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Today In the New Gilded Age

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Let me preface this my saying that the tendency for reviews of Lena Dunham’s work to take the form of reviews of Lena Dunham the person is both irritating and sexist. Nonetheless, when Lena Dunham the person does something bad she should be called out for it, and this is really bad:

Last month, the writer, actor and producer Lena Dunham started an ambitious project. Nearly 600 people responded to an open call for video auditions on her website, including a sand artist, a ukulele player, a cappella singers, gymnasts, performance artists and stand-up comics, even some exceptionally charismatic babies.

The seven who made the final cut won’t be making cameos in “Girls,” Ms. Dunham’s HBO show about Brooklyn 20-somethings. Instead, they’ll be the warm-up acts — performing free of charge — on an elaborately produced, 11-city tour to promote Ms. Dunham’s new book, “Not That Kind of Girl.”

As Nolan says, what’s bad about this is not only did Dunham get a nearly $4 million advance for the book — an advance I have a very hard time believing is justified by the book’s commercial prospects — she’s charging 38 bucks a throw for admission to the talks. If you’re doing that, you really have no possible excuse for not paying the people you hire. Pay them, or do the tour solo. This kind of exploitation is just wrong, and please don’t tell me that you’re paying them in exposure.

…as commenters note, both John Scalzi and Steve Albini are excellent on the general principles here.

…I also agree with Abagail Nussbaum in comments that the publisher deserves criticism for this as well.

…UPDATE: a happy ending.

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