It seems like everyone on the JBlogosphere is abuzz about the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "Loving Leah".
I saw the flurry on twitter last night about it while it was airing on the idiot box, and thought it would make interesting fodder for a post - specially in light of Actress Susie Essman's comments on The View (featured in the video at the end of this post) where after flouting her utter ignorance about Judaism, her acceptance for all peoples - besides those that differ from her in their views, she goes ahead and remarks that during the course of acting the film she learned that Chassidic Women are not really dressers, going so far to as to remark,
"Have you seen what these women look like?"
Other blogs have picked up on the inherent hypocrisy and blithering ignorance found in this exchange . . . (Though others seemed to have found the kitsch and cheese to be amusing.
Even Crownheights.info and its peanut gallery of commenters are up in arms . . . with photoshopped pictures of the hosts of the View and all (if you ask me, if the photo is inappropriate then it ought not to be shown at all - but that's a whole 'nother post).
[For those of you unfamiliar with the site, CH.info is a "community blog" written in the grand tradition of William Randolph Hearst and yellow journalism.]
While it is important to voice our complaint about being mistreated in the media - who am I to repress the righteous indignation of a fellow Hebrew brother? - I don't think the comments on The View are inherently anti-Semitic, and they are definitely not vile. They are extremely offensive . . . but offensive in their utter ignorance and self-righteous pomp to assume that a superficial understanding of Judaism and a nasty case of Jewish Guilt will entitle one to write off their Medievalistic relatives. What some of my brethren at the tabloid sites don't understand is that by gnashing their teeth and screaming antisemitism they have become caricatures of the very image they seek to dispel.
I didn't watch Loving Leah. I don't plan on it . . . I have far better ways to squander my time. Based upon what I have seen online, I can conclude that the show is riddled with inaccuracies. From the very premise upon which it's founded - that of Yibbum and Chalitza (levirate marriage) - today we almost universally do chalitza alone, the understandings of concepts of tzniut et cetera ad nauseum.
All of this is nitpicking though.
I think it's time that Hollywood grows up a little. I would say that with little exception, the Hassid has been one of the most maligned figures in the Big Book of Hollywood gags - perhaps only the Amish farmer and the Pygmy hunter have come off worse. We're caricatures . . . reduced to a string of site-gags, MacGuffins and background props - denied the basic right of all elements of literature and theater - character development.
And generally speaking we don't complain, we even laugh with you dear Hollywood. You make us to be diamond merchants and prudes, two-faced swindlers and unbending ideologues, speakers of Yinglish and swayers in prayer . . . and yet you hear nary a peep from us. Why? Because frankly we tend not to give a damn about how you
But I think, Hollywood, the time has come for you to do more. Let's see some maturity in Human relations.
I mean the Star-crossed lovers bit, where human love is forced to battle with ideals . . . and only one can remain. If it's a tragedy, then the lovers loose to the ideals. If it is a comedy, they win.
I'd like to see some complexity in human relationships as channeled through film.
It would be refreshing to see a hip hassid one of these days . . . You know, a guy that's with it and in the know, who adds something to the story beyond the "gosh-wow" factor of a dude in 19th century Polish garb. To see the secular Jew approach traditional Judaism with a positive view - nay acceptance - at the end. That would be refreshing . . . but is it brilliant? No. But it is less shallow.
But, my friend in Hollywood (and yes I mean you, you and you . . . and even you) take note.
How about acceptance? Why make the lovely Leah sacrifice her ideals upon the alter of pop-culture and the tepid "feel good" assimilationist belief that "you can be different from us, as long as you're like us." when she could come out a deeper person, one endowed with true power and strength?
Have them come to a mutual understanding that because they care for each other so greatly, they can not ask the one they love to change for them. True love is accepting that what brings us together is that we want the other to be happy with who they are, and what drives us apart the cynical attempt to bring those we love under our shadows and mold them into out own image.
Now that would be a story. An amazing story!
Leah would find the Hassidic man of her dreams, having grown to a stronger and broader person through her troubles. And Jake will realize that life is not as shallow and superficial as he once thought. That modesty is beautiful.
And from here we can branch out to relationships in general.
Jewish women have by far been knocked by Hollywood far more then they deserve.
How about the guy who falls madly in love with the shiksa will realize that, yes the passion is real, but something deeper calls them elsewhere in their Earthly sojourn.
That after the riots in Crown Heights it's not about the African American kissing the Hasid on the lips. It's about the acceptance and pride of who we are, and understanding that someone's difference is the yin to my yang.
Chew on that Pnenah Goldstein.
Efsher vilstu dos essen Ms. Essman.
The video is under the link . . . click on it to see it.
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