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‘Girls’ creator Lena Dunham talks sex, self-expression, and growing up at the MFA

Lena Dunham (above and at left with her mother, Laurie Simmons) attended a screening of her movie “Tiny Furniture” at the MFA.
Lena Dunham (above and at left with her mother, Laurie Simmons) attended a screening of her movie “Tiny Furniture” at the MFA.Credit: PHOTOS BY BILL BRETT FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

“Girls” star Lena Dunham was her usual quirky, articulate self Wednesday at the MFA, when the Emmy winner and her mother, artist Laurie Simmons, chatted with the audience after a screening of Dunham’s film, “Tiny Furniture.” Among the topics? Sex, self-expression, and figuring out who you are — issues at the heart of Dunham’s HBO hit comedy, which follows a quartet of young, underemployed women navigating messy post-collegiate lives in New York.

Twentysomethings in knit beanies and motorcycle jackets packed the Remis Auditorium, and a few even came bearing gifts for the 26-year-old Dunham, who had some words of wisdom for her fans. “I guarantee to all the 23-year-olds that by the time you’re 26, you will be horrified by your behavior,” she quipped, perhaps not entirely in jest.

It seems Dunham has learned quite a bit in the transition from filmmaker to show creator to big-time boss. “It’s hard to believe that I’m in a position to be an employer,” she said, laughing. But now that she’s employing recent college grads, she admits that she occasionally finds herself thinking “doesn’t anyone understand that it takes hard work” to make great TV? (Dunham quickly noted that she was a “terrible employee” in her younger years.)

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One of the keys to her success? Dunham’s parents (her father is painter Carroll Dunham ) always encouraged their children to be creative. With one exception. “You didn’t like it when my sister made a clay penis in ceramics class,” Dunham said, looking at her mom. “No, I didn’t like that,” Simmons agreed.

Asked what she makes of the “post-feminist” perspective of some of her peers, Dunham didn’t mince words. “I don’t believe in the concept of ‘post-feminism,’” she said to applause and a few cheers from the audience. “Like, I don’t believe the job is done.” Not that her view plays a role when she’s writing “Girls,” which HBO just renewed for a third season.

“I’m not approaching [the show] with any sort of feminist agenda,” she said. “I’m just talking about my experience and hoping it resonates.” To which Simmons, clearly the proud mom, said: “When I hear you talking like that, I think ‘That’s my girl.’ ”

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