Madwomen

On a lighter note, Jewish women in Hollywood are still a topic of discussion. In a recent Slate article Rachel Shukert gushes over the show madmen for its portrayal of… Jewish women.

Although there seems to be some breakthrough in how Jewish women are shown in popular media, somehow, writers – many of them Jewish men, while having no problem casting Jewish women as beautiful, write Jewish women as unpleasant.

On a technical level, this comes as no surprise—there is certainly no shortage of beautiful actresses who happen to be Jewish: Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Mélanie Laurent, Hollywood ur-Jewess Natalie Portman (whose name I can never hear without a preface of “why can’t you be more like …”). But they rarely, if ever, play explicitly Jewish characters—sainted Holocaust victims notwithstanding. Hollywood’s repulsion isn’t directed toward actual Jewish women, but toward its image of the “Jewish Woman” who even in 2010 is still consistently portrayed as bossy, obnoxious, pushy, materialistic, shrewish, gauche, and impossible to please: Mrs. Ari on Entourage, Susie Greene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jill Zarin from The Real Housewives of New York (a real person playing a fictional character playing a real person). Real Jewish women can laugh at these depictions, but they can sting, too, not least because they are so often manufactured and promulgated by Jewish men: our brothers and our cousins and our dads. I mean, is that what they really think of us?

6 Responses to “Madwomen”

  1. not least because they are so often manufactured and promulgated by Jewish men

    What are you saying, that Hollywood is run by Jews? :)


    miri · October 8th, 2010 at 5:40 pm
  2. I’m not sure I’m OK with the inclusion of “reality” TV personalities here. While shows like “Real” Housewives are certainly not documentaries, the people in them aren’t made up. They may be asked to (or choose to) caricaturize their own selves, but those caricatures are based on their real (whatever that means) selves.

    So the girl from Glee is fair game, but Jill from “Real” Housewives doesn’t seem to be.


    David A.M. Wilensky · October 9th, 2010 at 1:41 pm
  3. I would add Jenny Schecter from the L Word! She was even killed off because she was so annoying.


    lizzie · October 10th, 2010 at 11:01 am
  4. I’m sorry, but excuse me if I’m not all up in arms because Rachel Berry is portrayed as overbearing and annoying. If African-Americans got this indignant everytime a mildly negative stereotype was used in the portrayal of an African-American character, they’d have no time to say anything else in their lives.

    Jewish women are much more likely to land high paying professional jobs than well, any other women.


    shmuel · October 11th, 2010 at 12:49 am
  5. @Shmuel you miss the point(s): In Hollywood Many of the stereotypes of Jews are expressed regarding Jewish women (where they aren’t so much for Jewish men). Many of the writers that produce these women’s characters are Jewish men.
    It’s not that these portrayals are preventing Jewish women from getting jobs, it’s that first of all they perpetuate stereotypes of Jews, and in particular, they vilify Jewish women.
    It’s bad enough to have nasty people call you names, but when it’s your brothers/husbands/sons doing it… that’s a whole new level of offensive. Especially when paired with the rather common trope of those same guys writing Jewish men ending up with the tall blonde non-Jew.

    I’m pretty sure we’ve written extensively about this before… in particular about why the movie Keeping the Faith is so incredibly offensive. And just FYI, African American women (and men) have protested vigorously about the offensive portrayals of themselves in media.


    KRG · October 12th, 2010 at 8:07 am
  6. KRG writes:
    I’m pretty sure we’ve written extensively about this before… in particular about why the movie Keeping the Faith is so incredibly offensive.

    The JTS basketball team just can’t take a joke!


    BZ · October 12th, 2010 at 8:59 am

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik