Re: Lena Dunham review

1

If it is at all like her New Yorker pieces, I wouldn't be able to get through it. I do want to push back against the writing "unusually honestly" part. I feel like it's that kind of "honesty" that becomes its own schtick.

I haven't seen any of Girls, but do mean to get around to watching at least a few episodes sometime. I've meant to do that since it first came on though, which I guess says something about how high on my list it is.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 1:55 PM
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I watched her in the Lil Jon Rock the Vote ad thiny today and that's the most I've ever actually seen of her, but it's somewhere on my long list of cultural gaps to rectify. (This sounds way bitchier than I mean it to. I just don't think she speaks for me, which doesn't bother me at all, and have a hard time believing she'd speak to me, which is the part I haven't bothered to figure out yet.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 1:59 PM
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There is no sense in which Dunham speaks for Thorn, true.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:07 PM
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I feel like it's that kind of "honesty" that becomes its own schtick.

Streuth.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:08 PM
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I don't think it's fair to say she's doing honesty-as-shtick as opposed to honesty as quality (superficial yes) writing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:09 PM
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By honesty I don't mean tell-all, although she certainly does that. I just mean adhering to reality.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:10 PM
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Lena Dunham: a realist รก la Coetzee.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:11 PM
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Tiny Furniture is fantastic. I think she's a really novel artist -- her use of her naked, sex-having body isn't only incredibly brave in terms of dramatic vulnerability, it's also brave and novel in terms of physical comedy, and she belongs with the greats


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:14 PM
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...although Girls does get a little wearying. But I'm game for the book.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:26 PM
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Tangentially, when did that superconfident-but-really-neurotic personality become such a major folkway? I mean, what happened to unassuming-but-sack-a-spuds solid?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:56 PM
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I can't stand Dunham to be totally honest. So obnoxiously self-involved.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 3:04 PM
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It is definitely the kind of memoir where the author focuses on themself, so it may not be for you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 3:42 PM
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Yeah I suspect not. I don't think liking Dunham is like, morally wrong, and I'm sure she speaks to lots of people. But I am not one of them.

(Also I have been forced to watch heaps of Girls and I hated it. So I may just have an irrational aversion.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 4:14 PM
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3: Sorry, heebie! I told you I was sounding bitchy. I would 100% grab and read her memoir if it were on the library shelf, which it probably will be at some point. She's just at that weird age where she's not a peer but not younger enough to be precociously different or something.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 4:18 PM
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I would read Lil' Jon's memoir.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 4:19 PM
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I like Girls. The cocaine episode is amazing, and Shosh is the best. Furthermore, I liked her interview with Bill Simmons, so take that haterz!


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 4:30 PM
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I liked the bill Simmons interview too.


Posted by: Lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 6:00 PM
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Lena Dunham's dad spent most of the 00's painting pictures of a man with a dick for a nose. That right there, more than any generational difference, says she is coming from a very different place than I do.

That said, I enjoyed the first season of girls, and got midway through the second season. I like how dreadful those people are. I like to imagine they are in the top centile for dreadful amongst New Yorkers.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 7:36 PM
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18.1: Where did your dad draw dicks?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 7:46 PM
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I can't stand Dunham to be totally honest. So obnoxiously self-involved.

Which is one of those criticisms that are made of any woman in the public eye who doesn't fit one of the approved roles and really, all the right people disapprove of Dunham so I'd hesitate to critique her for this, even though it may very well be true.

This may be of interest.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 12:49 AM
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Just because people say it about everyone doesn't means it's not true in this specific case.

Dunham's work is clearly about being self-involved: it's heavily and explicitly autobiographical, and it is also about being self-involved.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 2:33 AM
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Which does work for some people! I don't know. It clearly is a successful platform for a career. But it is not a thing I really care about, personally, and there is something about the kind of very privileged person that Dunham is engaging in sustained navel gazing that I find quite obnoxious.

Girls does tend to have pretty awful politics.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 2:40 AM
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I was about to comment, but realized that this blog is the only place I've heard of Lena Dunham, and therefore I have nothing to add. One small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:41 AM
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19: Leavenworth.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:00 AM
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Last night I watched Beginners, the movie where Christopher Plummer plays Ewan McGregor's dad, who comes out at age 75 after the death of his wife. It was really about the necessity and heartbreak of settling in relationships, I guess, and it made me think I should probably watch some mumblecore stuff, though probably not around Lee.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:01 AM
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On the self-involved piece: I admit that I have mentally slotted Lena Dunham in with Jerry Seinfeld as "Probably very talented person who produces material that I am likely to hate."

