• Where do we get these cliched ideas about Germans?

Children are taught that racial, ethnic, and sexual (and what have you) stereotyping is a bad idea. But what they grow up to learn is that elaborate courtesies and evasions are a bad idea too—patronizing doesn’t show respect; it assumes weakness. If you’re unwilling to risk saying anything to anyone that betrays the slightest stereotypical assumption, no one’s going to want to sit next to you at dinner.

And so a lot of people grow up to believe that the ability to stereotype with wit and flair is a talent worth cultivating. Sooner or later they put their foot in their mouth. But the slip probably won’t be fatal—we’re all past that. One of the charms of HBO’s Girls is that political correctness is to the characters like the ninth-grade civics course about which all they remember is that there are roughly three branches of government and every citizen has a duty to vote. It’s something occasionally referenced. In episode one of season two Elijah has one of those complicated moments where he’s revealing himself to Marnie and hitting on her.