I'm taking a break from writing a grant proposal about belles Juives to write a blog post about a Double X blog post about belles Juives. Meanwhile, though juive as ever, I'm in full library mode and not feeling especially belle. So it goes.
Rachel Shukert has won me over with this: "Hollywood ur-Jewess Natalie Portman (whose name I can never hear without a preface of 'why can’t you be more like …')" Ahem. Ahem. But also with this:
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? (emphasis mine)I've written here before about the challenges of dealing with negative images of Jewish women in entertainment created by Jewish men. Am I saying Jews control the entertainment industry? No, but Jews do have a disproportionate role in the entertainment-with-a-Jewish-theme-intended-for-a-mainstream-audience industry. Same as all other minorities.
In a sense, these writers and directors get a free pass - the representations, we can imagine, are not anti-Semitic because they're self-deprecating, even when it's not so much the "self" being deprecated as the self's female coreligionists. The whole, 'it's OK, I can say it because I'm Jewish' nevertheless works, in that we-as-a-society put up with these images (and, uh, sounds - why did Shukert leave out the disembodied voice of Wolowitz's mom, on "The Big Bang Theory"?) precisely because they're presented as self-mockery. We-as-a-society would be a whole lot less forgiving of the Mrs. Broflovski norm if we imagined it was coming from non-Jews.
Add to this the generally-held idea (held, I suspect, by those who've never seen the first two seasons of "Absolutely Fabulous") that women have no sense of humor, and it's clear enough why Jewish women are in a bind if we try to complain (get that - Jewish women complaining?) about the use of representations of our kind as comic relief. This is why Shukert won me over further still by pointing out that "[r]eal Jewish women can laugh at these depictions." The obviously-Portnoy's Complaint-inspired episode, where Wolowitz's mothah is calling to him while he is 'occupied' at the hand of a robot that's just a hand wouldn't work if Mrs. Wolowitz were lovely and mild-mannered. We-the-lady-Jews can find this hilarious and objectionable at the very same time.
Oh and P.S.: Want some more belle-Juive action? Try "House." An actress named Lisa Edelstein (not "Portman" or "Ryder"), who doesn't look especially Swedish, portrays hotness-personified. Whether theoretical nebbish-types would find her appealing or whether she'd remind them too much of their mothahs is never asked.