Bagels and Schmear: Jewish Stereotypes in the Media

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“I would never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” This quote from Woody Allen puts into perspective the way in which Jews are portrayed in movies and T.V. The whiny, high-pitched, annoying, voice that won’t stop complaining about the mundane realities of life has become a staple of our society. Shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fuel these stereotypes to their highest potential. And guess what? Its funny! The writers of almost all the Jewish shows are Jewish, and these people have made a fortune off of the hilarity of these caricatures of real life. Of course not all mothers are as over-protective and sensitive about their son as Jerry’s mom on Seinfeld, but viewers know it is just used as a means of making people laugh. This is what makes good T.V. taking the regular things in everyday life and exaggerating them. Although there is a negative portrayal of Jewish people in the media, this negativity barely has an affect on U.S. culture and can be beneficial to the Jewish people and society as a whole.

With producers and writers pushing new boundaries, many think that these negative portrayals have a negative affect on the way society views Jews in general. In the 1990s people were very worried about being politically correct. The most controversial shows on T.V. were Cops and other shows that just had some violence. As we moved into the 21st Century, the atmosphere seemed to change. People have become fascinated with seeing how far they can go. This is true of T.V. shows using stereotypes to drive audiences. While the 90s included shows like Seinfeld that just poked fun at some of the stereotypes, new shows such as South Park really angered people with its openness to go after stereotypes. On South Park there is a Jewish family, the Broflovskis, whose son Kyle is supposedly the smart one on the show. Although he is constantly mocked for his religious beliefs, Kyle doesn’t really mind. The main stereotypes are seen through his mother. The over protective, whiny, annoying, controlling mother who won’t stop badgering the kids for what they do wrong and will stop at nothing to protect them. Many antagonists of the show point out how terrible it is to make her a hated mother, and make her the only Jewish mother on the show. Some believe it creates a negative image of all Jews because this one particular character is a bitch. There is even a song in the movie entitled “Kyle’s Mom is a Big Fat Bitch.” While parents may think that this negative connotation next to a Jewish mother will teach their children that all Jewish people are whiny and annoying, that is just not the case. Most of the children who watch the show don’t even know the difference and wouldn’t be able to pick up on the subtleness of the show anyway. Also, the majority of the show’s viewers are old enough to understand the exaggerations the show demonstrates. The viewers understand that there is a Jewish stereotype out there, it can’t be denied, however they also understand what a stereotype is and it is just a generalization of falsehoods. Sure some Jewish moms are whiny and annoying, but so are some Catholic mothers. Kids today know the difference between comedy and reality, and the negative effects of stereotyping a Jewish mother is overplayed by intelligence of today’s youth as well as the positive affect of bringing humor to these normally dark and negative stereotypes.

These negative stereotypes have been around for centuries and have always had a dark cloud hovering over them. While it is important to recognize the seriousness and the harmful effects of stereotyping, it is equally as important to recognize the humor in the stereotypes and being able to poke fun at them. Family Guy, a cartoon on FOX, recently came back to television after a brief absence that involved an episode that many viewed as inappropriate. “Wish Upon a Weinstein” starts with the catholic dad Peter losing his...
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