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COMMENTARY

Lena Dunham casts a virginal vote for President Obama

October 26, 2012|By James Rainey
  • In an Internet ad titled "Your First Time," actress Lena Dunham speaks to the camera and says: "The first time shouldn't be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy. Someone who really cares about and understands women."
In an Internet ad titled "Your First Time," actress Lena Dunham… (Amy Sussman / Getty Images…)

You’ve heard of “tainting” the vote and “corrupting” the vote. But “sexualizing the voting process”?

That’s what the spokeswoman for a conservative media watchdog accused President Obama of doing with a video ad that has a young Hollywood star talking about voting for the incumbent as if it were her first time having sex.

In the Internet ad, titled “Your First Time,” Lena Dunham speaks to the camera and says: "The first time shouldn't be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy. Someone who really cares about and understands women."

The creator and star of the HBO series “Girls” goes on to describe reasons that Obama is a special advocate for women.

The response could have been predicted. Liberals and Obama supporters called the ad charming and provocative. Opponents described it as “inappropriate” and stereotyping of young women.

The Media Research Center's Lauren Thompson said, "This ad is inappropriate because it is sexualizing the voting process. This isn't an ad the average family would want their daughters to see.”

The flirty ad, with clever wordplay about Obama’s policies, is not something a campaign would probably put in front of a broad television audience. Team Obama limited the spot’s exposure by posting it online, where it mainly will be viewed by young voters who ship it to each other via the Internet.

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It’s not raunchy or explicit, so critics have to make a real effort to find reasons to complain. But we're in the final days of a close election. Inflated outrage is the currency of the realm. Think of how some Obama supporters responded to one of Mitt Romney’s sons saying he wanted to "take a swing” at the president. They pretended like it was some mortal threat instead of silly bravado.

Dunham’s got a smart and sophisticated following, which includes many young women. They’re not going to be surprised or damaged by anything conveyed in these 60 seconds.

After her intro, Dunham, 26, quickly makes it clear it’s the president’s politics she is lusting after, nothing more.

She declares that a woman’s “first time” should be with "a guy who cares whether you get health insurance and specifically whether you get birth control."

And then: "You want to do it with a guy who brought the troops out of Iraq," and, "You don't want a guy who says, 'Oh hey, I'm at the library studying,' when really he's out not signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act." The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed by Obama, attempts to enforce fair pay for women.

Dunham tells the audience, which on YouTube had grown to about 300,000 a day after the ad’s Thursday release, that they don’t want to suffer the social embarrassment of telling friends they failed to vote.

"My first time voting was amazing,” the entertainer says. “It was this line in the sand. Before I was a girl, now I was a woman. I went to the polling station, I pulled back the curtain, I voted for Barack Obama."

After the initial buzz around the piece, Dunham sent a response via Twitter. “The video may be light,” she wrote, “but the message is serious: vote for women's rights.”

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james.rainey@latimes.com

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MORE COMMENTARY FROM JAMES RAINEY:

With ad on foreign wars, Obama back where he started

Ohio has early voting, but other ballot access issues remain

For the real scoop on Campaign 2012, check out this blogger, age 11

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