Who is Lena Dunham and why did she just get $3.5 million?on October 10, 2012 @ 6:20 am (Updated: 7:55 am - 10/10/12 )
Rising star Lena Dunham has just inked a $3.5 million book deal for a collection of essays. (AP photo)
After a feverish bidding war, a young woman who's never written a book has just been awarded a $3.5 million contract by the prestigious publishing company Random House-for a book of essays, no less.
That high an amount for an unproven writer has the publishing world abuzz.
Her name is Lena Dunham. Who you ask? She's a 26-year-old phenom of sorts. Just out of college, she made a small indie film full of funny and humiliating anecdotes about a 20-something's awkward relationships with boyfriends, bosses, parents and siblings.
Not a lot of people saw it, but big time comedy director Judd Apatow did. He's the director and or producer of smash hits like The 40-year-old Virgin, Knocked-up, and Bridesmaids.
With Apatow's encouragement, she signed up last year to produce, direct, write, and star in her own comedy series called "Girls" - on HBO, no less. And all at the tender age of 24. The series was so successful she earned Emmy nominations for acting, writing, and directing.
One of the keys to the show is that, at least by TV standards, she's very average looking. Not ugly by any means but definitely not "star quality" glamorous either. And she's not afraid to make her character unlikable at times. More often than not she's the butt of the show's jokes.
Variety called Dunham a more awkward and fatter version of Tina Fey, and meant it as a compliment.
Her character has the smug superiority of a New Yorker that thinly papers over major insecurities. Those vulnerabilities help us sympathize with her even as we judge her.
This week, based on nothing more than a proposal, she's going to get over $3.5 million dollars to write a book of "frank and funny advice on everything from sex to eating to travelling and work," according to the publisher's blurb.
So successful is she, it's been easy to hate on Lena Dunham. And a lot of people do. They resent her privileged background (her parents are New York artists), her youth (Gawker mocked her with the snarky comment," Dunham became eligible to vote in 2004, so you should listen to her.") But most of all, her early success - her rise to the top has been rapid - that she hasn't paid her dues.
This is all nonsense, of course. If she couldn't produce quality work, all the connections in the world wouldn't save her. Besides, compared to all the insta-starlets that, say, the Disney channel produces, Dunham is refreshingly real and blunt.
She may yet turn out to be more "flash in the pan" than long-term comic genius. But even that "flash" has the power of the moment. Nobody's quite doing what Dunham is doing, laying bare what it's like to be a 20-something woman these days, major warts and all. And if that's worth $3.5 million, I say she's earned it.
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