Image from The Atlantic

Today’s lesson: Normal can be GOOD


written by Susie on July 16, 2013

I am a big fan of The Atlantic. Long-form articles seem to be a dying art, but The Atlantic brings an interesting spin or great reporting to keep you engaged. I learned more about Marilyn Monroe in one story than I previously knew. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece, while controversial, sparked an important debate on working women in today’s society. And this article, “Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech,” explored the increasing influence of women as technology consumers.

So, when The Atlantic’s annual Ideas Issue came in the mail, I couldn’t wait to read it. I knew there’d be some interesting insights into the future of tech and society.

Then, the disappointment hit. The magazine put together a few lists, including one identifying “Ideas That Have Outlived Their Usefulness.” Zombies, banking in Cyprus, and Groupon were among these no-longer-useful ideas.

But one item really stuck out: “Lena Dunham, naked, on your TV screen.” This same concept also made its way to the “Newly Conventional Ideas That Were Once Unthinkable” list.

I imagine it was a ploy to be funny, or ironic, or something of the sort. But, to me, it sends a larger message about women’s bodies: that we still have a long way to go to erase the pressures put on girls and women to strive for perfection.

Now, I tried to watch “Girls” a few times, and it just wasn’t for me. But I completely respect Lena Dunham for making a name for herself in a tough industry — and at such a young age. I also love that she is brave enough to show the world that normal bodies are, well, normal.

I began to question why Lena Dunham was the ONLY person naked on TV to made this list. I haven’t done a tally, but I have to imagine the women of “Game of Thrones” are naked as often as Lena Dunham. Walter White dons tighty-whiteys a lot on “Breaking Bad.” Why didn’t they make the list?

For me and perhaps others, Lena Dunham helped spark a new conversation. She might not be someone who would stop you on the streets with her beauty (does that actually happen in real life?), but it is not unrealistic for someone with her body type to be naked and sleeping with an attractive man. It happens. Every. Freaking. Day. Because most people in the world are normal, not supermodels or people graced with abs that rival Thor’s.

Normal-sized. What a concept.

For once, someone who wasn’t a size 0 was naked on my TV, and they weren’t being mocked or doing it for comical purposes. They just were.

That was important to me. I struggled for years in college with a false view of myself. I told myself that I was fat, ignored the reality that stared back at me in the mirror, and rewarded myself when I skipped a meal. Even today, when friends and family remark that I am “so skinny,” I don’t always believe them.

Luckily, I am aware enough — now — to bring myself out of that dark place. But I wasn’t when I was 18.

That’s why it hurts so much when the media continues to encourage girls to feel this way.

Some might argue that Lena Dunham is naked for no reason in too many scenes. Fair enough. But I’ve thought the same thing about multiple scenes in “Game of Thrones” (and I LOVE that show) and multiple other forms of media. Why did The Atlantic choose to only call Dunham out?

I might be deemed overly sensitive on this, but we really need to change the dialogue. We need to see diversity — in size, shape, opinions, race — on TV, in comics, in video games. Our society is diverse, and that’s what makes living so wonderfully challenging. If the world were monochromatic, we might get along more often, but it sure would be boring.

Mass media — including TV and journalism, books and movies, comics and video games — is just one piece of the puzzle. All of us as fans, creators, friends, and consumers must demand more.

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  • Meredith

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Susie! Some really good insights here!