Is there a Jewish stereotype more inextinguishable than that of the overbearing, food-pushing mamele? It’s 2013 and, Hollywood is still churning out characters like Amy Kanter-Bloom; the fretful mother of Larry Bloom on Orange Is the New Black.
What the Jewish mother needs, however is not a modern makeover, but a fracturing. Better than supplanting one stereotype with another is to picture a messy mosaic.
LABA, the Jewish cultural program at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan, will be showcasing one such mosaic of Jewish motherhood in a storytelling event co-hosted with Kveller.com this coming Monday (featuring a chair of fake breasts by artist Mirta Kupferminc, pictured here!). The Forward got a sneak peek of a few of the stories.
Ever since I’ve discovered the site Betches Love This (thank you, New York Times and your lack of sufficient “trend pieces” for theThursday sections), I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly irks me about the website so much. Or, in “betch” terms, why is it that whenever I see its homepage, I totes want to get off of my diet-skinny Lululemon-covered ass, stop texting my sorority sisters about her hookup with a ZBT bro, and chuck my “sugar-free, hazlenut soy iced coffee” at my computer screen.
For those who haven’t stepped foot into a sorority house in the past two years, Betches Love This is a site dedicated to promoting a community of, well, “betches”: young women who are proudly addicted to designer handbags and calorie-free beverages and essentially all aspire to fit into the Plastics from “Mean Girls.” Started by three girls who attended not only Roslyn High School, but also Cornell University together and (shocker) were sisters in Alpha Epsilon Phi, Betches Love This has become a mecca for Greek-loving girls looking to laugh at their gossiping, dieting, and spending daddy’s money.
“At its heart, it’s satire,” Jordana Abraham, one of its founders, tells the Times. The site (claims) to lampoon betches’ most annoying, offensive, and damaging habits and predilections. Fans admire its boldness, as one Northwestern student claimed Betches Love This says “the things that most of us are thinking, but would never say out loud.”
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.