Of course, I generally find it unpleasant to watch art about people I would loathe in real life, so factor that bias in when you read my comment.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:03 AM
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I liked Seinfeld when it was on. I think I was less picky back then because there wasn't internet (at least at the start) or Netflix.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:11 AM
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I'm in the 26.last position as well. No Coetzee, no Seinfeld. Strangely, it doesn't seem to apply to Kafka for me.

Or no, actually, I do find it unpleasant to read Kafka, but it's the only art I've found where that "no, the unpleasantness is a feature!" explanation actually convinces me.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:22 AM
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It depends on the loathsome for me. I'm pretty happy to watch Arrested Development, It's Always Sunny, etc. But the movie Your Friends and Neighbors (IIRC) made me want to punch them all, not in a good way.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:26 AM
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Yes on the Kafka, Blume! (And the rest of it, except Lee watches Seinfeld and so it's on sometimes. I'm actively boycotting the NFL this year, but otherwise I try not to interfere in her tv time and that only means either I leave the room or she watches elsewhere.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:27 AM
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26.2 is me. If I'd like to punch the character in the throat why would I spend any more time with them than I absolutely have to?


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:34 AM
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To watch them get punched in the throat. That was the genius of George.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:35 AM
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10: This is something I find very hard to adjust to - the way that one of the the fashionable personalities to have/perform is the "I'm so nerdy and neurotic and so obsessed with [thing that I pretend is nerdy but is actually popular]". It's a weird sort of caricature and it messes with my head - one is not supposed actually to be nerdy and neurotic and messed up, but one is supposed to perform a sort of bright, charming, cute parody of being nerdy and neurotic and messed up - fake awkwardness as decoration.

It feels like a way that contemporary capitalist affect has...er, I dunno, permeated the self more. Like even the thing that was absolutely despised - being awkward and messed up and geekily obsessed with things - has been monetized and stylized so that it can be the theme of a television program.

I'm not that into Lena Dunham, but that's mostly because I think her politics around race are really terrible and she does not seem to have repudiated that awful writer on Girls who made the really racist joke. As far as her wealth and privilege go, she's irritating because she's always on about her self-awareness but never actually doing anything about it, like changing the way she lives and uses her money.

I think that's the essence of the "awkward" personality as it's displayed in contemporary television/movies/web series - everyone is very self-aware that they are privileged or clueless about race and so on and that stands in for actually changing.

I think she's a pretty decent writer for someone who writes that type of thing, but it's depressing to see someone use their intelligence in that fashion.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:43 AM
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fake awkwardness

Fauxward?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:47 AM
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As far as her wealth and privilege go, she's irritating because she's always on about her self-awareness but never actually doing anything about it, like changing the way she lives and uses her money.

What should she be doing? (For that matter, when does she go on about her self-awareness?)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:58 AM
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Having seen neither Tiny Furniture nor Girls, I'm unable to have a strong opinion about Lena Dunham. I did recently watch Frances Ha, which is apparently from the same "mumblecore" genre that Dunham hails from.

My impression, though, is that the characters in Girls are supposedly obnoxiously privileged. The main character in Frances Ha was more "this person would have been obnoxiously privileged 20 years ago, but today she's kind of screwed".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:06 AM
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Girls ≠ Lena Dunham. It's not wholly autobiographical.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:09 AM
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33 is very smart. I don't know what she should be doing, either, but there's definitely an unpleasant sense of -- not slumming, exactly, but something like it, vaguely exploitative and fake, we're supposed to excuse because of the self awareness -- that permeates Girls. I liked Tiny Furniture a lot and haven't read her book. It's possible that whatever she's doing is tolerable when done in mumblecore/realist cinema style but is lame and borderline offensive in HBO TV show format. I don't think she's the worst person in the world or anything and is basically a decent artist but I'm not a fan of the show.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:09 AM
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Not specifically to 36, but the thread as a whole.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:10 AM
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The best mumblecore movie IMO is the first one, Funny Ha Ha. It solves any possible problem on the lines of 33 by being relentlessly realist and by just letting dorky Harvard people be dorky.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:14 AM
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35: Look, if you're all "oh, I'm so rich, and I have so much white privilege, and I am - ha ha! - from this background where I got an excellent education and have lots of nice things, and that's just unjust, it really is", you have the option of, you know, giving away money (which is particularly hilarious since apparently she did her best to get away with not paying people who were performing alongside her on her book tour) and you can actually advocate for anti-racist causes, and you can actually live a life where you give up some material things in the interests of others, foster the careers of underrepresented people, de-center yourself a little bit.

