Sisterhood Blog

Two Sides of a Cliché Coin

By Lilit Marcus

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Aviva Drescher

Last season, “The Real Housewives of New York City” started to fall apart. Like many reality show participants, the Housewives were all too aware of their own roles and too obsessed with promoting their products and businesses. So Bravo, the network that airs all of the “Housewives” shows, fired half the cast and brought in three new women, one of whom was Aviva Drescher. Drescher, who is Jewish, was considered the replacement for fired housewife Jill Zarin, best known for sparring with more successful ex-castmate Bethenny Frankel. Both Aviva and Jill (who reportedly know each other and hang out in real life) are terrible, stereotypical examples of Jewish women, albeit in quite different ways. Together, they exemplify every bad cliché that exists about Jewish women on television.

Some of the things that made Jill a compelling person to watch on television were the same things that made her a terrible person to watch on television. She self-identified as a “yenta,” and during the first season of the show she was shown trying to matchmake on multiple levels (she introduced a cast member with young children to a friend who did admissions for a prestigious Manhattan preschool). But as we learned more about Jill and the show brightened her star, her negative qualities came more sharply into view. She was nosy, bossy and loud. She inserted herself into every possible storyline, including ones that had nothing to do with her. She lectured others about how to dress for a wedding, how to express sympathy, and how to have a fight. In one particularly cringe-worthy moment, she saved an angry voicemail message from Frankel and played it for anyone and everyone who would listen. Sometimes, watching Jill was like watching a cartoon character come to life.

Enter Aviva. Right off the bat, we learned that this Upper East Side princess wasn’t actually so perfect; she had lost a leg in a horrific childhood accident and wears a prosthetic. Initially, Aviva’s injury made her more sympathetic, especially when she had scenes showing her involvement in a charity that gives prosthetics to young kids. But as most Housewives do, Aviva showed her ugly side. In every episode, there was a new phobia — flying, elevators, tall buildings, doing anything without her husband by her side. When Aviva got into a fight with another cast member, she sent her father to yell at the woman on her behalf. Where Jill was a brassy yenta, Aviva is a spoiled JAP. (It didn’t take long for Internet commenters to dub her “Adiva.”) And if she wasn’t bad enough on her own, Aviva’s father, George Teichner, has made multiple appearances on the show. The widower has been seen flirting with and attempting to grope several Housewives, as well as making inappropriately sexual comments about several of the women, including his own daughter (he told her that his new girlfriend was black but had “European features” like Aviva’s). Seeing George and Aviva together only amps up the “JAP spoiled by her Daddy” factor. Aviva’s central storyline this season has been about how, when she joined other cast members at a private estate in St. Bart’s, she didn’t feel that she was praised enough for her bravery taking a plane.

As awful as both Jill and Aviva come across on television, they’re in good company. Reality TV is known for showing the worst side of every social and cultural group, and Jews aren’t exempt from that. As long as their bad behavior continues to get ratings and land them on the cover of Us Weekly, there’s no incentive for reality show participants like the Housewives to clean up their acts. However, as there are so few Jewish women anywhere in the Housewives franchise — Frankel is no longer on the show — it’s hard to resist the urge to ask Jill or Aviva to be all things to everyone, to singlehandedly make Jewish women be seen a certain way. Aviva is flawed, as are lots of people, but she’s getting paid a lot of money to be flawed on national television. I hope that there aren’t little Jewish girls watching this show, and if they are, I hope they’re watching it alongside mothers and other female role models who assure them that this isn’t real life. It’s just reality TV.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: reality tv, sisterhood, reality television, real housewives new york city, nyc, real housewives, jill zarin, bethenny frankel, aviva drescher

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.