The Jews of "Glee"
A ruthless high school vocalist who will do anything to become a star, with a flighty over-dramatic moody side that gets her into constant boy trouble. A jerk of a varsity football player, whose well-hidden conscience only pesters him briefly between womanizing jags and throwing dweebs into dumpsters with his meathead buddies.
These, you call Jewish TV show characters?
So far as I can tell — and I’ve only been a fan of “Glee” for the past few months — the extent of the Jewish character content on the show is limited to elements like these: 1. Rachel Berry‘s got a rabbi she wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about sex to. 2. Noah “Puck” Puckerman‘s mom won’t let his live-in pregnant ex-girlfriend bring bacon into the house. 3. One of the cheerleaders tells Rachel she should move out of town — to Israel. 4. Puck tries to get into the pants of the newest popular girl in school, an African-American girl, by telling her “Jews and Blacks have a history of helping each other out.”
No bagels, no lox, no awkward Woody Allen neuroses (other than the high school kind), no outsider perspective (do Rachel’s two gay dads count?), no shysterism, no intellectualism, no kink, no classic Jewish stereotypical tropes.
Does this mean Jews really are so “white” in America now that being a Jew isn’t enough of an identity to set a TV character apart anymore? That random quick throw-away references to real Jewish culture (as opposed to stereotypes) are an easy way to spice up a figure who’s really just a generic Jock or Theater Star archetype, anyway?
Is there anything distinctively Jewish to the characters of Rachel or Puck that might say something about newer stereotypes of Jewish Americans? Maybe Puck is a tough-guy Sabra, or Rachel’s interracial, queer family is a reflection of Jewish social progressivism. At least they both have Mediterranean features — one point for non-Ashkenazi visibility?
And what to make of the characters named Artie Abrams (“the wheelchair guy”) and Tina Cohen-Chang (“the Asian punk-goth girl”)?
This is clearly not a serious sociological analysis. But like a good Jewish boy, I notice these things and start to wonder. You are invited to gleek out in the comments. Comments on multi-focal post-modern identity are encouraged to be written in verse.