Lena Dunham Hails ‘Political Strength’ of Liberal Women, Fears Trump ‘Xenophobia’

In a friendly chat with actress and left-wing activist Lena Dunham on Friday’s NBC Today, substitute co-host Maria Shriver lobbed one softball after another while promoting the final season of HBO’s Girls. Dunham, in turn, praised liberal young women for practicing “identity politics” and denounced the “xenophobia” of the Trump administration.

Shriver began the exchange by fawning over Dunham’s explicit show coming to an end: “So final season going in, you’ve said a lot over the years. What do you want to say this year that you haven't been able to say?...what do you want it to have stood for, what do you want the headline of it to be?”

The star initially provided non-political answers, but then Shriver wondered: “What do you think girls in their 20s are like today, compared to what you were?” Dunham proclaimed:

What I'm amazed by is that – is the deeply political and ideological strength that so many women in their 20s are showing right now....I only came into my own as someone who was interested in politics, to be totally frank, when I got famous and started getting insane tweets from the Alt-Right everyday and went, “Well, I guess there's some people in America who disagree with me.” I had zero political consciousness, even going to a liberal arts school like Oberlin. And I look around and I see these girls in their 20s whose main concern is equality, is justice, is identity politics. And they're not settling for a world in which anybody gets less, and they really inspire me.

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Shriver herself was amazed that Dunham cared “about so many things in life,” like “feminism” and “politics,” asking: “What's foremost in your mind now, here, at this time in your life?” Dunham seized the opportunity to bash President Trump: “I think right now, considering the current administration, I mean, obviously, like everyone, I have so many concerns about everything ranging from, you know, xenophobia and, you know, the new way that America is treating immigrants – who have always been an essential part of our history – all the way to global warming.”

The actress then declared: “But for me, where my heart lies, will always be in women's issues and making sure that women have access to safe and affordable reproductive care. And making sure that no woman, based on her economic status, gender assigned at birth, religion, or any aspect of who she is on soul level is denied the basic rights that we all deserve.”    

Shriver followed up: “You said you wanted to end this [Girls] and take time....What does taking time mean to someone your age? Stepping back, what’s that look like?” Dunham announced: “I think my goal is to really be a support to other women in getting their voices out....I don’t have to be the voice of a generation, I just have to be making space for the voices that actually make up our generation.”

Wrapping up the segment, Shriver offered viewers a testimonial: “I had a chance to look at three seasons – three shows for this new season – and it looks terrific.” Dunham shocked her by responding: “You saw a penis, right?” A flustered Shriver replied: “Yeah, well I saw more than that. I saw – yeah, you caught me there for a second, I'm not sure if you're allowed to say that on television, but you did.”

Here is a full transcript of the February 10 interview:

8:33 AM ET

MARIA SHRIVER: Well, for five seasons, fans of HBO’s Girls have watched a group of best friends love, hate, succeed, and fail their way through their 20s. Now as the show embarks on its sixth and final season, the girls are nearing 30, and fingers crossed, are finally getting some things right.

[CLIP OF GIRLS]  
    
SHRIVER: Lena Dunham is Girls’ creator, writer, director, star. She's the everything. Lena, good morning and welcome.

LENA DUNHAM: Good morning, Maria, thank you for having me.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Goodbye “Girls”; Lena Dunham on Final Season of Hit Show]

SHRIVER: Thank you, so nice to see you. So final season going in, you’ve said a lot over the years. What do you want to say this year that you haven't been able to say?

DUNHAM: I think that this year for us was really about trying to sort of counteract the television notion that everybody has to have a happy ending. It doesn’t mean they have to have a tragic ending, this isn't Breaking Bad, but we did really want to show just how messy your 20s are and that growing up doesn't always mean growing into yourself. It just means shift and change and challenge. And so, I think if you're a fan of the show, you’ll find the ending anti-climatic in just the right way. And if you're not a fan of the slow, you'll be just as annoyed as you've ever been.

SHRIVER: What do you want – kind of five years looking back at it – what do you want it to have stood for, what do you want the headline of it to be?