I feel like there's a lot of this "well, my political gesture is to point out that people like me have too many advantages" stuff about, and the effect is to make it more difficult to talk about social problems because "everyone knows" about inequality, etc, and it's all very vieux jeu, and after all even the people at the very top acknowledge that it's all very sad that there is so much inequality and it's so unfair.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:18 AM
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Yes, she should certainly pay those around her a fair wage. I hadn't heard about that. And she should publicly distance herself from racist remarks. And hire more minorities.

But giving away her wealth and becoming an activist? I mean, she's 28, highly prolific in a specific way. It's fair to say "I don't like her work because it's superficial" but not to tack on "and she ought to be doing this other work instead."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:33 AM
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This is unfair because it's not as if I really have a sense of who my celebrity friends would be if I were a celebrity, but I love that she and Taylor Swift have become buddies.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 7:35 AM
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42: But if your whole artistic schtick is "look how overprivilged I am, ha ha, my whiteness and my money and my therapists and my expensive shopping habits, it's just so awful, isn't it?", well, there are ways of not having the awful problem of too much money. If your main point appears to be "aren't people like me terrible?" and you just continue being yourself and thus terrible-by-your-own-admission, one does start to wonder just how sincerely you mean the whole "aren't people like me terrible" bit. It starts to look an awful lot like "it's considered socially appropriate to admit to my privilege, but really aren't people like me wonderful and fascinating and deserving".


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 8:00 AM
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I get the feeling that among vaguely progressive types, "check your privilege" became an end in itself years ago. The description in 44 seems like the natural result.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 8:08 AM
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I don't think that attacking Dunham personally for not being an activist is fair (or maybe it is fair but the the 99.9 percent of other reasonably affluent people who aren't activists should also be tarred with the same brush). So that doesn't seem like the best line of attack.

But I do think that Frowner hits on an artistic problem with the specific show Girls which is that it feels exploitative and a bit fake because of a kind of renouncing privilege in order to assert it move.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 8:09 AM
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44: It feels like you're conflating Hannah Horvath and Lena Dunham. The shtick of Girls is certainly that they're overprivileged, awful people. I didn't feel like, in the memoir, that Lena is awful and unreflective the way Hannah is. Lena also doesn't describe whether or not she engages in any sort of public service good type thing - it's mostly accounts of sex, bodies, family and friendships, etc.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 8:12 AM
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I vaguely enjoyed Frances Ha despite wanting to throw everyone in it into the sea. Noah Baumbach is confusing for me because he wrote the very sweet and funny Kicking and Screaming and then a lot of terrible crap including Wes Anderson's worst, The Life Aquatic.

Oh hey I knew a guy in college who went on to write a terrible mumblecore movie called The Puffy Chair. It made me want to have a child and then wait four years so I could say "my four-year-old could write a better screenplay!" Anyway now the guy from my English class is famous and pals with Mindy Kaling and stuff though his brother who he wrote the movie with is an actor and more famous. The brother was in that thing about two straight guys who decide to make a film of them having sex, which was also terrible.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:48 AM
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The guy from The League? The Puffy Chair is truly horrible.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:54 AM
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I feel like there's a lot of this "well, my political gesture is to point out that people like me have too many advantages" stuff about, and the effect is to make it more difficult to talk about social problems because "everyone knows" about inequality, etc, and it's all very vieux jeu, and after all even the people at the very top acknowledge that it's all very sad that there is so much inequality and it's so unfair.

I'm still not quite sure how one avoids that. There's a great Lenny Bruce routine in which he talks about how obscene it is that he makes so much more money than a schoolteacher. But then he says half-apologetically that his attitude is, "if they'll give, I'll take."

Which is fine. On some level it is a collective action problem, he isn't responsible for getting school teachers higher salaries. And it's a funny line, it works well as a routine. But it also serves the same purpose that you're talking about of bringing up inequality in a way that inoculates against criticism.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:57 AM
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Yeah, though I only know that by googling because oh my god please try to imagine me watching "a semi-improvised comedy about a fantasy football league."

