Lena Dunham & Mindy Kaling Remind Audiences That They're Not Their TV Characters

No one thinks that Jerry Seinfeld is exactly like the fictional version of himself he played on Seinfeld, nor do we think that Larry David behaves in real life exactly the way he did on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Why is it then, that so many people have trouble separating female creators from the characters they play in their shows? It's an issue that plagues Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling wherever they go, and they addressed it during the "Power of Story: Serious Ladies" panel at Sundance this past weekend.

"More than any other male characters, people really do think that what my character is saying is what I believe," Kaling said after moderator Emily Nussbaum mentioned a storyline that had Mindy Lahiri trying to buy a gun, which some viewers took as concrete evidence that Kaling was a pro-gun Republican. Not so, Kaling told the panel. If her character had gotten that gun, "She would have murdered half of her staff!"

Kaling joked about Dunham's "voice of a generation" line from the Girls pilot, which she said will follow her to the grave. "[Everyone went], ‘Lena Dunham thinks she’s the voice of a generation?’ Obviously, her character, she falls to the floor, high on drugs," Kaling pointed out to note the difference between Dunham's own beliefs and those of her character, Hannah. "It is a confusing thing when people equate the words that come out of your character’s mouth with some real-life philosophy that you absolutely don’t possess," Dunham agreed. 

Dunham also noted that most viewers have no trouble differentiating male creators and actors from their characters. "[At] the end of the day, I don’t think that Larry David or Woody Allen — or anyone else playing some version of themselves — are walking around with a million people who think they know and understand you on a deep and abiding level. Woody Allen is proof that people don’t think that everything he says in his films is stuff that he does. Because all he was doing was making out with 17-year-old girls for years, and we didn’t say a word about it. And then he did it. A bunch. No one went, ‘Oh, Woody Allen is making out with a 17-year-old in Manhattan; I guess he’s a real perv.’ And then lo and behold…"

The full panel, which also included Kristen Wiig and Jenji Kohan, is below and it's worth a watch. 


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