The Girls creator left the packed Egyptian Theater in Park City today with no doubt about what she thinks about attacks on pushing the boundaries of humor, the director of Manhattan and sexual assaults on America’s campuses. “In some ways America is at its most puritanical,” Lena Dunham said Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival’s Power of Story: Serious Ladies panel when addressing some of the reaction she and her HBO show has received. “The fact is people are forgetting that humor is a tool for debate,” she added. “That boycott, censorship, shut ‘em down approach to humor shows a very basic lack of understanding of what humor can do for us culturally and what it has always done,” Dunham said to applause.
Joining Dunham on the panel was Mindy Kaling of Fox’s The Mindy Project, Kristen Wiig, who is in multiple films at Sundance this year, and Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan. On the subject of humor, Dunham also made a point of telling the audience that she’s a completely different person from her Girls character Hannah Horvath. Too often, the actress and writer pointed out, “people equate the words coming out of your character’s mouth with a real life philosophy that you don’t possess.”
“I don’t think that Larry David or Woody Allen or anyone else playing some version of themselves is walking around with a million people who think they know and understand them on a deep abiding level,” Dunham said of the Curb Your Enthusiasm creator and the Oscar winner. “Woody Allen is proof that people don’t think everything he says in his films is stuff that he does because all he was doing was making out with 17-year olds for years and we didn’t say anything about it,” said Dunham to roars from the crowd.
Dunham has on previous occasions expressed she was “nauseated” over allegations that he abused his adopted daughter with former long time companion Mia Farrow. The Rosemary’s Baby actress herself and MSNBC host son Ronan disapprovingly tweeted about Allen when the Golden Globes had a tribute to him in 2014.
“No one went that Woody Allen is making out with a 17-year old in Manhattan and I guess he’s a real perv,” the Golden Globe winner added. “And then lo and behold,” Dunham said with Wiig jumping in with a very sarcastic “he fell in love.” The Girls star and producer of 2015 Sundance docu short It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise followed up Wiig’s statement with, “I say one thing on the show and am accused of having erred.”
Kaling pointed out that Dunham was lambasted by critics when Hannah declared in the Girls pilot that “she was the voice of a generation” as she falls to the floor on drugs. “It was a beat generation joke,” said Dunham, “and I’m going to go to my grave with it.” “If I was confused with the characters I play,” joked Bridesmaids star and former SNLer Wiig, “I would be locked up.”
When it came to a question from the audience about what political issues were of importance to her, the consistently vocal and avowed feminist Dunham talked about abortion and campus rape. “The idea that women can’t be complete and total citizens until they have control over the destiny of their own bodies,” she said of reproductive rights in America “It’s not just a political issue, it’s a lot about class, race and it feeds into all these other forms of inequality and injustice that exist in our country.” Dunham noted that women are “still fighting” for the right to terminate pregnancies 42 years after Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court.
“One of the reasons it is important to talk about campus assaults,” Dunham told the Sundance crowd, “is that that these women in positions of incredible privilege are still being forced every day to fight for their truth and that is indicative of the fact that sexual assault is an epidemic and so many people are voiceless.” Dunham herself wrote in her recent best selling memoir Not That Kind of Girl about an assault on her when she was in college. “I think campuses are a great place to start because that’s where we’re being educated and that’s where we’re told we’re going to be safe,” she added, to applause and cheers.