Jenni Konner on 'Girls' Think Pieces, Her Twitter "Rage Spirals" and Taking a Bullet for Lena Dunham
"Likeability [onscreen] is silly — we all go through our lives making choices to enjoy people who are not perfect"
Regarding all those think pieces and Twitter rants that are published after what feels like each Sunday-evening episode of Girls — it turns out Jenni Konner reads them and loves them. All.
"I love it — even when it's kind of terrible and angry, I tend to enjoy people really thinking about Girls," the co-showrunner and executive producer said during her New York Television Festival creative keynote conversation on Thursday evening. Though she can never predict what people will react to from the HBO series following 20-somethings in New York, she admitted that after the first season, "we learned a lot because the people who were thoughtful about it and smart came at us in a thoughtful way. … My anger only happens when it's done in an unthoughtful way."
For example, she recalled how Girls creator and star Lena Dunham was asked — yet again — at the most recent TCAs by a man, "Why do we have to look at you naked so much?" Konner's response: "Go f— yourself, dude. … I mean, Google it! There's so many questions to the answers about her nudity," she said, noting that the transcript probably didn't illustrate how angry the male journalist sounded about her nudity. "When Lena gets targeted in that way, I can't look at it."
Also, "when the Emily Gould article happened, I went insane, and I was like, 'This is where I live now,' " in reference to her Twitter feed. Of her rant, she said, "I knew what I was doing. The thing I like about Twitter is that it's over in five seconds."
Why the occasional "rage spiral" online? A strong personality requires an equally strong front. "Our entire writers staff would take a bullet for Lena," said Konner, adding that though she and Judd Apatow make Dunham's voice slightly more universal by adding in harder jokes, "our job is to protect her like she's a rare orchid."
Interviewed by Slate's Willa Paskin at New York City's SVA Theatre while attendees sipped on Stella Artois, Konner recalled spending her 20s temping in NYC during the tech boom while trying to be a writer, previously working under Apatow on his short-lived Undeclared as well as Help Me Help You and In the Motherhood — two shows that were positive experiences far from other showsrunners' horror stories of working on network TV. She also noted her favorite network shows: The Good Wife, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and "anything by Shonda Rhimes."
For Girls, which returns in January 2015, the writers room is a constant recollection of 20-something times, but Dunham has the most clear perspective. "Lena would be here and then go down and write this [NYTVF interview] scene in a funny way with a distance and have processed it, and it takes me 20 years," she said of Dunham's distinct voice. "Every season does start as what happened to Lena last year, and even though her life is so different from Hannah, there are still things about writing."
Paskin asked Konner if she and the staff are concerned about their characters' likeability, which seems to be more of an issue with women onscreen (especially in comparison to the oddly forgivable leads of Breaking Bad and The Sopranos). Konner agreed but celebrates the progress with the revival of The Comeback. "People couldn't stand a woman like that, and now it's coming back — Yea, we [women] are gonna be OK!"
"I like so many people in real life who are probably unlikeable! … Likeability is silly — we all go through our lives making choices to enjoy people who are not perfect," she explained, noting that HBO's slogan should be "people who do bad things: we like them anyway, and they're great shows." She then compared the Girls appeal to Sex and the City and The Sopranos: "Also they're really young. … We're trying to grow [Hannah] and make her a little less narcissistic and less involved, and we'll see if you guys agree that that happened, but they're really young. … See what you think of the fourth season. I think she's grown up."