Let's Talk About Hannah Vs. Lena Dunham In That 'Triggering' Episode Of 'Girls'

Sunday night’s “Girls” finally took us to Iowa with Hannah, the now grad student (yes, it’s really happening). Besides unsuccessfully riding her bike through campus, the episode marked one of the biggest parallels between Hannah and Lena Dunham that the show has seen yet. There’s a lot to discuss and unpack, so HuffPost Entertainment editors Lauren Duca and Erin Whitney are here to hash it out:

Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen “Girls” Season 4, Episode 2 “Triggering.”

Lauren Duca: Okay, we need to discuss the Lena Dunham meta commentary that went down in Sunday night’s episode. This is a *TRIGGER WARNING* for anyone currently experiencing Lena Dunham at critical mass. For me, the whole writers’ workshop was a deliberate dissection of criticism and the role it plays in the way Dunham perceived as a public figure. Dunham has explicitly tried separate herself from Hannah before (despite being ambivalent about conflation when the show first started). Although, now — perhaps more than ever — there is a clear intersection between the semi-autobiographical character of Hannah Horvath and Lena Dunham, the happy to share author of Not That Kind of Girl and a rapidly-rising celebrity figure (who is constantly responding to controversy surrounding her work).

What do you think that writers’ workshop scene in “Trigger” had to say about how Dunham sees herself through the vessel of Hannah, and how she publicly and privately deals with the onslaught of backlash (which we’re somehow still seeing in response to her book)?

girls classroom

Erin Whitney: Well, before we even get into the criticism Hannah receives in her class workshop (which I agree is a commentary on Dunham’s own experience with critics) I think we need to talk about the story itself.

Hannah’s story is about a girl experiencing a form sexual assault from her boyfriend — but she insists it’s unrelated to her while the rest of Hannah’s class can’t get over how autobiographical the character seems. While this story is nothing close to the sexual assault events described in Dunham’s book last year, it does raise questions. Is Dunham trying to express how she, as a writer and a personality, grapples with the blurry lines of fiction and reality? Hannah refuses to publicly admit her work is personal, so perhaps Dunham feels this same lack of responsibility to fess up to what’s inspired by real life and what’s not? But why raise eyebrows with a story of sexual assault, especially one which Hannah says her character wanted from the boyfriend, instead of coloring it as wholly unacceptable? Hannah seems to be playing with the notions of inviting sexual violence into a relationship, but not victimizing herself — especially since she distances her story from her classmate who she assumes is a victim. What’s she doing here, Lauren?

LD: Okay, side note, I didn’t think the other student was necessarily a victim as much as Hannah assuming she was a victim, because “LOL, how else could Hannah…

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