Friday, March 27, 2015

Lena Dunham Compares Her Jewish Boyfriend to Her Dog: Anti-Semitic? Funny?

Before you complain,
please realize that this is a relatively discrete photo,
compared to what else is out there. 
In the March 30, 2015 issue of The New Yorker, actress and writer Lena Dunham compares her Jewish boyfriend to a dog in a meant-to-be humorous quiz.

Lena Dunham is famous for appearing naked on TV, and for doing so in spite of weighing more than most TV stars do.

Her New Yorker quiz is a list of 35 items. Each item is meant to be funny because it could be about a dog or a Jew. Samples:

"He comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don't acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates.

He expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life, and anything less than that makes him whiny and distant.

He doesn't tip.

He's really more of an ass man.

He has a sensitive stomach and has to take two Dramamine before entering any moving vehicle.

Every week it's some new health issue: urine crystals, sprained foot, beef allergy.

He has hair all over his body, like most males who share his background.

He once vomited on his seatmate in United business class, then ran up and down the aisle in a panic."

What is immediately apparent is that the whole thing, like Lena Dunham herself, is embarrassingly, painfully, weird, narcissistic, and unfunny. You keep waiting for it to be over but keep reading out of perverse fascination.

But is it anti-Semitic?

I'm not sure. Our culture gives people the right to mock and stereotype their own. Chris Rock on African Americans, Joan Rivers on women, David Chase on Italians.

Various blogs say yes it is anti-Semitic, including Kveller linked here.

Read Lena Dunham compare her Jewish boyfriend to a dog in The New Yorker here.


  1. The New Yorker released this comment:

    "The Jewish-comic tradition is rich with the mockery of, and playing with, stereotypes. Anyone who has ever heard Lenny Bruce or Larry David or Sarah Silverman or who has read 'Portnoy's Complaint' knows that. Lena Dunham, who is Jewish and hugely talented, is a comic voice working in that vein. Richard Pryor and Chris Rock do the same about black stereotypes; Amy Schumer does it with women and gender. I don't mind if one reader or another didn't find the piece funny. People can differ on that. But considering all the real hatred and tragedy in the world, the people getting exercised about the so-called anti-Semitism of this comic piece, like those who railed at Philip Roth a generation or two ago, are, with respect, howling in the wrong direction."

  2. The ADL commented:


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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