The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Loving Lubavitchers - The Hassidic Jew in Hollywood

Note: I think this whole concept has become passé . . . I'm sick of it already!
I don't want this post to be construed as some sort of clichéd cry of any sorts. My point is that Hollywood needs to create more complex and fully fleshed out Jews.

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 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, 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 betray portray us. If it makes another Jew happy, laugh at us.

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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Anarchist Chossid said...

Thanks for posting the video.


le7 said...

Wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be.

Is this lady Jewish?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a beautifully crafted and well-thought-out response to the "narishkeit".

Hollywood has done the same for many other ethnic groups such as the Amish and the Indians, and even the secular Jews (remember "Goodbye, Columbus"? There's no sense in getting all upset over this.

What does upset me, though, are the many Jews who should know better but who have no compunctions about portraying us in a bad light for their own profit. Naomi Regan with Sotah and the Red Tent, Shmuley Boteach with his sex books and debating Christians and atheists and losing, the agunah fund raisers who place ads degrading Judaism to raise funds, and so on.

Yossi Ginzberg

le7 said...

I knew there was something else I wanted to say.

I thought by not having a teevee I would be able to avoid all of this stuff. Proven wrong once again.

Mottel said...

-Crawling Axe: whatever you say!

-LE7: It's not as bad as people make it out to be. Not by far. It is, however, very lame. Yes she's Jewish.

-Yossi Ginzberg: I'm glad we see eye to eye. Regan, in my books though, is a whole 'nother type of wacko.

-LE7 (again): The internet is TV on Crack.

le7 said...

True. Oh well. My days are numbered to an extent.

Sef said...

jewish guilt, all the way.

I think it's pointless to get excited over it though. nobody likes a whiner.

bonne said...

Wouldya look at all those crossed legs?
They should come to Crown Heights, we could give them a few fashion tips...

Mottel said...

-Sefirah: Who's whining?
-Sarabonne: I don't think i understand . . . you know what, I don't think I want to understand.

bonne said...

Sorry for the incoherence, I've had a lot of coffee. I simply thought it was funny how women always cross their legs, its actually quite bad for the lower back.
In regard of fashion; They mentioned in the video we don't know how to dress, well perhaps you haven't seen the other side of the mechitza, which is a good thing I might add, but fashion is certainly not lacking.
I didn't like their outfits much, tis all.

Anonymous said...

Don't get your hopes up Mottel, this isn't hollywood, this is tv.

The last adventurer in the tv business is on the run somewhere in buffalo country, together with the world's last eight smokers. The only formula tv people are willing to try is what's worked before. The plot basically writes itself: uptight religious girl forced by circumstances to hang out with permissive guy.

I have no plans to see it, but I can tell you if she ends up ceding her beliefs for this guy, she'd be just the latest in a long line of protagonists that are simply not believable, and to whom, along with the audience, the show's writers show nothing but contempt.

But forget show biz. What say you about creating something of this kind from within the community?

Cheerio said...

webjem - if you're serious, i know a host of people whom you should call. religious Jews (in America) producing quality entertainment would definitely be a sign of the Messiah times.

mottel - i liked this post. instead of whining about it, or being amused by it, you actually critiqued it, from a creative perspective.
sarabonne - only Barbara W. is actually doing it right.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

I watched it but merely mentioned my irritation and Mottel writes a whole post!? What's wrong with me!?

I'd rather spend some time on a post about Defiance. I think I'll get to that. Thanks for your words about the Hollywood scene, though :)

Anonymous said...

Mordechai, you were just blacklisted by You better watch your back now :)

Mottel said...

-WebJem: Yes TV is lame, but quality can still exist. I'm not hoping for anything though.

-Cheerio: It would never fly . . . I still have my Golem script idea floating around in my note book.
Thanks for the complement!

-Chaviva: Personally I think the whole subject became stupid once the Lubavitcher public at large got a hold of it. But I'd be interested in hearing about Defiance - speaking of "Jewish" movies, 'Uncle' Misha's partisans were fascinating.

-CYFried: If only . . .

Cheerio said...

oh,cmon - the golem?

Mottel said...

-Cheerio: It is sooo not like what you are thinking.

le7 said...

There were some kids here at UWM who grew a golem comic. I should find it.

Cheerio said...

so what is it?

Mottel said...

It's the story of the Golem more or less - but in an Epic Romantic (as in the "artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century" not harlequin bodice rippers) form. It's about seen through the eyes of an orphan that lives in the home of the Maharal - different characters are archetypes for basic forces in our lives. It'll be awesome . . . Think Jewish Star Wars.
I've said too much though.
Folk's these ideas are mine . . . don't go making them into a film without me!

le7 said...

Romantic like Tess of D'Urbervilles? 'Cause I really liked that book.

Cheerio said...

see, the thing is, i'd like to see someone dealing with modern issues.

Mottel said...

-LE7: I've never read it . . . but I'd guess no. Romantic like Edgar Allen Poe, like Tolkien more recently. A sense of breadth and wonder - of the grandeur of the world dwarfing the ephemeral figure of man - look at this picture and you'll get an idea of what I mean.

-Cheerio: It would. That's the beauty of Humanity. There's nothing new under the sun, and by addressing the issues the characters will face, it provides a lesson for our lives as well!

Cheerio said...

ok, once you referenced Tolkien, you won me over.

le7 said...

Ah, fine, got it. Maybe more fantastical? Ahhh Hardy was a naturalist not a romantic. Got to love wiki.

So Hawthorne was more Romantic. I got it then.

Anonymous said...


Mottel said...

Lars . . . again, keep of the LSD man!

Anarchist Chossid said...

Speaking of Tolkien,

Well, not Tolkien but Rowling, but potāto–potáto.

Schvach said...

Hey, leave Woody out of this - he's created enough problems (don't you remember what he did to his wife Mia Farrow via her adopted daughter - talk about hostility!).

Mottel said...

Woody is actually a prime example of the superficiality of Jews in Hollywood - he uses them as sightgags, not as real people.
As to his personal life? It was messed up in the first place . . .

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