For the first twenty minutes I thought maybe The Puffy Chair was going to be good and then it became massively terrible.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:57 AM
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It feels like you're conflating Hannah Horvath and Lena Dunham

Isn't she in Woody Allen territory, where the porous boundary between author and character is deliberately part of what's being staged?


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:59 AM
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I'm still not quite sure how one avoids that.

As Frowner mentioned, after they give and you take, you can turn about and give again.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:02 AM
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My impression, though, is that the characters in Girls are supposedly obnoxiously privileged.

I've only seen the first season of Girls, but the characters didn't seem obnoxiously privileged to me. Apartments, roommate, and job situations all seemed fairly realistic. I thought that your typical 24-year-old living in Brooklyn and working in publishing would be able to relate.

My impression is that the real-life Lena Dunham is considerably more privileged.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:09 AM
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The Puffy Chair is truly horrible.

There are certain movies that I've watched that stay with me, such that every time I happen to think about them, I get upset all over again at how I wasted my time watching them. The Puffy Chair is one of those movies.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:15 AM
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Again, I don't think it's legit to criticize Lena Dunham personally for not being an activist. But it's fine to criticize Girls specifically for doing what it's doing.

I've only seen the first season of Girls, but the characters didn't seem obnoxiously privileged to me.

They're not. Minorly privileged awkward unsuccessful scions of the UMC seems more like the idea. The problem (I was trying to identify) is that the show rings false because part of the subtext leaking through is that all these people are IRL much richer and successful and more privileged, and the show doesn't really overcome it.

Yeah, though I only know that by googling because oh my god please try to imagine me watching "a semi-improvised comedy about a fantasy football league."

You might enjoy it, at least anthropologically. It's sort of an exaggerated minstrel show of UMC aging white bro culture. Also pretty funny.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:19 AM
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The Puffy Chair -- that is kind of an awesome name for a terrible movie.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:19 AM
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52: only sort of, insofar as she seems much less stupid in the book. From what I remember of woody Allen movies, he doesn't throw himself under the bus quite as cringingly as she does. Like, he curates what he considers to be a good version of himself on screen.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:20 AM
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Whoa, the brother I had English with was on 8 episodes of The Mindy Project. He is maybe more famous than I thought. Also maybe there are not strict measures of famousness. Now I am thinking of Jenna Maroney's parting shot at Hazel. "I look forward to reading your obituary in the papers... 'Least famous person in the world dies.'"


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:22 AM
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I watched maybe five minutes of The Mindy Project last night. I think it was about "accidentally" putting a penis in her butt.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:25 AM
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The problem (I was trying to identify) is that the show rings false because part of the subtext leaking through is that all these people are IRL much richer and successful and more privileged, and the show doesn't really overcome it.

Yeah, this sounds right to me. Dunham is still in her 20s, her actual struggles in real life have involved making movies and creating HBO shows and writing books and being semi-famous. Not so much with the penniless, directionless moping about.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:28 AM
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52: One of the best parts of the Simmons/Dunham interview was where she talks about how different she is from Hannah. For example, demonstrating how Hannah holds here body totally differently. I'm not sure what people who think the character and her are the same are basing it off of, it's not like we all know her in person or that she has a show where she's out of character to compare with.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:38 AM
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As Frowner mentioned, after they give and you take, you can turn about and give again.

Well, yes. But let's acknowledge that isn't an easy thing to do.

I don't want to ask for too much sympathy on behalf of Lena Dunham or anybody else but I'm just saying that for somebody with money / privilege /success of three possible things they can be doing

1) Recognizing their own privilege, the limitations of their own perspective, and their own complicity in a deeply unequal society.

2) Doing artistically interesting projects.

3) Figuring out a way to use their own money or status to address issues of inequality in a meaningful way.

(2) and (3) are both significantly more difficult than (1) and it doesn't seem quite right to ask that anybody who attempts (1) and (2) must necessarily try to do (3) as well.

Again, I'm not trying to defend complacency just saying that, "... foster the careers of underrepresented people, de-center yourself a little bit" are worthwhile things to do, but they aren't easy either.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:41 AM
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I'm not sure what people who think the character and her are the same are basing it off of, it's not like we all know her in person or that she has a show where she's out of character to compare with.

