Why Hannah's Body Acceptance Epiphany In The 'Girls' Season 5 Trailer Is More Significant Than It Seems
Since the beginning of the show, Lena Dunham has dealt with the question of whether or not her HBO show Girls is more reality than fiction. Her character, Hannah Horvath, is a 20-something aspiring writer living in Brooklyn who, just moments into the pilot, tells her parents she "may be the voice of my generation — or at least a voice of a generation.” It's a funny line, especially coming from Dunham, a 20-something writer/filmmaker/actress who lives in Brooklyn and managed to get some of those "voice of a generation"-like superlatives after releasing her debut feature film, Tiny Furniture. Dunham's always seemed to shake off the similarities between her and her character. But in the latest Girls season 5 trailer, art seems to be imitating life as we watch Hannah finally learn to accept her body — something Dunham proclaimed on social media she did a long time ago.
Fifty seconds isn't a lot of time, but in this new teaser, it's enough to see that Hannah is attempting to find happiness with the person that she is by getting healthy. A previous Girls teasers showed Hannah taking a dance class with her mom and here, we see her riding a bike. But, Hannah is still Hannah after all, and in her attempts to be body positive, announces: "I worked very, very hard to overcome the challenges of my non-traditional body type." The line is played for laughs, and will probably get quoted nearly as often as the "voice of a generation" line, but there's something earnest about Hannah saying this.
Since the show's debut in 2012, Dunham's dealt with both criticism and praise for appearing nude on the series — always with the caveat being that it's so "brave" to do so with a body like hers. This is bullshit, of course, as every body is beautiful. It's something Amy Schumer reiterated in her speech at the 2016 Critics' Choice Awards, saying that's the word she kept hearing when she posed nude for the Pirelli calendar. "That's what you want people to say when a naked photo of your goes viral," she said. "... What a 'brave' photo."
Dunham has always given an answer to the question of why she posed nude so often on the show, but it's not always the same one. In 2013, she told Marie Claire UK that she saw her choice to appear nude as something bigger than herself: "I don't think I'd be able to do that if I didn't think it was essentially important in my contribution to the world." That same year, Dunham told Entertainment Weekly that the point of appearing nude was to take the stigma off of it. “My point with getting naked is never proven," she said. "It’s not like ‘Oh, I did it first season, and now you guys get that there’s women of a certain size on TV, so I’m done!’”
A year later, right before the premiere of Season 3, when Dunham was asked yet again by a reporter why there was so much nudity on Girls, she was a bit more defiant, saying, “It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think, and I totally get it. If you are not into me, that’s your problem, and you are going to have to kind of work that out with whatever professionals you’ve hired.”
Hannah has always seemed comfortable with her body — using it as she likes, wearing what she wants and basically, giving the middle finger to anyone who doesn't get it. But, it's not easy to exist in a bubble like sometimes the show feels like it does — it's clear at this point, the discussion surrounding Dunham's nudity in the show is an old one that she can't seem to escape, no matter how much she'd very like to (and how much the conversation should never be happening in the first place). But Hannah can be her stand-in, posing nude and trying acro yoga. And telling everyone, in no uncertain terms, this is who I am.
Writing this body acceptance awakening into Hannah's season arc seems like the best way for Dunham to say she's in charge of her body and the narrative that surrounds it. Dunham has Hannah talking about her body — not in defense of it, but in support of it. It's something Dunham has being doing for the last year on Instagram with her workout photos. These aren't shots that boast a bikini body, it's more like a safe space where the actress can share her epiphanies about the effects exercising has had on her physically, mentally and emotionally.
"I'm not about to embrace that triathlon life," she wrote in one caption, "but it's a true joy to continue getting more connected to my body and its powers."
In an interview with ESPN Magazine, Dunham talked more about the reason she runs, explaining, "My relationship with my body is constantly evolving. I'm going to be 30 next year. I had to learn, as you age, you have to move. You have to move so you don't die. You have to move so your brain doesn't atrophy. You have to move so that you look a little bit like a person that you might want to be."
Hannah's decision to start moving shows she's growing up and becoming the person Dunham would like her to be.
Image: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO; Giphy