3,000 admirers pack Sony Centre for non-comedy JFL42 event
It wasn’t a comedy event, it wasn’t a book reading, it was a spiritual event.
The charismatic cult of Lena Dunham packed the Sony Centre for an evening of praise and worship on Saturday evening, and got the personal, political moment that they wanted with their heroine.
Dunham, the 28-year-old creator and star of HBO’s Girls and now an author, spent most of the JFL42 event fielding questions from host Jian Ghomeshi about her creativity, her history and, most of all, her anxieties; in Hollywood especially, she said, “I feel worse than everybody and better than everybody all at the same time.”
Her insecurities must be potent indeed if 3,000 admirers hanging on her words couldn’t quite blunt them. Yet even when talking about the event being an “awkward process” that awakened her “eighth-Grade fears,” Dunham adeptly held the crowd with poise and patter, deflecting a softball question by saying “way more people have seen every Pampers commercial” than have seen any episode of her show, no matter how ardent its following.
She was steadfast in defending her work’s creative merits, however, “calling out misogyny” when she or others are accused of “oversharing.” Feminism was a touchstone of the interview, even though Dunham was not strictly dogmatic on the subject — on the one hand, proudly citing her efforts in Girls to realistically depict women’s bodies (especially hers), and on the other hand professing not to see the problem if Vogue digitally erased a few flaws in the images from her photo shoot.
From a creative perspective, the event peaked at the beginning, with Dunham reading a anecdote from her book Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” It’s not out until Sept. 30, but listeners’ appetites were whetted by recollections of the summer camp where she battled an “allergy to wood,” discreetly took her OCD meds, and met “slightly different white girls.”
The story was rueful, reflective fun in a comedy-festival event notably not about generating or even discussing laughter. Ghomeshi had no questions about comedic screenwriting or the book’s humorous essays. (The fest’s comedy nerds might have wished that he was chatting with, say, Parks & Rec’s Megan Amram, another fan-favourite writer who also has a book coming out.)
Maybe we’ll get the joke talk elsewhere; host and author noted they had taped an interview earlier Saturday for Ghomeshi’s CBC radio show Q, and both seemed to think that chat was a bit better than this one.
To be fair, the fans didn’t seem curious about the creative process; their questions for the author at evening’s end — often prefaced by “I love you” — suggested that they were mostly here to seek a moment of connection with their inspiration.
A bit like an Oprah taping, sure, with more gender-studies students, but the same adoration.