It's because part of the overall aesthetic of both the show and her self-presentation is that she's selling personal authenticity and vulnerability. Or what 52 says. It's of course not only possible but likely that this is bullshit, but it's not surprising that people would react in this way to her presentation.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:41 AM
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63 is right. Also, sheesh, she's 28 years old. If she's doing the exact same thing in fifteen years, it will be tiresome.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:04 AM
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Hearts to 41.last. Also, I fear that I'm turning into self-parody, but whoa, the world where Coetzee is more like Seinfeld than like Kafka.

I seem to have a pretty much perfect record of not liking artists who inspire the kind of controversy Dunham has (love her or hate her, everyone's got something to say). And I couldn't tell you quite why. Because the aggressiveness and promotion style is always a complete turnoff? Because I loathe arguing, especially about art?


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:07 AM
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Does anyone ever say "Who cares what this art's politics are?" anymore?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:12 AM
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I think that's a perennially popular position, yes.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:17 AM
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It can come in naive and contrarian flavors.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:19 AM
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At some point a while back I somehow had the impression that Mindy Kaling was really funny, but then I watched several episodes of The Mindy Project and was cured of that belief.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:24 AM
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Well, yes. But let's acknowledge that isn't an easy thing to do.

Really? Because I get hounded by institutions asking me for money all the time.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:37 AM
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Institutions and hobos.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:38 AM
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Part of the shtick of Girls might be that they're overprivileged brats, but it's not just a satire on that either. Not yet anyway... What can rub me the wrong way about Dunham, is that she sometimes seems so very pessimistic about any kind of growth or transcendence in relation to the problematic things she's putting a frame around, and it can come across as kind of complacent, which is maybe a little like what Frowner's complaint sounds like to me. On the other hand, it's been an era of notably nihilistic television comedy going back at least to Curb, It's Always Sunny, etc.
The League is possibly the most hateful show ever conceived.


Posted by: XiaoConkle | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 1:29 PM
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Isn't the running gag about the Dunham character in the first series that she's dependent on her parents to fund her unpaid internship in publishing? Which, like, is an obnoxious level of privilege (as well as being a victim of exploitation) even if it isn't the obnoxious level of privilege that Dunham herself partakes of.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 1:51 PM
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Where does Dunham stand on the paleo diet issue? Also, leaf blowers; is she pro or con? I can't make an informed judgement about her work without this crucial information.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 2:08 PM
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74 -- I thought the premise was that the parents cut her off, so that she can't just rely on the unpaid internship in publishing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 2:31 PM
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76 - Yes, that's right -they've been funding her for however long, but now that's over.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 2:38 PM
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It's certainly a marker of privilege and it's certainly an instance of exploitation, but I would think the obnoxiousness of it is mitigated by the fact that relying on parental support while trying to "make it" in publishing/museums/journalism is pretty much the norm in NYC.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 2:57 PM
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is pretty much the norm in NYC.

Oh, look, you pushed a button.

It's a really big city. While it's one of the likeliest places for an UMC twentysomething being supported by their parents while they do a prestigious internship to be, those people aren't the norm. There are maybe a couple/ten thousand of them.

So even New Yorkers can look at those people and think they're obnoxiously privileged. (Heck, I remember when I was that age and demographically indistinguishable from them all, except that I was working as a temp receptionist. I was terribly privileged myself, but those people annoyed the crap out of me.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:05 PM
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You think the majority of people doing prestigious internships in NYC are self-supported? Because my claim was simply the negation of that. I would have to be pretty dumb to think they were median New Yorkers.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:13 PM
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I think my mother was in this category in the 70's - not supported by her parents, but making a very low salary in publishing alongside a lot of peers who were supported, while she herself barely scraped by.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:23 PM
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I actually wonder how many of the classic NY "nice job in publishing" jobs for women are left. It's got to be vanishingly few. The industry has collapsed so much. I guess there're still magazines for kids to intern at, but I don't really think of that as "publishing."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:24 PM
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I'd say NY-interning is certainly not the norm from the population POV, but it is common enough in the striver-circles disproportionately represented here that it can feel that way.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:27 PM
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80: No, I think people doing prestigious internships at all aren't the norm in NYC. I mean, if you're doing a prestigious internship, you're probably supported by someone, but doing a prestigious internship at all is a really privileged thing to be doing.

It's like (analogy ban) saying that the obnoxiousness of a show about someone with a string of polo ponies is mitigated by the fact that you really can't compete at polo unless you have at least three ponies in top condition and a couple of spares. True, but not mitigating.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:29 PM
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79/80: I think you're talking at cross-purposes. LB seems obviously right in that there are probably only 10,000 +/- people doing prestigious publishing/museum/journalism internships in NYC.

