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Subtle Societal Evolution Via Lena Dunham’s Magazine Covers

March 11, 2014

This morning we published a piece about Lena Dunham’s body. It’s one response to her consistent nudity, and it’s a really valid one — as the title suggests, it’s an exploration of why the author has an instinctual discomfort with Lena’s naked form. The answer is that it’s a societal reaction, caused by years and years (lifetimes, really) of only seeing one kind of naked female body, and internalizing that kind of body as “right.”

The result of these years of sameness is not only massively widespread female body issues, it’s also backlash against Lena herself, because she represents something that many women (myself included, let’s be real) fear: imperfection.

This is a natural period of adjustment as we all accustom ourselves to seeing normal amounts of flesh in our popular culture (I’d liken this to all of us squinting as we adjust to the sun. I think it’s a pretty accurate analogy). The good news, though, is that we ARE adjusting. In the past two years, Lena has become a staple on the covers of our magazines. As we all get used to seeing her face and body in the supermarket aisles and on newsstands, we begin to walk into the light.

Here are all of Lena’s magazine covers so far.

[Lead image via Vogue]

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This issue of New York Magazine came out during the much-talked-about first season of Girls in April of 2012.

Lena looks adorable here, but her shape is quite hidden — although we’d all jumped into the nudity in Girls head first, the magazines didn’t move so fast.

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In September of 2013, Lena got a real glamour shot on the cover of Marie Claire.

It’s also just a top-half photo, though (which isn’t to say she doesn’t look stunning).

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Lena appeared with Judd Apatow, executive producer of Girls, on the February 2013 cover of Fast Company. You can find the accompanying interview on their website.

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I will not lie and try to act like I didn’t steal this magazine from the gym and then rip off the cover and thumbtack it to my bedroom wall for inspiration. (For reference, yes, I was 27.)

This is, again, just her top half (although again, it’s a pretty smoking top half).

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Still in February 2013, Rolling Stone joined the party. This picture is a little more risque, featuring Lena’s bra as well as her face.

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Still February 2013, and Miranda July interviewed Lena for this issue of Interview magazine.

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Finally we’ve come to it: Lena’s fabled Vogue cover, which came out just this past February, 2014. There was of course much talk about her pictures being photoshopped (Jezebel was way on the case), but the truth is that she looked gorgeous in all the photos, and she looked like herself.

My favorite is definitely the bathtub shot above. Jezebel has told us all about exactly which parts of Lena’s image were messed with in this picture, but here’s the thing: she looked great in the original, and she looks great (and not much different) in this.

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Get ready for April, because Lena will be on the cover of Glamour next month. This is the first cover to feature Lena in a dress that really hugs her body as opposed to hiding it.

What with her upcoming book release (“Not That Kind Of Girl” will be out on October 7th, 2014), and a fourth season of Girls definitely happening, it doesn’t seem like Lena’s magazine-cover domination is anywhere near to slowing down. This is a great thing. As we all get used to looking at something different, the norms will widen, thus allowing more people in. And that’s great news.

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