About a year ago I work/watched Lena Dunham’s debut film “Tiny Furniture” when someone else streamed it from my TV. Wasn’t too impressed, so I was pretty ambivalent about her HBO series “Girls.” Then came her Obama campaign ad, which meant that every conservative on Twitter instantly became an expert on Dunham’s looks, her moral character, the ins and outs of her sex life, etc.
The contrarian in me hates that—the herd bullying, the kneejerk hate of someone you’ve never met or studied in any meaningful way just so you can fit in with people you like. So I figured I’d eventually watch the show, just to see whether she was actually a hateful partisan like a young, hipster Sam Mendes, depicting a nihilistic, depraved reality to stick it to all the people she hates.
And, quite predictably, she isn’t, and the show is pretty great. If you’ve heard all sorts of descriptions of the terrible things its characters do, its justification is simple; I’ve even made it mathematical for the most logical among us:
Depiction ≠ Endorsement.
Say it with me, everyone: Depiction ≠ Endorsement.
Tone and context are everything. “Girls” could not be more devastatingly critical of its characters’ vices, and it still makes them sympathetic and relatable. It’s “Napoleon Dynamite” set in New York City rather than Preston, Idaho. And if you’re trashing it without ever having seen it, throwing out nasty personal insults for its creator, who you know nothing about, you’re proving negative stereotypes about conservatives—also known as “giving the left ammunition,” or “losing.”