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January 14, 2013

Lena Dunham of the "Your First Time Should Be With Obama" Political Ad to Feature Republican Character on Show

What could go wrong?

In an interview, she explained the Republican character thus:

Why make him a Republican?

We liked the idea of a Republican entering their universe. And Hannah doesn’t really have a clear sense of why you shouldn’t date a Republican; it’s kind of just like the same reason why you shouldn’t date a Nazi: You just shouldn’t.

Wait, so your position is that you shouldn’t date a Republican?

My personal position is that you should date anyone you want so long as they treat you respectfully and share your value system. So it might be hard for me to date someone who was against gay marriage and abortion rights — I don’t think I would be attracted to them — but I don’t have any personal problem with dating a Republican. I do think that Hannah has this reverse ignorance where she’s like, If they’re Republican, get them out of my airspace, and that was a fun thought to explore.

Breitbart seizes on the Nazi quote while NakedDC argues that she didn't really call Republicans Nazis.

I don't think she really called Republicans Nazis herself-- it's more complicated than that. Actually, based on what she said, she's exploring the idea of "reverse ignorance" about Republicans, with the character just considering them beneath contempt without knowing why, is of course something we ourselves talk about.

Of course, the reason the show can explore this idea, and the reason Dunham is interested in it, is because it's a genuine phenomenon which she either a) partly believes or b) completely believes or c) completely believed when slightly younger and now that she's older only partly believes it.

So yes, certainly, the whole idea will make for a credible storyline because it's a real phenomenon, but it does seem that she's aware it's a form of "ignorance" and it seems pretty likely her character will wind up on the wrong side of the Learning Things storyline.

Of course, while it's nice and all that the storyline will involve reasons why the character (and by extension, us) is not really a Nazi, and why Dunham's character (which is pretty much just Dunham) is wrong about that and a little bit bigoted and ignorant, we're still going to have a show in which the heroine harbors these bigoted and ignorant views and suffers no social consequences for them -- no back-turning, no shaming.

While she'll undoubtedly learn that some of her intolerance is unfounded, I'm going to play Psychic here and just guess that 90% of her intolerance will remain unchallenged and hence, as a matter of unstated editorial, will remain endorsed in the show's view of the world. In fact, I'm going to go head and Predict that her big epiphany on Republicans is that some of them are reasonable and enlightened enough to hold Democratic positions on social issues.


NakedDC subtitles her take on the brouhaha "This is why we lose" -- that is, that conservatives tend to be looking for a reason to be outraged in a way we'd find tedious and silly if exhibited by others.

I do think it's a little bit that -- sometimes the Outrage Meter should be allowed to fall back down to zero, if only to make sure it's still functioning properly and can still fall to zero (or if it's broken and its lowest setting is now "Moderately Outraged").

But I think it's more two different effects:

The first effect is the Internet Dumb Effect, where people basically have only two possible reactions, glowing support or fiery scorn. People used to parody this effect when we saw teenagers arguing about -- so very long ago -- NSYNC, where one group of teenagers thought they were just the cat's pyjamas and another group called them NSTINK. Opinions on the Internet -- because they're often now expressed via Twitter, and 140 characters does not permit much nuance -- tend to be compressed into only two possible responses, "SUXXOR" and "ROXXOR," as the kids used to say (and we used to make fun of the kids for saying that).

SUXXOR and ROXXOR (or absolute hate and absolute love) are pretty rare emotions in someone's actual life but tend to appear on the Internet with far, far more frequency. And that's probably a silly thing.

The other thing that's going on is this -- most people do not really stay on the immediate topic, anytime, ever. If I found some kind of old document that reported Hitler's care for his dog, and the document said he treated the dog extremely well, people from all walks of life would call me a Hitler-loving Nazi-apologist.

People aren't particularly good at separating some minor piece of data from the entire corpus of data they know about a person or subject. Thus, my hypothetical "Hitler treated his dog well" document would immediately become grist for discussion not about the thing itself, but of Hitler and Hitlerism.

You see liberals do this all the time, of course. If a rare film has a conservative message, you'll see liberal critics reviewing not the film (which is what they're supposed to be doing) in favor of reviewing conservatism, which is not a film.

Kathryn Bigelow didn't get a Best Director nomination because many liberals in the Academy didn't review/evaluate her film, but instead chose to review/evaluate enhanced interrogation methods (SPOILER ALERT: they don't like them).

But people generally do this. They don't really parse this particular thing and that specific thing.

In this case, although there's "outrage" over Lena Dunham's words -- and probably somewhat misplaced -- what people are really doing is finding a new context in which to express their general disapproval of Lena Dunham, her politics and her insultingly jejune political ad (insulting even more to those it intended to sway-- a rare feat!) and her general worldview and Hollywood as a general matter.

Still, while that's understandable, and a perfectly normal method of human communication ("Let me take this one bit of minor data as a pretext to discuss the bigger thing I want to talk about"), it's not a very precise way to communicate.

And it can result in some silliness. In the Lena Dunham outrage, people are ignoring some words she said and smuggling in some words she didn't say in order to get to the bigger picture point, that she sucks.

I don't disagree that she sucks, but this quote probably isn't the best way to establish that proposition.

More: This part of the interview illustrates the perils of the ROXXOR/SUXXOR polarity:

Is that a fear thing, do you think?

Well, this is what I think about Taylor Swift all the time, that she’s like, “If you didn’t want me to write a song about you, then you should’ve been nicer.”

You were talking about Taylor Swift last week, and you said that some of your Twitter followers were horrified to learn that you like her.

Like three quarters of the girls that follow me love Taylor Swift, and one quarter are hipster doofuses who think the fact that she is … here’s the thing. Anyone who thinks Taylor Swift isn’t good for the girl cause has to be crazy, because any woman who’s dominating the charts, the creative director of her own empire, and made whatever millions of dollars last year is only lifting us up. Killing it. And she’s super-creative, an amazing role model, beautiful.

My reaction was sort of, “You maybe don’t get this show if you can’t like these songs.”

And also I’m like, if you don’t want to feel, then — I don’t even know what music you should listen to. Just go home and listen to your German techno and leave me alone. But I just love Taylor Swift. And I think it’s fake intellectuals who don’t have an interest in her. I think real intellectuals would be interested in what she’s doing and understand that she represents something really cool and like a great cultural shift.

I'm with ya -- fake intellectuals, yeah. Keep it coming.

Anyone who tries to debate Taylor Swift with me, I’m like, “You are an uninformed consumer, and you will be shut down. You’re not doing this.” I feel the same way about Katy Perry. I’m like, If you wanna have a fucking conversation with me about Katy Perry — Katy Perry is a brilliant, hilarious Democrat genius.

You lost me.



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posted by Ace at 02:37 PM

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