For an overview of Lena Dunham’s 2012, you could either consult Girls, the 26-year-old’s deeply personal HBO show, or you could read this chart, which chronicles the many Dunham backlashes (and counter-backlashes) that played out in the press last year. Racism, nepotism, pixieism (against that new haircut) — if Dunham did something, someone with an Internet connection had an opinion. Girls’ second season, which begins on Sunday, attempts to answer some of these complaints — specifically the lack of diversity, which the show addresses by casting Donald Glover as Hannah Horvath’s new love interest. Vulture spoke with Dunham about Glover, her critics, and her unrequited love for Drake.
I want to start with the fourth scene of the entire season, which is you, topless …
… on top of Donald Glover.
Which is pretty much a summary of every single thing that people complained about in season one. How conscious was that?
We always wanted to work with Donald — he’s the cutest and the funniest, and why would you not want to kiss him on TV? But I think that when we shot that scene, there was both a feeling that it was the appropriate place for the character to be and a sense that it would, for people who had been paying attention to the backlash, at least evoke some sense that we were in a dialogue with our audience. It definitely wasn’t a “Fuck you, haters!” That’s not really how I tend to roll my game. But at the same time, it was a pretty clear statement that we are comfortable, that there isn’t a political agenda against having black characters in the show.
Why make him a Republican?
We liked the idea of a Republican entering their universe. And Hannah doesn’t really have a clear sense of why you shouldn’t date a Republican; it’s kind of just like the same reason why you shouldn’t date a Nazi: You just shouldn’t.
Wait, so your position is that you shouldn’t date a Republican?
My personal position is that you should date anyone you want so long as they treat you respectfully and share your value system. So it might be hard for me to date someone who was against gay marriage and abortion rights — I don’t think I would be attracted to them — but I don’t have any personal problem with dating a Republican. I do think that Hannah has this reverse ignorance where she’s like, If they’re Republican, get them out of my airspace, and that was a fun thought to explore.
Can we talk about Adam a little? Because here’s my thing: Hannah is living the New York fairy tale, basically — she’s seeing this guy casually, and he totally commits. That never happens. Do you really think that she would be able to break up with him?
I’ve gone back and forth on it. The thing is, I’ve been in so many situations where, like, the power balance just shifts and shifts and shifts — like, I remember when I was 16 and I had this boyfriend from camp and I liked him so much, and he did not like me that much. He was really cool; he was a rapper, but he was not that into me. But then I went back home, he went back home, I started calling him a little less, and he turned into this mixtape-sending, flower-wielding person. I went to Boston to visit my friend and saw him, and we all went to a thrift store together, and it was like his passion for me was so unbridled he shoved me into a coat rack and tried to kiss me. And I was like, “Get off of me!” I just had this feeling like, “Where were you before?” I felt revulsion, because when you’re not mature enough to handle being responsible for somebody else’s feelings, their need is disgusting. When you really love someone, and you’re adult enough to understand that life is a back-and-forth of sometimes you need and sometimes they need, then you find somebody else’s vulnerability beautiful, and you want to nurture it, and you want to keep it safe. But I feel like, until pretty recently in my life, somebody expressing any kind of desperation or any kind of vulnerability — it was like your parents showing you they have real feelings, it was like running into your teacher on the subway. It was awful, and so I think that for Hannah this switch with Adam, even though it’s everything she had dreamed of, was overwhelming, and suddenly he’s a real person and she’s scared, and there’s this feeling of somebody else is wanting her time and her energy, and she’s not about that.
She’s still all about Hannah.
Yeah, and so I think in that sense, it’s realistic. But another thing about Adam is he’s just a complete enigma and weirdo; it’s not as if he’s a stand-in for every Brooklyn dude. He doesn’t have the prototypical fuck-buddy response to anything because that’s not who he is.
Speaking of, is the Adam breakup album based on reality at all?
Great question. I don’t want to get sued, but, uh.
So the answer is yes.
Let’s leave it at “I don’t want to get sued.” I’ve basically kept anything any male has ever given me. Just because someday I want to have evidence to show my children that I was a real Jezebel. Or no, more like a real Delilah. But I’m not; there are, like, three incidences of it. I still have the mixtape my camp boyfriend gave me!
The rapper? Was it his own stuff?
He only had one of his own tracks; the rest of it was, like, De La Soul. He was a big freestyler, and he performed in a mechanic suit with another guy who also wore a mechanic suit. He was actually awesome.
And you haven’t heard from him? He’s not e-mailing you suddenly like, “Yo, Lena, help me get my rap career off the ground.”
I’ve had less of that than you’d think. I feel like you’d think that all the guys you’d made out with three times would be like, “Girl, I miss you, where you at?” But instead they’re like, “Stay away from me, witch!” I don’t think anyone wants in!
Is that a fear thing, do you think?
Well, this is what I think about Taylor Swift all the time, that she’s like, “If you didn’t want me to write a song about you, then you should’ve been nicer.”
You were talking about Taylor Swift last week, and you said that some of your Twitter followers were horrified to learn that you like her.
Like three quarters of the girls that follow me love Taylor Swift, and one quarter are hipster doofuses who think the fact that she is … here’s the thing. Anyone who thinks Taylor Swift isn’t good for the girl cause has to be crazy, because any woman who’s dominating the charts, the creative director of her own empire, and made whatever millions of dollars last year is only lifting us up. Killing it. And she’s super-creative, an amazing role model, beautiful.
My reaction was sort of, “You maybe don’t get this show if you can’t like these songs.”
And also I’m like, if you don’t want to feel, then — I don’t even know what music you should listen to. Just go home and listen to your German techno and leave me alone. But I just love Taylor Swift. And I think it’s fake intellectuals who don’t have an interest in her. I think real intellectuals would be interested in what she’s doing and understand that she represents something really cool and like a great cultural shift. Anyone who tries to debate Taylor Swift with me, I’m like, “You are an uninformed consumer, and you will be shut down. You’re not doing this.” I feel the same way about Katy Perry. I’m like, If you wanna have a fucking conversation with me about Katy Perry — Katy Perry is a brilliant, hilarious Democrat genius.
One more pop-star question: What was that Drake quote in Vanity Fair about? (“Drake is not interested in you romantically or even sexually.”) Is there a story?
There’s no Drake story except I think that the first time I was in Interview magazine, they asked, “Who do you want to interview?” And I was like, “Drake.” And they said, “Uh, we cannot get anyone to call us back. Drake doesn’t care.” And I didn’t expect Drake to care, although I know Drake has a crush on Kat Dennings; that’s his type. And I love Kat, and I’m happy for her, but I also think I just loved — I felt this real kinship when I listened to his last album that he was sort of … I think kinship is the wrong word, but I don’t think I understood how much of a rap trope talking about [how] the bitches and the weed and the money was not satisfying you was. I thought he was a fucking rap revolutionary.
I actually think that if someone would get him a Girls screener, he’d do it.
I hope that he would connect to it. Once I spent, like, honestly a week of trying to figure out the chronology of all of Drake’s ex-girlfriends online. It was the saddest week of my life — I was on websites that I’d never even heard of before, like videobitches.org. I had a real moment with him, and it wasn’t reciprocated. But if I run into him now, I’m gonna be nice.