“I don’t know if I’m going to want to act anymore. I’m always relieved on the days I don’t have to….”
— Lena Dunham, TV actress known primarily for constantly appearing naked for no reason
“I don’t know if I’m going to want to act anymore. I’m always relieved on the days I don’t have to. I’d rather give parts to other women than be the woman having the parts,” the Golden Globe-winning 27-year-old said in the April issue of Glamour, which hits newsstands March 18….
After her Hosting stint on “Saturday Night Live, A fan tweeted,
“you don’t always have to get naked!”
Dunham quipped back,
“Please tell that to my uncle, mister. He’s been making me!”
She quickly removed the barb and followed up with a series of apologies…
Amidst this campaign’s bickering about which candidate is women’s friend or foe, the Obama camp targets young women in an eye-catching web ad intended as feminist but, in fact, profoundly insulting. Its main effect is to show that, while the Republicans have serious “woman problems” of their own making, the Democrats often peddle a pseudo-feminist paternalism that reeks of condescension.
The one-minute Obama for America spot features Lena Dunham, 26-year-old creator and star of the HBO show Girls, addressing a college-age female audience. “Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy,” Dunham says. “Someone who really cares about and understands women. It should be with a guy who cares whether you get health insurance, and specifically whether you get birth control.” At the end of the video, Dunham reminisces in hushed giddy tones, “My first-time voting was amazing… Before, I was a girl; now, I was a woman.” Then, with a coy suggestive grin, she discloses that she voted for (who else?) Barack Obama.
How to count the ways in which this is wrong? To start with, there’s the innuendo-laced voting-as-sex (or sex-as-voting) metaphor, in which a woman’s exercise of her basic right of citizenship is analogized both to choosing her first lover and to giving her virginity to the man she chooses as leader. It plays like a parody of the sexist clichés that reduce women’s lives to their sexual functions—and women’s politics to eroticized worship for the ultimate alpha male.
This particular alpha male is more sensitive than dominant, but make no mistake: it is still his role to take care of the little woman. It’s almost as if the ad makers wanted to validate conservative claims that the Democrats’ pitch to women is the state as a substitute husband — Uncle Sam taking over the traditional male role of provider and protector.
Many critics saw this theme in the Obama campaign’s famous interactive online ad, “The Life of Julia,” which tracked the Obama-favored government programs that would help a fictional woman through her life, from school to work to motherhood (with no husband in sight) to retirement. But in the “Julia” ad, the “Hubby Sam” theme was only inferred; it could be seen as a more general, albeit female-geared, statement about the benefits of government. In the “First Time” ad, the “let the government be your man” subtext is not even “sub.”
Young female voters, moreover, are portrayed in nakedly stereotypical terms: besides a mention of bringing soldiers home from Iraq and an obscure pay equity reference, they seem to care only about birth control and perfect weddings. Yes, weddings: when Dunham discusses Romney’s opposition to same-sex marriage, she says that he thinks “gay people should never have the kind of beautiful, complicated weddings that we see on Bravo and TLC all the time.”
There’s another cringeworthy twist: The video echoes a Russian campaign ad from earlier this year in which a young cutie consulting a fortuneteller about her “first time” discovered that her “intended” was Vladimir Putin. “I see that it will be for love, and with no cheating,” the psychic told her; “he’ll protect you like a stone wall.” The tagline read, “Putin: The first time, only for (heart).” After watching that, I told a Russian-speaking friend that, however bad American politicking might get, at least we wouldn’t see anything so crass or sexist here. Oops…
- Sexist, degrading ad compares voting for Obama with losing your virginity (redalertpolitics.com)
- VIDEO: Comedian Steven Crowder parodies Lena Dunham’s “First Time” Obama commercial (redalertpolitics.com)
- Obama’s Disgusting Plea for Teenage Votes Moves His Campaign from Kiddy TV to Depravity (politicalcenter.newsvine.com)
- Lena Dunham Laughs Off Obama “First Time” Ad Backlash (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- President in Shining Armor (nytimes.com)