Just-turned 81-year-old joker Joan Rivers has a new book due out July 1st, the not-a-Tyler-Perry movie Diary of a Mad Diva, and she’s making headlines because of offensive content within: namely, that Girls creator, director, and star Lena Dunham is committing crimes against nudity by showing her body on television. According to the New York Daily News, Rivers claims that people watch Girls with “their hands over their eyes,” because Dunham is “the first fat girl naked on television.” She even suggests that Dunham could have a salad once in while, crudely.
None of this is new, or shocking: Rivers has talked shit about Dunham before in March 2014 on the Howard Stern Show, claiming that Dunham’s acceptance — and use of – her body on Girls sends out a message that it’s okay for people to “Stay fat, get diabetes.” Which is all patently ridiculous. Of course it’s annoying to hear Joan Rivers’ insecurities about somebody else’s body played out in the public realm. She’s a professional shit-talker (particularly with E!’s execrable, unfunny, plagued by union problems Fashion Police), she’s old school as hell, and she seems to feel that the only way for her to stay relevant these days is to attack and to be cruel in the name of “roasting” and insults. But this particular harping on Dunham’s body feels like a part of a generational disconnect with two comedians — or raging insecurity disguised as “comedy” from a trailblazing woman who has probably had to deal with lots of uncouth and terrible comments about her looks and her body.
It’s also amazing — and not in a good way — that any woman in the public eye who is not a size 0 – 2 these days is referred to as “fat,” with her body as a fair target for jokes, and that comedians are calling themselves chubby at a size 10 or so, which is pretty average when you walk down the street, just not in a Hollywood casting room. Everyone’s fat these days, and guess what? Making fat jokes about other people’s bodies is mean. It’s part of a toxic culture that wants to critique women’s bodies, a culture that’s perpetuated in products like Fashion Police and websites that go after celebrity women’s fashion.
Dunham is a comedian, and she has shown a remarkable ability to publicly handle the slings and arrows of media and publicity — questions like, ‘Who the fuck are you and why do you feel the need to do art?’ — with grace. At the end of the day, she can paraphrase Max Fischer from Rushmore, because she wrote a hit show and a big upcoming book and was on the cover of Vogue, because of her brain. There are girls watching Girls who feel more comfortable with their bodies because of the show’s approach. She wins, obviously.
In her WTF interview with Mark Maron from March, Dunham told a funny story about going to a party that Howard Stern invited her to (the guy that called her a “little fat chick” and then apologized). At the party, Joan Rivers gets up and does a comedy routine that’s mostly racist jokes, but when she makes a joke about the late Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker, that’s when the room is like “Too soon!” Dunham is appalled at the room’s turn towards moral outrage, and she notes that Rivers still is like, I’m 80 and I don’t care. Dunham seems well aware of Rivers’ old school attitude and that she’s not going to change, like a crazy grandma. And, ultimately, she still wins: she’ll get the last word, as she told Maron: “With love, the day that Joan Rivers dies, I’m going to make a killer zing. I’m going to zing the shit out of her.”