The Night Before

So the trailer for Seth Rogen’s Christmas movie just came out. He plays a very Jewish character who wears a shirt with Stars of David on it. He has a plump, no doubt sh*kse, blonde wife who he goes to church with, where he hurls on the floor and embarrasses himself in front of all the Christians, before shouting out “We didn’t kill your lord!”. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays, as he has exclusively for thirty plus years now, a non-Jew (do you think Joey has a problem with playing his own ethnicity?), and will therefore be interpreted as a non-Jew by 99% of the audience seeing this film (as will co-star Lizzy Caplan, also playing a non-Jew).

Honest question: do you have no problem with this whatsoever? Isn’t this extremely racist? Isn’t it offensive that Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, and a few others, can’t play their own ethnic group under any circumstance, while Seth Rogen shouts “we didn’t kill your lord”? Nothing about this seems wrong at all?

If one of the characters was to be Jewish, why was it an absolute certainty that it would be Rogen and not Gordon-Levitt?

Chaim’s Comments

First of all, “shi*kse” is considered by many to be a misogynistic slur, so I avoid using it and I recommend others do the same. Just say goyische or gentile. Those are neutral descriptors. I edited it in your post.

I only watched the trailer for “Three Wise Men,” which I thought looked pretty awful. So maybe it’s possible that JGL and Lizzy Caplan play Jews, though you’re probably right that they don’t. 

There are many Jewish actors who seem to never play Jews. It seems to be only Jewish actors who tend to play schlubby comedic roles who seem to willingly play Jewish characters. So you get Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen being “representative,” while Jake Gyllenhaal and Joseph Gordon Levitt are always playing more serious “goy” roles. If a character is openly Jewish in a movie, chances are they will be anything but the hero or the “regular guy.” Rogen is always a disgusting mess, so is Sandler and frequently Stiller when he’s not being something odd like Derek Zoolander. 

I’d have to dig up the quote, but I recall Natalie Portman saying she rarely plays Jewish characters because they only seem to offer her roles as Holocaust victims. There’s something to that. 

However much success Jewish actors have in Hollywood, to play a Jew is to typecast yourself as a a joke, a nerd, a scientist, a villain, a holocaust victim or some combination of the above. I have a hard time thinking of a single Jewish character who doesn’t fit one or more of those roles. This is part of why I’m so continually frustrated by the erasure of Jewish superheroes in the MCU and Kitty Pryde’s apparent goyification in the X-Men films. I mean, sure Kitty Pryde is nerdy and a scientist, but she’s also a damn hero, the effective leader of the X-Men in Bendis’s recent run in the comics, and yet in the movies she’s played by a goy and has her importance severly reduced. Keep in mind that she was voted the greatest X-Man of all time by marvel.com!

It’s really disheartening to see this so often because it keeps us typecast in public perception. Most people in the world will never meet a Jew. We are .2% of the world’s population. Popular culture is one of the few places where we’re visible and, however many Jewish actors and actresses there are, the whole idea that a Jew can’t be “normal” or unequivocally good or heroic is being perpetuated by our own representatives in television and movies. And how sad is it, that in the few instances that it’s not the case, it’s in stuff I can’t show to kids like Inglorious Basterds? It’s kids who need to see this stuff the most! 

This was a rant.

2

“Why do we have wings, darling?” asked Eames carefully. He carefully moved his left wing to shake his feathers out. They felt tangled and creased. Eames preened for several minutes trying to make his feathers look perfect.

Arthur flapped his wings with surprise. “We need them for this dream. Keep up Mr. Eames.” Arthur tried not to look concerned as his wings hit the door frame.

“You don’t know why we have them, do you?” Eames sighed. He had a huge urge to fluff Arthur’s soft looking brown feathers. 

7

For Tom Hansen, this was the night where everything changed. That wall Summer so often hid behind - the wall of distance, of space, of casual - that wall was slowly coming down. For here was Tom, in her world… a place few had been invited to see with their own eyes. And here was Summer, wanting him there. Him, no one else.

8

And as we sat there listening to the carolers, I wanted to tell Brian it was over now and everything would be okay. But that was a lie, plus, I couldn’t speak anyway. I wish there was some way for us to go back and undo the past. But there wasn’t. There was nothing we could do. So I just stayed silent and trying to telepathically communicate how sorry I was about what had happened. And I thought of all the grief and sadness and fucked up suffering in the world, and it made me want to escape. I wished with all my heart that we could just leave this world behind. Rise like two angels in the night and magically… disappear.