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Lena Dunham on FOMO, 'Girls' and life in your 20s

Say goodbye to kombucha cafes and hipsters with handlebar mustaches. The new season of HBO’s “Girls”, premiering Sunday, has two big changes in store for antihero Hannah Horvath. She’s not in New York, and she'll be away from her friends for the first time in the show’s run. Hannah, who made the decision to attend a prestigious MFA program in Iowa at the end of last season, is now faced with a distant support system — this is, after all, the girl who goes to the bathroom with her besties. Series creator, actor and director Lena Dunham opens up about FOMO, her real life boyfriend Jack Antonoff and finding love in your 20s.

How will the dynamics between the girls change with Hannah in Iowa?

Because of modern technology, as Adam says, there’s lots of Facetiming and phone calling, but it is the first time they haven’t all been within a stone’s throw of each other. You definitely get a sense of what the friend group is like without Hannah in it. I kind of like it because usually you get such, like, ‘Why are these people friends with Hannah? She’s such a pain in the ass and she’s such a narcissist.’ But once she’s absent, you kind of see the role she’s playing in her friend group, and it’s lovely, actually.

Will she be experiencing some FOMO about her friends in NY?

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For sure, there’s a lot of FOMO happening. Plus, I wouldn’t say she’s the most skilled at making new friends, so there’s that too.

What’s the theme of the new season?

The theme for the new season is growth and making adult decisions, but realizing that just because you make the right decision doesn’t mean you’re always going to get the right result.

What kinds of challenges will the other ladies be facing?

A big thing for the season for Shoshanna is navigating the job market. I think she thought she was going to escape the fate of all her, I think she calls them, “failure friends”, but she, in fact, is subject to the exact same stuff, which is, she can’t find a job she’s qualified for that she feels is qualified for her, and so that’s a big part of Shoshanna’s journey. And then Marnie’s has the complexity of this relationship with Desi that’s both professional and adulterous, if we’re going to use that dramatic word. What I really like about this season for Jessa is that she’s sober and displaying a new kind of vulnerability and presence that I just don’t think we’ve seen from this character before, so that was the real fun of writing her.

Where do things stand with Adam and Hannah?

In the first episode, they haven’t broken up because what I wanted to kind of depict is, in your twenties, in all relationships, you have these massive, earth-shattering fights and then you kind of just pick up and keep moving. There’s a certain amount of compartmentalizing we do, and so really what she’s dealing with is what is her relationship with Adam going to be? And what’s it going to mean when they’re separated? They’re kind of in that weird limbo that exists where you don’t quite understand whether you’re meant to work it out or whether you’re meant to call it quits.

Do you think Hannah’s evolving in a good way? Is she getting it together?

I do. I’m proud of her. I mean, obviously “getting it together” would be an overstatement, but I’m impressed with her behavior. I think she manages, especially in the last five episodes of the season, to stop making things quite so much about herself and kind of expand in a lovely way.

Do you think it’s possible to find lasting love in your 20s?

It depends on who you are and what you want. I think we’re trained to think, especially women, we’re either supposed to be joyfully, rabidly single, or completely committed. There’s a lot of grey areas that can be very healthy to inhabit and I think it’s all about what works for you personally. I really like being in a committed relationship, and I’m really lucky that I found someone who really understands me and what I do. But I also have a lot of friends who seem like they have benefited wildly from being single in their 20s and that shouldn’t be denied either. I’m a big proponent of different strokes for different folks, but I definitely don’t think it’s impossible to find someone you’ll spend the rest of your life with, and I also don’t think it’s necessary to find them, either.

How does ending your 20s feel?

I feel pretty psyched. I have to say, everyone who’s in their 30s seems to think that it’s fun. I can’t say that being in your 20s is the sexiest experience on earth so I know I shouldn’t expect to wake up at 30 with a lightning bolt of truth entering me, but I do think that every woman I know has described it as a really fun decade and it’s actually where certain anxieties and self-consciousnesses are shed, and I feel excited about that prospect, even if I’m a little concerned that I’ll be the one person that it bypasses.

Is the critiquing that Hannah goes through in her MFA program at all inspired by your own experience as a writer?

I would say it’s actually more inspired by me in college. I was a creative writing major and I wouldn’t say I was necessarily the most voracious workshop participant. Also, Sarah Heyward, who’s one of the writers on our show, went to Iowa and was able to give us sort of a more realistic sense of what the workshop felt like, although she was probably much better equipped than Hannah. Of course there’s a little like, wink wink. Some of the critiques people have of Hanna are going to be similar to the critiques that people have of the show because those two things are so inextricably linked, but at the end of the day, it really was about the academic environment, and the ways that it can be both helpful and stifling to a creative voice.

Who are some other young women who are impressing you right now?

Oh my god, there’s so many. Ilana and Abbi from "Broad City" were just at our premiere the other night. I love them, I think they’re incredible. I just wrote a massive fan letter to Leslie Jamison, the author of "The Empathy Exams," who is far younger than she should be, considering how much wisdom is passed into that book, how much incredibly impressive wisdom. My friend Ashley Ford is a writer at Buzzfeed who writes beautiful beautiful essays about her personal experiences and just about gender and sexuality and race in America. Katie J.M. Baker is another writer at Buzzfeed who is writing about sexual assault and rape in really profound ways. Desiree Akhavan, who’s an incredible director. I feel so much hope and excitement about the way that young women are sort of taking on the world.

As someone who tweets prolifically, and is called the voice of a generation, how would you describe your generation in 140 characters?

Not as apathetic as our stepdads think we are.

So we noticed we made a little appearance in your book.

I’m a big fan, I love to read it on the subway and it’s been a big part of my growing up in New York.

Aw, that’s great.

It’s a wonderful consistent free news source, and I support it deeply.

Was there much consultation with the illustrator about that one?

She’s one of my best friends from childhood, so I think she kind of just knew. I think she knew that if I were going to be hiding my face on the subway as a pretend spy, that Metro would probably be how I would do it. Plus, there’s the famous dudes who aggressively hand out Metros in the subway, thus ensuring that all New Yorkers read it, which I think is expert marketing, and really awesome, so I think that was part of her impetus too.

And now you’re on the cover.
It’s going to be two fold. It’ll be amazing that it will reach people and maybe remind them to watch the show, and then it will also sit in hoardery newspaper piles in many people’s homes slash paper the floor of the subway, and that’s what I’m really excited about it.

You’ll be peering out at them all weekend.
Yes, exactly. Just like people stomping on my face, people stuffing me in garbage cans. That’s what I want.

 
 
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