I had low expectations for Lena Dunham’s interview of Hillary Clinton, which Politico teased last week. Neither are exemplary women outside of profession and money, and even that is a matter of perspective. Are they simply two white women with some combination of family money, name, and connections pretending they are feminist icons? Most of the Right and some feminists certainly think so.
So I expected the interview to use “feminist” as a pose. The term is so unpopular, a pose is really its only practical use any more, signaling to a particular set of professional white women that you share their views on the general uselessness of men and the absolute necessity of abortion. But now, having read the interview, I wonder who in the world does Clinton’s or Dunham’s audience research. She needs another day job.
Hillary needs support from millennial women. Her numbers started falling a while ago, and Dunham is the millennial woman with a ton of press. Hardly all of that press is good, however, and the good stuff comes from an echo of the few women who admire Dunham and her hardly-watched-but-often-discussed HBO series, “Girls.” Women who admire “Girls” are already Clinton supporters, so if I were one of Clinton’s consultants, I would not have recommended a Dunham interview.
Still, it is worse than I expected.
Lena Dunham, Right-Wing Double Agent
First, we have the drawing of Clinton anchoring the interview. The interview is only available as an email, so I can’t link, plus you need to see it with the GIF active for full effect. It is Hillary Clinton drawn from below and on the right. She is in a hot pink (Gendered color!) suit with a string of pearls around her neck. Her arms are crossed, which gives her shoulder to the viewer. One of the two GIF elements has her drumming her right index finger impatiently on her left arm. Her chin is up and out, looking down upon the reader. Her lips are pursed in impatient disapproval, and—I am not making this up—the other GIF element is shifty eyes.
Yes, the female candidate for the Democratic nomination, the one with a reputation for coldness and an ongoing scandal about her untrustworthiness, is drawn as smug, impatient, and shifty-eyed. On the drawing alone we need to revisit Mollie Hemingway’s theory that Dunham is a conservative Hollywood double agent.
Second, there’s the fawning. I didn’t expect Dunham to ask tough questions. She is “in the bag” for Clinton, something she says in the introduction. Still, the fawning is impressive. An excerpt about salmon (you know, the fish that swim upstream to spawn and the analogy a famous singer used to describe Bill Clinton when news of his sexual bents started to surface):
So, so many of our Lenny readers are women in their 20s who are in that hazy space between college and the real world. They’re not sure what they want to be, how they’re going to be that. And we wondered how you felt when you graduated from college. For example, I worked at a children’s clothing store, which I was terrible at. I read that you went and worked at a salmon cannery in Alaska, which sounded like a fairly post-collegiate move. I wondered what inspired that and whether you ever had that moment of indecision.
Absolutely. I don’t trust anybody who says that they didn’t have some questions in their 20s. That’s a period of such exploration and often torment in people’s lives. And so, when I graduated from college, I had made the decision I was going to go to law school, but it was a hard decision. I wasn’t quite sure that was exactly the right thing to do, but I thought I would give it a try.
But first, I went off with some friends on this jaunt. We drove all the way up to Alaska, went up the then-unpaved Alcan Highway, and we took odd jobs. I washed dishes. I did end up working in a fishery, where the salmon were brought in, and we had different jobs. My first job was to gut the salmon. That meant that I had a pair of hip boots and a spoon, and there were some gentlemen from Japan who were experts in taking out the caviar. But then they would throw the carcass in the pile, and I had to take each one and clean out all that was left. I was trying to do a good job, so I was scraping and scraping, and they’re screaming at me in Japanese, and somebody else is screaming at me in English. I didn’t last long then.
Then I was kicked upstairs to do packing, so I was packing the salmon. You had to pack head-tail, head-tail, head-tail. And I noticed that some of them didn’t look really healthy to me. So I raised it with the guy who was running the plant. He said, ‘What do you care? They’re gonna be shipped overseas! Nobody in America’s gonna eat them.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s right. We shouldn’t be sending salmon that’s gonna make anybody sick.’ He said, ‘Oh, just don’t worry about it.’ Anyway, I go home that night, I go back the next day, and the whole operation has disappeared.
Uh-huh. They disappeared. I guess they worried that some of us would have said something to someone. So I didn’t get paid for that work. But it was called ‘sliming.’ That’s what I started off doing. And I’ve often said it was a great experience for being in politics. You get the connection.
To be a practitioner of sliming!
Being a slimer, so to speak. Right?
To be slimed, or slime. So, then I did go to law school…
Oh, there is slime, for certain.
Third, we have the fashion discussion. Dunham asks Clinton about a shoulderless dress from her Arkansas days, and Clinton name-drops Donna Karan. They end the interview on this point, actually, with Karan’s idea that one’s shoulders always look good even while the rest of us ages. (Cult of youth that holds women back!) Dunham signs off with, “Madam Secretary, thank you so much. We value your shoulder stuff.”
It is almost a dance at this point. To woo young female voters, Democrats routinely talk sex or fashion, because that’s what they think the young girls want to hear about. Just as routinely, Democrats, specifically feminists, complain that the Right thinks the young are only interested in sex and fashion. We are pandering, but they are being relevant. That’s the narrative. Again, with so many narratives, eventually they fall apart when the actions do not match the message.
Really, that is what’s on display in the Dunham-Clinton interview. Hillary Clinton is trying to act like an everyday gal who happens to be seeking the office of the presidency of the United States while looking smug, dropping words like “inchoate” in casual conversation, and talking dresses with a starlet not popular for her fashion sense. It all grates. And it all emphasizes that she isn’t who she says she is. Ever. I doubt she even knows herself anymore.