YAF note: This article is a parody of Lena Dunham’s Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz, published in The New Yorker on March 30, 2015. See my comments, on Dunham’s article and comedic writing, below this article, if you so choose.
Do the following statements refer to (a) a chimpanzee or (b) my Italian boyfriend?
- He has plenty of dark hair, even on his knuckles.
- He is very social and interactive.
- It is common for his kind to have a “favorite,” or regular companion – I am his. We spend a lot of time together.
- He seems to be unaware that he is actually not very tall.
- Food is extremely important to him; he is either eating or planning his next meal(s).
- His bond with his mother is quite strong.
- Family, in general, is of utmost importance.
- We like people-watching together. Humans are fascinating.
- He is usually playful and calm, but when he senses harm or danger, he is quick to respond and can get very loud. Indeed, he is amongst the noisiest of all mammals. It has been said that, at times, his vocalizations have been heard up to two miles away.
- He doesn’t like or understand the appeal of card or board games.
- Champagne is his favorite drink.
- He prefers a low-calorie diet.
- There must be a leader, always. In fact, he will probably be or become the leader. But he is a fair one.
- He is fascinated with mirrors.
- His hands work very well for certain, specialized tasks; not so well for others.
- He laughs freely and without restraint, often showing all of his teeth when he does so.
- When we go to a restaurant, sometimes I wonder if he’s telling his stories to the entire dining establishment, and not just me.
- He cries.
- He makes a nest to sleep in at night.
- He is friendly with other animals, unless they are bigger than him or unpredictable, such as horses.
- Grooming requires hours, and is essential for him to feel calm and comfortable. He especially does not like his hair to be dirty or unkempt.
- Sometimes, to make or access food, he uses unique tools or processes. This can involve his fingers, (which are constantly harboring food particles from previous meals), his teeth or mouth, rocks, sticks and more.
- He enjoys sex very much, both for biological reasons and as a way to bond.
- When he gets excited, his arms, (usually dangling long by his sides, with his palms facing behind him), will flail and wave about.
- He supposedly spent many years as a youngster climbing large trees; he is very agile.
- Seeds, stems and peels don’t bother him, for he will eat it all.
- He is quite affectionate – a big hugger, kisser, cuddler, lover.
- He greatly enjoys music that is as loud as he is. When he listens to it, he often jumps and yells, and bumps into other males when in a large group.
- He has a thickset body and no tail.
- He prefers to be in natural environments.
- Though normally convivial, he can become aggressive, territorial and competitive when exercising or sporting with other males. These scenarios can sometimes lead to brawling, wrestling or fighting.
- He is terrified of diseases, particularly Ebola, which has killed a number of his kind.
- His toes point outward when he walks. This is also known as “out-toeing” or being “duck-footed.” This is uncommon, however, for his species, as this characteristic tends to dissipate when a baby masters the art of bipedal locomotion, i.e. learns to walk.
As a subscriber to The New Yorker, I read Lena Dunham’s article along with the rest of the issue. Frankly, I didn’t find it that funny, but that wasn’t because of the nods to Jewish stereotypes. I found the general concept to be amusing, which is why I wrote this parody, after obtaining the idea and enthusiastic go-ahead from my boyfriend, (thank you, Michael).
I am a Dunham fan — I’ve enjoyed her films, her acting, and her TV series, Girls. I believe she is versatile in her style as a humorist, from self-deprecating to downright silly, illuminating the paradoxes, idiosyncrasies and dramatics inherent in the communities and identities with which she is most intimate. To call out one identity in particular, Dunham’s mother is Jewish, and Lena personally identifies as being “very culturally Jewish,” while admitting that that is the “biggest cliche for a Jewish woman to say.” This fact does not negate the possibility of the existence of an internalized anti-Semitism (that would be for Dunham, herself, to explore), but rather affirms the idea that, like all of us, she writes what she knows, and sometimes, teases and critiques what she knows and loves most.
I am no stranger to calling people out on their choice of words and expressed ideas, if they are any bit oppositional to a collective movement towards actualized social justice. Despite my appreciation for Dunham, I would not hesitate to trash her or her article if I felt that either was anti-Semitic. But, I just don’t. And you don’t have to agree with that. In fact, plenty of sources have hated her article. I’ll argue that, at its best, comedy is a platform, like visual art or poetry, that allows us to engage with “taboo” topics. It can be a fine line between whether a piece of work reinforces or challenges cultural stereotypes; ultimately it is up to each one of us to make that call. No one is more “right” than anyone else in their takeaways — all are valid. And, more importantly, all analysis is awesome, as it can be a very fertile space for growth and understanding to occur.
I could elaborate further, but I’ll stop here for now. I welcome your feedback, questions and commentary in a personal message or publicly. I am not infallible, and always invite dialogue and opportunities to learn.
With radically inclusive love,