Notes on Tiny Furniture:
Realness, part 1: Dunham uses her own family, her own high school friend, her own apartment, her own video art in the movie. But it’s not an amateurish movie. There are a lot of just perfectly framed shots. In the movie, her sister calls her “desperate”, calls her work desperate for attention, mostly because she’s not wearing pants. I read that her dad wouldn’t participate in the movie, because of privacy concerns.
Realness, part 2: What really won me over was Dunham’s enactment of failed femininity. Representations of girls who don’t just “naturally” exude cuteness and sweetness and girlness are really important to me, and I love how Dunham does this. Her hair’s unbrushed, she never wears pants, she has zits. When she wears lipstick or whatever it doesn’t look perfect or natural or right still. Don’t get me wrong, I think Dunham’s super-cute IRL, but she really, in the movie, works at looking ordinary. She kind of exposes herself to you, like she did in her video art, which draws a lot of comments on Youtube about how “fat” she is. I found it surprisingly compelling to be confronted constantly by a body that looks…a lot like mine. It seems counterintuitive to want to fix the problems of the male gaze by putting more partially dressed women on film, but it was really powerful for me.
Sex in a Pipe: I can’t even find anything to say about the sex-in-a-pipe scene, but I think it’s probably really important to the overall context of the movie and I just want to remind myself when I think of the movie not to forget about it.
Vulnerability is a privilege: I know one of the critiques of Dunham is that she’s uber-privileged. Her family’s well-off, her parents are successful in the art world, it kind of seems like she should have nothing to feel bad about, or no “real” problems or whatever. But I think that all those layers of privilege probably are what allows her to be this vulnerable, in her work. Just to feel safe exposing that much.
Being Successful: I like the part where Aura’s friend Charlotte tells her that their people are assholes, their parents are assholes. Aura insists that her mom isn’t an asshole, and Charlotte replies that she must be an asshole to be as successful as she is. I feel like the movie kind of posits the successful = asshole equation. Certainly true of “he’s a big deal on youtube” guy. While this isn’t true at all in my experience, I do feel like it’s probably something Aura believes. In the last scene, when Aura’s in bed with her mom, she tells her that she doesn’t want to work a crappy job, she just wants to be successful. Maybe this is how she’s desperate.