Tiny Furniture (2010)
Written & Directed by Lena Dunham
About a year ago, the editor of this site wrote a scathing critique of Lena Dunham entitled The Empress, Quite Literally, Has No Clothes. A few months before reading it, I’d made the transition from engaged college student with supposed direction to a member of Lena’s target demographic—single, 20-something, stagnating in a “post-graduate delirium” as she puts it, working a minimum wage job and living with a single parent. A “lost girl”, as Cody puts it in his piece.
Until very recently, I’d avoided watching Tiny Furniture because I didn’t want to deal with any of the three possible outcomes of me doing so:
- Liking it, and being berated by my peers.
- Disliking it, and being annoyed that I wasted my time.
- Hating it, and agreeing with Cody that it is in fact detrimental to its audience.
I didn’t need any of those stresses in my life, especially when I was so busy having such a “hard time” trying to “figure things out” (as she puts it, over and over). But after a year of being in the position that the film attempts to depict, the subject matter and controversy finally seduced me and, with the aid of a few beers, I jumped into bed with it.
Men have incorrectly been labeled as misogynists for hating this film. I can’t let that fly, not when I hate it too, if not more. However, both ‘love’ and ‘hate’ imply being strongly affected by something, and I was certainly affected by Tiny Furniture. It utilizes themes that resonate to my core—albeit, to ends I wholeheartedly disagree with.
“What a ridiculous question, I love living here.”
This line really resonated with me, not as comedy or drama, but as horror. I know exactly what she means, because when you’re back in the house you grew up in as a kid, with the insight of being an adult, something amazingly useful, yet terrifying happens—you start to notice the traits you got from your parents and your childhood surroundings. You develop an understanding of your identity unlike ever before, and with that comes the potential for transcendence. You reach a turning point where you have two choices: use this knowledge you have gained to actualize yourself and control your destiny, or get sucked back into your past, becoming it, possibly without ever realizing you had a choice not to.
This film pisses me off because it encourages its impressionable audience to take the second route, with lines like:
“Can I sleep in your bed?”
One of the motifs in this film involves Aura being upset that her mom wont always let her sleep in her bed with her. I get what she’s going for here—the child is being weaned from her mom too late. That’s great, but the thing is, that’s her only discernible conflict with her mom in this film. Compared to me, and most people I know, she has a pretty good relationship with her parent, and even with her sister. She sits on her mom’s lap, she massages her mom’s back, she’s comfortable being naked in front of her sister, etc. She spends the whole film saying things are bad, but never actually demonstrates that it is.
This left me confused and unable to relate because, in reality, lost girls are usually lost for a reason. Their parents maybe sucked at raising them somehow, or something bad happened when they were a kid. Not only that, but their home situation is usually screwed up in some way as a result. But there’s no screwed up home situation that Aura comes back to—her house is clean and functional, her mom is a successful artist that she can explain how she feels to and make physical contact with. Everything is fine. And yet she constantly mopes and pouts and screeches like a child.
As I write this review, I’m not at home, because I have to hop from coffee shops to bars at odd hours of the night in order to write, due to perpetually faulty electricity and lack of heating at my house. And I can’t complain about not sleeping in my mom’s bed, because she’s been dead for years. And only recently have I learned how to talk to my dad about my feelings, and physical contact with him is rare. I’m not bitching, or looking for sympathy—I’m just illustrating a legitimately uncomfortable living situation, in contrast to Tiny Furniture’s pathetic excuse for one.
I understand that Lena Dunham was just trying to express her feelings using the tools at her disposal. Aspiring to be a filmmaker myself, I can appreciate that. But her film is a mockery, an insulting misrepresentation of what it’s like to go through a twenty-something transitional period which seeks not to offer advice or substance to actual lost girls out there, but to encourage wallowing—especially wallowing over nothing.
I’m glad I waited until now to watch Tiny Furniture. I’ve gained a lot of wisdom over the last year, and made immense strides in transcending my own situation. If I’d watched it back then, I might have used it to justify my own “resistance” (as Steven Pressfield puts it) and remained stuck, possibly forever.