December 29, 2005

The sole voice of reason?

Arye Dworken of The Jerusalem Post attacks "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as anti-Semitic:
Some might argue [Larry] David's misrepresentation of Judaism is but a warped, misguided love letter to his own tradition, and that his humor doesn't discriminate when it comes to mocking any religion or ethnicity.

This is true to an extent, but if one takes a closer look at the show's cast of characters, Judaism is the most poorly portrayed. The cast, which features Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin, Larry David and Richard Lewis, is predominately Jewish. All four characters have similar traits, most of them unflattering (with the occasional exception of Garlin, who can be a well-intentioned individual). And interestingly, the one non-Jew, Cheryl Hines, represents the sole voice of reason among the aforementioned neurotics.
Wait. Cheryl is out of her mind.

9 comments:

Jake said...

"Curb" makes fun of people who are nominally Jewish but don't have a clue what it takes to be a Jew. The entertainment industry is full of these people.

Those are the ones David is mocking, not the Jewish religion or religious Jews.

ShadyCharacter said...

Well there is some mocking of religious Jews as well (think of the scene on the ski lift this season!).

However, it's just a factor of the show having 4 of the 5 main characters be Jewish.

Look at how Cheryl's father is portrayed to get a sense of how a recurring "Christian" character would be handled.

That is, in a very funny manner!

Simon said...

I'm at a loss as to how one is to take seriously the proposition that the Jewish-American Larry David is anti-semitic.

toecracker said...

Larry David certainly represents the secular Hollywood self-indulgent type who happens to be Jewish. David certainly is not an observant Jew, but he is not anti-Semetic. He did that episode where he starts freaking out that his Jewish friend is planning on being baptized (to marry a Christian woman) in a ceremony in Carmel. It ends with the entire group going nuts (and an argument breaking down along Christian-Jewish lines) the friend being knocked into the water and swept away by the current in Monterey Bay. Although technically the prospective groom did end up the water--the conversion was definitely disrupted. Very funny and probably the most vigorous defense of Judaism (in a strange way) ever seen on HBO.

Simon said...

"He did that episode where he starts freaking out that his Jewish friend is planning on being baptized (to marry a Christian woman) in a ceremony in Carmel."
It seems to me that, when in a religiously diverse marital commitment, the determination as to which spouse converts should be informed fairly strongly by whether or not said conversion involves either partner undergoing genital mutilation.

miklos rosza said...

I hate the kind of person who thinks everyone of any ethnicity should be a "spokesman for his race."

Way back into the early days of Hollywood Louis B. Mayer etc were frightened of America identifying Hollywood with Jews. Larry David's work is a refreshing change, and in context daring as hell.

Wade_Garrett said...

Aren't Jews in American assimilated enough that this stuff shouldn't matter anymore? I mean, if the fact that the Jewish-ness of Joe Lieberman, who is highly observant, barely came up in the 2000 presidential race didn't show the world that Jews in America are just regular Americans, I don't know what will. I agree with Miklos - when I speak, I don't claim to speak for Catholics, or Italians, or Germans, or straight men, so why should Larry David necessarily be seen as such?

I once read an interview with Philip Roth, in which he recounted how he had his physical safety threatened by a crowd of angry students at Brandeis university, because he had the gall to create a fictional Jewish character who wasn't a nice guy (in the short story 'Defender of the Faith.') Ralph Ellison, who was on the same panel as Roth, was ignored, and Roth was insulted and called a traitor to 'his people.' It is immensely to America's credit that Jews in America are no longer that defensive.

Bruce Hayden said...

Being Christian, and not Jewish, I always marvel at the Jewish view of Jews accepting Christ. I have one aquitance from college in this category, and my Jewish friends scorn him.

But what is really interesting to me is that there is a A and W Root Beer franchise in Frisco, CO, run by a bunch of Messianic Jews. A couple of days ago, we were in there, and were listening to Christmas carrols while reading Jewish newspapers. There are Hebrew scriptures displayed all over the place, along with Christian literature. Apparently though, they are constantly fighting to keep their franchise, in response to complaints to the franchisor by other Jews.

As a Christain, I find this interesting. Jesus, his twelve disciples, Paul, et al., were all observant Jews. Initially, gentiles converting to Christianity had to first convert to Judiasm. And this was a big part of the debate between Paul and James over the direction of the original Church.

I have often wondered if Jews today partially define themselves as still waiting for the Messiah, then what happens when he (or she?) does finally appear? Does that mean that they will cease being Jewish?

Simon said...

"I have often wondered if Jews today partially define themselves as still waiting for the Messiah, then what happens when he (or she?) does finally appear? Does that mean that they will cease being Jewish?"

I would guess that, if it happened, it would happen in approximately the same way as last time: the faith would split between those who accepted the Messiah and those who didn't. Why would things have changed?

The only difference is that since the clergy no longer have much power in society to lose as a result of the fulfillment of the prophecies, they are far more disinterested than the pharisees were, but I would maintain that the only change is that the leadership will be as divided as the congregation, instead of the leadership demanding the romans nail the Messiah to a couple of planks of wood in order to safeguard their own status in the community. Jesus: arguably the first victim of a bureacracy protecting itself from change. ;)