Criminally Bulgur is obviously right that a startlingly high percentage of those 10,000 are not self-supporting.

I had a good friend at my first job who was deeply, painfully hurt by the fact that all of her (upstate NY) professors enthusiastically encouraged her to get a degree in "magazine publishing," and not one of them thought to tell her that this would require her parents to support her for 1-3 years post-graduation while she worked for free at various internships.

She was from a working-class family and there was no way in the world that was going to happen. So she ended up fairly deeply in debt, working for a small "publishing" company and living at home. Last I heard she had finally gotten a better job, but it wasn't easy and she still had all that debt.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:31 PM
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I, for one, am not privileged enough to know what statements about polo might be true.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:31 PM
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It's not pwnage if you add value.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:32 PM
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86: Actually, me neither. I'm relying on a Kipling short story about anthropromorphized ponies for my entire body of knowledge about polo.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:34 PM
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I didn't get the idea that her internship was particularly prestigious (seemed like a dead end job to me) and it wasn't like her parents bought her an apartment on Central Park West or something. I mean, if your parents help pay for your college education then I guess you're privileged but that doesn't make you Paris Hilton.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:35 PM
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There is a fancy-schmancy polo club in southern Chester County, PA (horse country). I only know about it because I was invited to a Mexican-Swedish event there. I did not attend.

Here's their website. Caution: Auto-playing video with driving guitar and unintentionally amusing comments.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:39 PM
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Ten thousand seems high, actually. Looking at BLS.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:41 PM
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Lena Dunham ≠ mumblecore
Beginners ≠ mumblecore

48: your college pal is starring in Jill Soloway's Transparent, which is phenomenal. He plays a really fucked up privileged middle child cad.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:41 PM
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We're watching Transparent because we too have a connection. First episode we've seen very interesting, Tambor is great.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:43 PM
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Huh. 64,500 actual employees in non-Internet publishing industries in New York State in August 2014. I guess that makes the estimate plausible, given heavy use of interns and dominance of NYC within NYS.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:49 PM
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I only know about it because I was invited to a Mexican-Swedish event there.

Mexican-Swedish? I'm trying to imagine. Maybe... fermented herring tacos?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:50 PM
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For the record, I bet my parents would have supported me in an unpaid internship, if I'd had my heart set on it. It's privilege, but it's not grotesque.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 3:52 PM
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92: Agreed, Beginners isn't mumblecore. It just made me think I should watch things that are even slower and smaller.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:01 PM
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First paragraph of 81 is exactly what I have tried to clarify that I think. To the extent that there's disagreement it's over whether doing an inherently privileged thing is inherently obnoxious. I don't think wanting to take your Ivy League degree in English or art history to work for the New Yorker or MOMA or Verso or HBO is obnoxious (or less sexy institutions with the hope of breaking into the more sexy ones). It's obnoxious that, as Witt points out, it's only a viable path for people with parental support, but that's not the interns ' fault. I would much rather have Oberlin grads living off their parents in Brooklyn than working on Wall Street.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:05 PM
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81 s/b 84


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:06 PM
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The fact that the cultural industries are obnoxious all round doesn't make any individual instance less obnoxious. Also pushing back against obnoxious norms is really really important, especially given that things are getting worse not better.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:26 PM
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97: Beginners was weirdly personal for me. It was filmed all over my neighborhood(s) - not only is there a shot right by the park where I proposed to Mrs. K-sky, but a party scene was filmed in the house of a friend who died shortly after it came out. Plus Mrs. K-sky has a distant familial connection to Miranda July, the director's wife.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:27 PM
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101: That's funny because I thought of the pictures you've shared of where you live while watching it, realized that was sort of my immediate mental setting for it, but then thought it would be creepy to say that. Oh well, apparently!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:30 PM
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103: hah. that is surprising. but yeah, those are my hoods.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 4:50 PM
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The most successful let's-go-to-NYC-and-be-in-publishing person I know didn't get any explicit parental financial support/didn't do any internships, as far as I know, but had about the most gold-plated academic resume one could imagine when he decided to turn his attention to prose. It would be reasonably crazypants to not call him very privileged. On the other hand, I know at least one person who made a pretty solid go of it in publishing in New York with absolutely zero in the way of parental support and a negligible baseline of privilege.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 5:46 PM
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||

I don't deny the fact that, during my time in D.C., I was a part of an invading army. All the same, it's clear to me that we should view gentrification not as a Manichean class struggle, but as a web of conflicting incentives, woven from scarce resources and growing inequality. Mueller openly scorns the word "complicated" in his piece, but gentrification is complicated.

