Shortly after graduating from college in 2000, I found myself living and interning in Austin, Texas. Someone apparently mentioned to the friendly policeman who worked by my office that I was a Member of the Tribe. He was thrilled; he’d never met a New York Jew — or any Jew — before. He lived 100 miles outside Austin, far beyond any eruv.
“Tell me,” the cop asked me eagerly, “is your life more like ‘Seinfeld’ or ‘The Nanny’?”
“Neither,” I replied.
“Well, it has to be like one of them,” he insisted. I assured him that really, neither show accurately represented my New York Jewish childhood.
I grew up surrounded by non-Jews who could pronounce schlep and spiel and use them properly in a sentence. So, it’s both amusing and astounding to remember that conversation. It was a reminder that we, American Jews, are indeed a minority group.
All of this is to say that if someone has never met a living, breathing Jew, television may be their introduction to Jewish religion, culture or people. I thought about this as I eagerly anticipated the return of USA’s “Suits”. On the surface, it’s just another legal show. The twist is that main character Mike Ross is a drifter-turned-law firm associate who never actually attended law school. And yes, Harvey Specter, the senior partner and legal legend he serves, knows it.
Elissa Strauss hopes that a new remake of the movie “Dirty Dancing” keeps our beloved heroine, Baby, Jewish. In addition to preserving Baby and her family’s ethnic authenticity, which is important in grounding the film in a real milieu, I should add that I hope the remake keeps the essential, devastating abortion plotline, which is vital both to the film’s plot and its politics.
Without Penny’s abortion appointment, Baby wouldn’t have entered the dance performance, of course. But more than that, without the botched illegal abortion, Baby wouldn’t have had her eyes truly opened to the physically and socially dangerous predicament experienced by the employees at her idyllic summer retreat, and the hierarchy of gender and class that permeates everything.
Like Elissa, I’ve been perturbed by the prospect of a remake myself. Not just for what this remake does to Baby or even the abortion, but what the fact that it’s even happening says about the sorry state of films by and about women in Hollywood.
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