DUNHAM: You know, what I've been saying a lot to people is that I hope the show really made room for prickly characters on television. The same way that I felt like characters like Mary Tyler Moore allowed me to imagine a different kind of future for myself, I hope that the girls of Girls make women feel like perfection isn’t the goal and that we're allowed to just – we’re allowed to contain as many multitudes as our male counterparts. But the other thing that I think about a lot is that I really want it to have told an accurate story about female friendship. Because my female friendships have been the most beautiful, complicated, painful part of my life so far, and this is really – this is really a love story to those.

SHRIVER: So you wrote this, the proposal for it, when you were 23, right? And I find, as the mother of two girls who are separated by 19 months, it’s almost like they're separated by a generation. And so, things move very quickly. What do you think girls in their 20s are like today, compared to what you were?

DUNHAM: Girls in their 20s are like today? What I'm amazed by is that – is the deeply political and ideological strength that so many women in their 20s are showing right now.

SHRIVER: Different from when you were in your 20s?

DUNHAM: A hundred percent. I only came into my own as someone who was interested in politics, to be totally frank, when I got famous and started getting insane tweets from the Alt-Right everyday and went, “Well, I guess there's some people in America who disagree with me.” I had zero political consciousness, even going to a liberal arts school like Oberlin. And I look around and I see these girls in their 20s whose main concern is equality, is justice, is identity politics. And they're not settling for a world in which anybody gets less, and they really inspire me.

SHRIVER: In that first scene there we were just looking at, I was struck by – the character says right before that surfing thing, “I'm a person who doesn't give a blankity blank about anything in life.” And you give a blankity blank about so many things in life.

DUNHAM: It’s true.

SHRIVER: Right? Lenny Letter, feminism, body image. You talk about anxiety, talk about politics. What's foremost in your mind now, here, at this time in your life?

DUNHAM: I think right now, considering the current administration, I mean, obviously, like everyone, I have so many concerns about everything ranging from, you know, xenophobia and, you know, the new way that America is treating immigrants – who have always been an essential part of our history – all the way to global warming. But for me, where my heart lies, will always be in women's issues and making sure that women have access to safe and affordable reproductive care. And making sure that no woman, based on her economic status, gender assigned at birth, religion, or any aspect of who she is on soul level is denied the basic rights that we all deserve.

SHRIVER: You said you wanted to end this and take time. You have the Lenny Letter where you talk a lot about issues like that. You talk about feminism and you have interviews in there. What does taking time mean to someone your age? Stepping back, what’s that look like?

DUNHAM: I think my goal is to really be a support to other women in getting their voices out, the way that HBO and my collaborators have been a support to me. So the systems that have lifted me up and allow me to tell my story, I just want to be that for some other women. I don’t have to be the voice of a generation, I just have to be making space for the voices that actually make up our generation.

SHRIVER: Lena Dunham, thank you so much for stopping by.

DUNHAM: Thank you.

SHRIVER: I had a chance to look at three seasons – three shows for this new season – and it looks terrific.

DUNHAM: You saw a penis, right?

SHRIVER: Yeah, well I saw more than that. I saw – yeah, you caught me there for a second, I'm not sure if you're allowed to say that on television, but you did.

DUNHAM: I won’t be coming back.

SHRIVER: You did, that’s right. We saw – you can actually see a lot of things when you watch.

DUNHAM: Going out with a bang.

SHRIVER: You’re going out with a bang. Okay, we’re just going out.

MATT LAUER: What?

SHRIVER: Matt, help! She just threw me off.

DUNHAM: I'm so sorry. I’m so sorry.

SHRIVER: No, that's okay, that’s okay. See that’s the difference between generations. I wasn't brought up talking like that.

DUNHAM: I'm so sorry. You said penis! Thank you so much.

SHRIVER: Wait a minute. You're still on the air, sit down.

DUNHAM: I am?

SHRIVER: Yes, you are. You’re still on the air. Matt, are you supposed to be saying something?

LAUER: No, we aren't still on the air, but you are. No, I'm kidding.

DUNHAM: I'm thrilled by what's just happened here.

LAUER: But first, this is Maria Shriver and Lena Dunham on Today.

SHRIVER: We’re on Today, yes, thank you.

DUNHAM: You’re both so attractive.

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