NEW YORK -- Girls, the HBO drama about millennial women living in New York City, sparked much criticism through its six-season run. But its creator Lena Dunham and its showrunner Jenni Konner said they had no regrets at a Tuesday panel at the Tribeca Film Festival reflecting on the show's legacy.
In fact, Dunham is proud of what the series has accomplished, including moving the needle regarding body positivity for women. "Why I'm here," she said, is to "relieve" other women of their body-image issues.
Dunham, as her character Hannah, frequently appeared nude on the series, a point that sometimes received negative reactions from both men and women. At the panel, Dunham said she was expressing the beauty she saw in the mirror.
"I've always been like Rihanna to myself," Dunham told moderator America Ferrera. "I just have a great time with my own body. I've been a range of sizes for a range of reasons and its always felt good to me, and it was an interesting thing because I think people were so ready to believe that I was jumping past some massive hurdle in order to get naked on television, and I was like, that's not where my fear lies."
"The interesting thing is some of the most love and compliments I've gotten have been from women who are considered to have perfect and beautiful bodies, and who I think feel the constant pressure to maintain those bodies," she added.
Ferrera, who as the star of Ugly Betty helped inspire Dunham to create Girls, said she was likewise empowered by Dunham's series "to flash her bikini bod on the beach." Ferrera noted that once women stop worrying about their bodies, they can start thinking about what to do with their bodies. Regarding her career, Ferrera said Dunham encouraged her to be a director on her NBC series Superstore, which she pursued.
Of course, just because Dunham has no regrets, does not mean that she was inured to criticism. "I always say that Lena's headstone will say 'she read the comments,'" joked Konner. The first season of Girls received flak for its all-white cast. And while Dunham appreciated the "thoughtful criticism," which she took into consideration when planned future storylines, she was not a fan of "shaming." While she normally paid no mind to alt-right trolls, Dunham said it was barbs from smart female critics that stung the most.
Ferrera, in a nod to the burden of representation some shows carry, noted how people can "cannibalize and suffocate" shows about underrepresented communities if they feel they do not represent everyone.
And Dunham has made mistakes. She addressed her controversial remarks about wishing she had an abortion. Apologizing to fans and the public is "not always comfortable, but it's important," she said. Konner noted how Dunham "is one of the great apologizers," as she is known for delivering unfiltered remarks and responses.
Overall, Dunham stressed her love of women, which has and will continue to inform her work. "My female friendships are the great passionary of my life," noting how other women are her "muses." She recounted how, as a child, she would only volunteer to read books if they were written by female authors.
"This is our moment," Dunham told women, to "join hands" and stop being competitive with one another to each other's detriment. She noted her great partnership with Konner, and advised all creative to find another like mind in pursuing their projects. "Find a partner who shares your vision," Dunham declared.
To this end, she discussed her upcoming "Lenny Letter Tour," which she is organizing alongside Konner. Inspired by their digital newsletter, Lenny, the tour will feature and celebrate women, and stop in six cities in red states. The goal, she said, is to heal the divide the country has struggled with since the election.