In case you were still thinking about that Jacobin piece, Jordan Fraade has a nuanced critique in The Baffler.

|>


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:31 PM
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they've been funding her for however long, but now that's over.

Which is a pretty standard sort of premise for the counter-satirical tale of a young person who is confused but pure of heart mining the necessary quantities of pluck and bootstrapping to the good life in modified Horatio Alger fashion. It'll be interesting to see where it goes. On the one hand, it seems like there is potentially a story in there about Hannah becoming a good person in a way that is not just winning at life, although it would take a deeper show than it is now to pull that off, but on the other hand they seem to be working off of a Sex and the City script with the cretinous rapist boyfriend who cannot continue to be around if Hannah is to believably become a good person.


Posted by: XiaoConkle | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 6:58 PM
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I have been to a single polo match, but for a great reason! When I was a kid, the Catholic pacifist group that my family was involved with hosted an Up With People troupe, and one of the singers stayed at my house. Their concert was right before the polo match--a weird meeting of worlds.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:51 PM
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The host families, incidentally, were each given one half of a MLK Jr quotation, and we were supposed to find our houseguest by determining who had the other half of the quotation. It was the '80s.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:55 PM
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When I was a kid, the Catholic pacifist group that my family was involved with hosted an Up With People troupe

I love this sentence.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 9:57 PM
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The sentence loves you too, but wants to see other people.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:37 PM
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I miss Up With People.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 10:45 PM
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I'm sure the highest privileged set exists, but there's also a fair number of people living with their parents/living with a bunch of roommates/spending very little on entertainment, media, alcohol, etc./racking up thousands of dollars in debt just to be able to pay for the privilege of not being paid to work for a while. The unpaid internship system is a problem not just because it favors the highly privileged, but also because it's become enough of a norm that people will make real sacrifices and take serious risks to get into it, in the hope that it will lead to a land of employment and remuneration. Eight months into my post-masters unemployment, I can tell you that the 50+K in student loan debt, which included covering work for "course credit", did not look like a good investment. I don't think I'd have taken the risk without knowing I could ask my parents for help (which I have had to do, as they charge lower interest than credit cards), so that's obviously a kind of privilege, but there's a difference in degree between that and having expenses taken care of without having to think about them too much.

It's not uncommon to see people in my field take out-of-field jobs to support themselves while doing unpaid (intern or volunteer) work in the field. It's a pretty fucked up labor market, but probably not much of an exception these days.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10- 8-14 11:58 PM
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Definitely, the unpaid internship world is both often a privileged place to be but also really a lousy awful position to be in. I'm like Heebie, in that while my parents never supported me after college (although they certainly did through college), they could have and probably would have if I'd had some plan where I needed them to.

But I never really considered that kind of career track, more out of personality traits (a combination of caution and arrogance? an inflated sense of my own importance?) than because it wasn't an option. I thought about working in publishing after college, but I couldn't get past the "Wait, you want me, an adult, competent, college graduate, to work for you for free, and then there's no firm commitment that you're going to do anything concrete for me? Who takes a deal like that?"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 4:23 AM
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You know what I've never figured out? Why people think working in publishing (as opposed to being a writer) would be fun or worthwhile. It's, like, a trope, but why? What's the appeal? "Well, I like to read, and I'm good at getting yelled at..."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 4:30 AM
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Interacting with writers, interacting with the sorts of people who like to interact with writers, ultimately having some kind of influence or control over what gets published ("Can we get someone to write a 50,000 word piece on grain?") The appeal, generally, seems clear to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 4:44 AM
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114: The powerful mystique attached to the idea of working in publishing in NYC seems to stem from some idea of what it was like in 40s through the 60s. A decent living or at worst genteel poverty, bohemian parties, hobnobbing with famous and soon to be famous authors & etc.

I don't know if it was ever really like that, but that's the image.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 4:47 AM
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112. Unpaid internships should be illegal; simple as that. We pay our interns, even they're only here for a month. (Of course it isn't a publishing firm.)


