Evanson: Judgement clouded by fandom


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Election Day, a day when the entire country was wrapped up in the event that is as political as it is dramatic. For a moment in time when the polls closed in the state of Iowa and election projections were made, people paused and turned their attention away from what Netflix show they were watching and looked to see who Iowa’s new representatives would be for the upcoming years.

Well, it’s all over now. We are back to our regularly scheduled programming — or maybe not.
Recently, critical allegations have disparaged Lena Dunham, famed actress and writer, known from her creation of the HBO series “Girls.”

Dunham is being condemned and put under pressure by critics after citing a passage in her memoir released earlier this year, “Not That Kind of Girl,” which brings to light a scene in the book in which Lena at 7 years old had sexually molested her then 1-year-old sister. The scene involves Dunham sexually manipulating her sister by fondling her and masturbating next to her, then later paying the younger sister with candy for intimate favors.

This personal confession of sexual predation is worthy of denunciation, but many of Dunham’s loyal fans have taken to the Internet to voice their support for her.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel was one of the first to defend her. He took to Twitter to claim that critics who attack her are “vile” for even thinking that a 7-year-old is capable of molestation.

Feminist blog Jezebel also chimed in to defend Dunham. In an article by Jia Tolentino, she ignored Dunham’s explicit acts themselves and argued that she merely used “bad wording” to describe an act that many experience as children. The article also mentions that the criticism was mostly driven by the right-wing media, including the conservative magazine the National Review.

But, unlike the previously mentioned Election Day extravaganza, this is not a partisan issue.

What Dunham did was wrong. The acts she describes in her memoir are much more than just simple childhood curiosity. It is morally indecent to play down the severity of such acts merely because she is loved and respected by adoring fans as well as leaders of the feminist movement.

These defenses for Dunham are driven not only for love and fandom for her but also in opposition against those right-wing publications. While I believe feminists have the right and freedom to publicly denounce conservative political viewpoints, the movement should not be used as a crutch to defend her actions to preserve a cause.

Dunham is well known for her progressive views and most notably displaying them with her use of shock-humor on her HBO series and in with her writing. Although Dunham is free to use different brands of humor to convey ideas and entertainment, this is an offense which cannot be defended by her genre.

It’s dangerous to give people with so much influence and such a large platform a pass for when they commit heinous acts.

We’ve seen cases like this in other arenas, too. Sports fandom can also generate massive passion and support, but that passion often causes fans to overlook wrongdoings in favor of their adored team, coaches, or players.  In State College, Pennsylvania, thousands of people mobbed the streets in support of coach Joe Paterno after of the termination of his coaching career. This was in response to the Jerry Sandusky molestation cover-ups, in which fans overlooked the sexual abuse of dozens of boys under Sandusky’s and Paterno’s supervision in favor of supporting their favorite football coach.

Regardless of if it’s Dunham or Paterno, people can become blinded by bias when addressing someone they love and adore, but it is imperative to not let it cloud judgment of what is right and what is wrong. In the end, what matters aren’t TV shows, a movement, or sports fandom, it’s about supporting what is right. 

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