New Yorker Defends Lena Dunham’s Controversial ‘Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?’ Article

“The people getting exercised about the so-called anti-Semitism of this comic piece … are, with respect, howling in the wrong direction,” editor David Remnick tells TheWrap

Last Updated: March 27, 2015 @ 10:25 PM

Lena Dunham came under fire on Friday for an article published in the New Yorker that Jewish groups are calling “tasteless” and “offensive,” but the magazine is defending its choice to run it.

“The people getting exercised about the so-called anti-Semitism of this comic piece, like those who railed at Philip Roth a generation or two ago, are, with respect, howling in the wrong direction,” editor David Remnick told TheWrap in a statement. “The Jewish-comic tradition is rich with the mockery of, and playing with, stereotypes.”

The piece, a quiz titled “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?” asks readers to guess which of the two Dunham is referring to in each of 35 descriptive statements.

“He doesn’t tip,” Dunham writes. “And he never brings his wallet anywhere.”

The Anti-Defamation League, the world’s preeminent Jewish advocacy group, said that while humor is subjective, Dunham’s article missed the mark.

“The piece is particularly troubling because it evokes memories of the ‘No Jews or Dogs Allowed’ signs from our own early history in this country, and also because, in a much more sinister way, many in the Muslim world today hatefully refer to Jews as ‘dogs,'” ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement.

“While we understand that humor is its own special brand of expression and always try to give leeway to comedians, we wish that she had chosen another, less insensitive way to publicly reflect on her boyfriend’s virtues and vices,” Foxman added, saying the article “plays with offensive stereotypes” about Jews.

“We are surprised that the New Yorker chose to print it,” he said.

In a statement to TheWrap, Remnick said Dunham, who is Jewish, stands in the long tradition of self-mocking comedians, all of whom poke fun at their distinguishing traits.

“The Jewish-comic tradition is rich with the mockery of, and playing with, stereotypes. Anyone who has ever heard Lenny Bruce or Larry David or Sarah Silverman or who has read ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ knows that. Lena Dunham, who is Jewish and hugely talented, is a comic voice working in that vein. Richard Pryor and Chris Rock do the same about black stereotypes; Amy Schumer does it with women and gender. I don’t mind if one reader or another didn’t find the piece funny. People can differ on that. But considering all the real hatred and tragedy in the world, the people getting exercised about the so-called anti-Semitism of this comic piece, like those who railed at Philip Roth a generation or two ago, are, with respect, howling in the wrong direction.”

Dunham and the New Yorker were inundated with tweets condemning the article — which appears in the magazine’s March 30 issue — and most of the criticism came from self-proclaimed Dunham fans or longtime New Yorker readers.

“I am so disappointed in both of you,” one Twitter user wrote. “As a huge Lena fan and a Jewish woman I am appalled.”

A representative for Dunham told TheWrap the actress would not comment.