Lessons in the ‘Girls’ Lexicon: “Republican”

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 4.47.48 AM

This author has chosen to remain anonymous. This individual does not want you to accuse him/her of not reading your work because he/she is too busy reading Republican Quarterly.”

Republican (n.): A gun-loving, rights-hating individual who is ultimately undateable.

How it’s used in the show: Hannah dates a Republican named Sandy, and later breaks up with him because their “political beliefs are just a little too different.”

We assume (correctly) that the main characters on Girls are left-leaning individuals. Maybe it’s because they live in Brooklyn and graduated from Oberlin (well, most of them did). Most likely, however, it’s because we’ve come to believe that millennials, by default, all adhere to a certain set of liberal beliefs.

As college students at Brown, we tend to take these beliefs for granted. It’s not that we don’t appreciate them— but they’ve become commonplace, and are therefore accepted as the norm. The same goes for the characters on Girls: the ease with which they talk about sex and sexuality reflects their left-leaning political preferences, and whom they vote for. This openness is why many find the show appealing. However, up until this episode, there has been no contesting force that challenges the characters’ values, nor any person or idea that deviates from their widely accepted political norms. Once it’s discovered that a Republican (gasp) lives among the show’s liberal cast members, they are forced to articulate their stances on certain issues and underscore just how different they are from their right-leaning antithesis.

In a recent interview about the second season of Girls, Lena Dunham explains that Hannah “has this reverse ignorance where she’s like, If they’re Republican, get them out of my airspace, and that was a fun thought to explore.” It’s a fun thought to explore because, believe it or not, this type of mentality actually persists, especially here at Brown. In Girls, both Hannah’s and Elijah’s attempts to draw attention to Sandy’s seemingly senseless and bizarre beliefs seem almost comical. Interestingly enough, these beliefs are not ones that Sandy explicitly states but ones that Hannah and Elijah assume to be true. This scene is not far off from what actually occurs when an elephant finds him/herself in a room full of donkeys. How do I know? I’ve been that elephant.

Since I arrived at Brown, I have been working up the confidence to come clean about this concealed facet of my identity. I was unsure of how others would judge me upon learning that they saw the world a little bit differently than I did. It was only within the recent context of the election that I decided I could be more open about my party affiliation. But before I got to explain my stance on any issue, people jumped down my throat. Perhaps it was their “attempt” to understand how I could possibly align with the MSNBC-created conservative villians on national TV.

Coming clean about my political views at Brown has been some sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy: I didn’t want to share my thoughts and opinions out of fear that I’ll be attacked from all sides without the opportunity to explain myself. As such, I kept my mouth shut for years—and when I was outed as the “token Republican,” the scenario I had envisioned and feared was exactly what occurred.  I’m not the only person who feels this way; there are more elephants than people tend to realize.

We first learn that Hannah’s “main hang” Sandy (yes, he’s Donald Glover, and yes, we’re really into it) is a Republican when Elijah and Hannah are lying on her bed contrasting Sandy with Hannah’s now stalker-ish ex-boyfriend Adam, who’s not murder-y in a sexy way, but “murder-y in, like, a murder way.” While Elijah appears to be an individual who prides himself on being accepting of others, the vigor with which Elijah shares this defining characteristic—that Sandy is a “fucking Republican”—with the show’s viewers is ironic; it almost seems discriminatory. The fact that a Republican’s political affiliation becomes their defining negative characteristic is somewhat hypocritical; it’s that same “reverse ignorance.” The prejudice is reflected here: Brown is a school that prides itself on accepting others, and has dedicated, inspired, and active students that preach tolerance of other peoples’ differences and opinions. Yet when it comes to dealing with a view that’s different from their own, they’re not accepting. They’re often intolerant.

Take the scene when Hannah and Sandy are sitting on the couch in his apartment. Sandy has just critiqued Hannah’s essay after avoiding confrontation, and Hannah believes that the discussion she and Sandy had about her work is “the same kind of dialogue [they’ve] had about [his] political beliefs.” In an environment in which the characters seem to be in concert with each other, this need for “dialogue” implies an open, often constructive, conversation. But Sandy admits that there is no dialogue: he’s entitled to believe what he wants to believe; he’s “steadfast in it” and “fine with it.”

Hannah then assumes he’s against gay marriage—”So you mean, like, even though you spend all this time with me and my gay roommate, you don’t have any feeling that he should be allowed to have, like, a beautiful wedding like all the ones we saw earlier on Say Yes To The Dress?” She then proceeds to berate him about gun control—“We’re having an open conversation about things we believe in, I’m also a little horrified that you think people should just be allowed to own guns.” The irony is that this whole scene is not an open conversation in the slightest; Hannah just projects her archetypical Republican onto her boyfriend, who doesn’t even elaborate on his stances.

I’ve been in these “dialogues” all too often, and I’m barely ever able get a word in. As viewers, we don’t even know what Sandy believes—we know his party affiliation and nothing more. Similarly, many who are aware of my party affiliation often don’t really know what I believe and why. Engage in discussion with me. You don’t have to agree with me on the issues, but at least listen. That said:

  • I acknowledge that writing this post anonymously is part of the reason why there is little dialogue.
  • I acknowledge that keeping my mouth shut contributes to the problems of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • I acknowledge that I must be more confident to share my opinions with others at this school.

I will work at all of these things, but I’ll only be able to do so with the expectation that you’ll respect my views, as I have yours. (Plus, I’m really dateable.)

Leave a Reply