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 4:52 AM
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Interacting with writers, interacting with the sorts of people who like to interact with writers

Yeah, I guess before I had done that in actual life I could have possibly been convinced that on some level that wouldn't be terrible.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 5:06 AM
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The link in 105 takes awhile to get rolling (probably because every discussion of gentrification has to start with one's bona fides - or, perhaps, confession of guilt), and the parenthetical about Jacobs buries the lede a bit, but finishes pretty strong. As was noted at the time of our discussion, at least 50% of the function of the Jacobin piece was to shit on liberals rather than to hint at any suggestions to the problem. By contrast, the Baffler piece notes that there are many potential solutions to the problem, but none of them have much revolutionary flair, and they come back to blaming capitalists (in this case, landlords) for the depredations of capitalism. Which is clearly too obvious for the elevated minds of Jacobin, who'll be forever employed pointing fingers at people causing problems, because solving problems isn't on their agenda.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 5:33 AM
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Unpaid internships should be illegal; simple as that.

Yup. The minimum wage should be the minimum fucking wage.

We have trainees here -- I've had one for the past year -- but she was paid the same as one of our full-time low-end clerical posts [which is about 25% higher than minimum wage].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 5:37 AM
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117: Yes. In retrospect I would have ruled out all fields where unpaid work is routine.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 6:58 AM
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I saw the most shameful ads for unpaid FULL TIME internships for people who already had their MSW when I moved out here. I actually emailed the people and said: you should be ashamed. (Then I started a Twitter account to post links to horrible job listings. $13/hr, three years of experience required, bilingual preferred!)


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 7:59 AM
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Did they email back or drop the ads?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 8:01 AM
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Neither, of course, but it made me feel like a righteous dude for a minute.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 8:07 AM
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You could sign up for free memberships on porn sites using their email.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 8:11 AM
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Some of the labs in our department make a habit of taking on volunteer research assistants. Sometimes they're undergrads at our institution and get course credit, but sometimes they're just volunteers. And the carrot is... It'll help them get into a PhD program. Oy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 8:17 AM
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Unpaid internships are the worst expression of the problem, but even the non-free work can be pretty hard to live on:

http://www.mediachannel.org/jacobin-a-marxist-rag-run-on-a-lot-of-petty-bourgeois-hustle/

As publisher and editor, Sunkara draws a small salary for Jacobin-related work, but works another job around 20 hours a week. The magazine's only full-time staffer is creative director Remeike Forbes. For digital pieces, contributors get 50 dollars; for print pieces, they get $200. The majority of them are graduate students or young professors. Interns at Jacobin get paid 15 dollars an hour, while the people who help with shipping and other "grunt work" get around $16 an hour. Says Sunkara: "There's not a place on the masthead for that work, and also, that's the hidden labor, so we try to pay for that first."


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 8:26 AM
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Starchitects (ugh) have historically taken on unpaid interns, and I think some of the firms with national reputations but no significant artistic merit try to get in on that as well, but CMU, at least, tries to foster graduates who refuse to do that.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:07 AM
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Huh, maybe I'll write an article for Jacobin, it doesnt sound to hard. The day job pays for the Cadillac and I love their kind of trolling. But I think I'd want to do it under the Robert Halford persona.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:11 AM
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Isn't there some other guy who does creative work under that same name?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:14 AM
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Tell me you really have a Cadillac.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:32 AM
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Absolutely.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:37 AM
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It's a CR-V.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:40 AM
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Yes.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:40 AM
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When I met Halford, he wore alligator skin shoes and kept his aviator shades on all through dinner. He was never seen taking a bite nor a sip, yet his dinner gradually disappeared and his drinks needed refilled. He plied the rest of us with shots of absinthe which we felt collectively powerless to turn down.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:45 AM
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135: Everyone else at that dinner died. What did you have to do to survive, heebie? What did you get in get in exchange for your soul?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:54 AM
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A minivan and some sensible shoes. It was a weird evening.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 11:55 AM
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needed refilled

Interesting!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 12:05 PM
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Unpaid internships should be illegal; simple as that.

As I've noted here several times before, they are. The law should be enforced.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 12:06 PM
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I mean not all unpaid internships are illegal, but in many, many cases there's clearly an employment relation.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 12:07 PM
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138: the reason was because I thought of you, neb!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 12:12 PM
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138: Her soul was replaced with a Pittsburgher's.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 9-14 1:25 PM
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