I’ll be honest with you. Watching the new Obama Ad, “The First Time,” brought out feelings of disgust, anger, and utter annoyance. My initial response to the one-minute ad was a deep breath and a huge “UGH!”
The ad features Lena Durham, the 26-year-old actor, writer, and creator of the HBO’s sexually explicit series “Girls.” “Girls” debuted on April 15, 2012, telling the story of four white twenty-something friends who are living in NY, exploring sex and love, and pursuing their career ambitions. The show is inspired by and compared to HBO’s former hit drama “Sex in the city.”
“Girls” is a winner with feminist bloggers who praise it for being “honest.” While some critics dislike the show’s awkward sex scenes, all-white leading ladies, and horrible plots, others see the TV series as an accurate portrayal of American, middle-class, intellectual feminist hipsters.
In the second episode, “Vagina Panic,” one of the girls, Jessa, realizes she’s pregnant and decides to schedule an abortion. Her friends gather at the health clinic to give her moral support, while Jessa skips her appointment and heads to a bar to get drunk off white Russians and hook up with a stranger. Later in the episode she gets her period, and the conflict is over. Mother Jones writer Maya Dusenbery praised this episode for tackling abortion early on and making it more of a “casual” decision than a very difficult choice. She wrote:
The “casual” abortion? With this story line, sprung in just the second episode, the show breaks a cardinal rule of Hollywood: That abortion can rarely even be mentioned, let alone treated as anything less than the most difficult decision of a woman’s life. In reporting to her semi-boyfriend that she’s accompanying her friend to her abortion appointment, Dunham’s character Hannah says, “What was she going to do? Have a baby and take it to her babysitting job? That’s not realistic.” It’s a line that seems custom designed to elicit cheers from the feminist critics who groaned though Juno, rolled their eyes at the linguistic cowardice of Knocked Up, and hoped that the abortions recently portrayed on Friday Night Lights and Grey’s Anatomy might mark the dawn of a bold and honest new era.
That episode was also applauded for adding “humor” to the issue of abortion. By humor, applauders are referring to messages like the ones Jessa’s friends leave her while they are waiting at the health clinic:
“Uh, hey. You’re pregnant when you don’t want to be. So you might want to come have your abortion now. Thanks.”
I’m not sure what’s so funny about casual abortions, but perhaps I am missing something. If I don’t get the appeal of that episode, Dunham’s ad for Obama’s campaign is completely lost on me.
The commercial starts with Lena looking into the camera, compassionately saying, “Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody, you want to do it with a great guy. It should be with a guy with beautiful … someone who really cares about and understands women.”
Her tone gets more upbeat as she says:
A guy who cares about whether you get health insurance, and specifically whether you get birth control. The consequences are huge. You want to do it with a guy who brought the troops out of Iraq. You don’t want a guy who says, “Oh hey, I’m at the library studying,” when he’s really out not signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Or who thinks that gay people should never have beautiful, complicated weddings of the kind we see on Bravo or TLC all the time.
Then she gives us the kicker…
My first time voting was amazing. It was this line in the sand. Before I was a girl. Now I was a woman. I went to the polling station and pulled back the curtain. I voted for Barack Obama.
This ad disturbs me for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t now or ever want to think about Romney or Obama as a sexual partner (even jokingly). Once again, if this is supposed to be humor, I’m not laughing. Neither are the conservative voices who are outraged by this ad. We all know sex sells, but when it’s used like this, it just comes off as trite and cheap.
While I’m not a “voting virgin,” I am a literal virgin who’s proudly waiting ’til I’m married to have sex. I believe that sex is something sacred and beautiful, not a thing to used to create controversy and draw attention to a presidential candidate. Secondly, I don’t subscribe to the idea that young women should vote for Obama because he “cares” about us getting birth control. Sorry, Lena, but that’s not on my list of top priorities for the leader of the free world. What I desire is for our president to care about the millions of unborn children who die yearly from abortion, and the countless families who are left suffering because of it.
While I respect the opinions of young voters like Lena, I don’t see the value in an ad like this. Lena Duhman may consider herself the voice of a generation, but she clearly does not speak for me.