are having issues with the discrepancy in their objective hotness scale ratings, and none of this is helped by the fact that I don’t think Dunham and Wilson have much on-screen chemistry. (Evan’s comparison to Woody Allen is again apt, here.)

    That said, this may be one of the most cogent episodes of this show yet. The juxtaposition Dunham draws between these two people lends all the sense in the world that they would get together for these couple of days. The sexy factor is so clearly not just physical; it’s what each represents to the other. When they meet, he is recently separated, successful, bitter, and 42 years old. She is sweet, quirky, vibrant, and young… And then she kisses him. Of course the sparks fly!

    Joshua and his brownstone might be an obvious escape for her, but Hannah is a temporary reset button on his life. He was in the market for a manic pixie, and he found one stealing the real estate in his trashcans.

  4. I can totally get either sex being with someone, who is perceived to be, a physical mismatch, What I cannot understand is when a bright, clever, successful whoever, ends up with a, “lights on, no-one at home” whoever!

  5. I have had many HOT guys go for me and I am one of those girls that is always told “but you have such a pretty face” and we all know what that means. For about a minute a person may or may not find someone attractive but after fifteen minutes of hanging out and their personalities click all bets are off the table as to how people look.

  6. st sahm

    Hmmm. I see what you’re getting at but you kind of make it sound like a human buffet which made me laugh so thanks! Physical attraction is important but there are so many other elements that create allure. I’m thinking longer term…more than this one weekend bangfest you mentioned… ha!

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  8. This post is so great. Thank you so much for pointing out this GLARING double standard, and the fact that as humans, we each have a different set of tastes. Therefore this kind of scenario is not equivalent to a dream, but it represents human nature in our variety of preferences (as well as our mental and emotional needs). THANK YOU!! 🙂

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  10. Amy

    Thank you for this. I totally wholeheartedly agree with every single word.

    Like Lindsey, I am also one of those girls (FINE, 43 year old woman) who has always been told that I have ‘such a pretty face’. Some people are terrified of a woman who is comfortable in her skin. They simply don’t know what to do with her, especially if that skin is bigger than they think it should be. The irony is the fact that I AM comfortable is something that so many men find attractive, size 18 or not. Whoo, sorry. Turned into therapy. Love the post, thanks for writing it 🙂

  11. WordMother

    Love this!

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