Top row (left to right): Ting Ting Cheng, Tabitha St. Bernard, Janaye Ingram, Paola Mendoza, Cassady Fendlay, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Nantasha Williams, Breanne Butler, Ginny Suss, Sarah Sophie Flicker.
Bottom row (left to right): Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Vanessa Wruble.
Something I’ve been thinking about lately…the whole “Jews in Hollywood” argument that antisemites like to trot out as an extension of the Jews Control the World belief and something that, unfortunately, a lot of people who wouldn’t be considered antisemites believe too.
It’s the same reason why you can find many Jewish people working in banking–historically convenient as it was one of the few professions open to them, and something that was carried over today. Before the start of talkies, movies (and a little before them, theatre) were seen as lowborn entertainment, fit only for the basest of the masses; real art, real entertainment, something that only the educated upper crust could truly appreciate, was to be found in writing, reading, and other activities like boating and walking.
Sure, Shakespeare’s plays were popular with pretty much every Elizabethan Londoner. We still read about Aristophanes, and Dorian Gray is still one of the most popular Gothic stories ever. But just because there were exceptions, even the most widely known playwrights and actors and, later, studio teams were still regarded as unseemly. They were considered to be on par with prostitutes and the rest of the societal underclass. This was aided by the fact that their earnings were low, many often had to prostitute themselves to supplement their meagre incomes, and what they did earn was usually on a play-by-play (and movie-by-movie) basis and mostly went to paying the renting costs of the theatre, inn or what have you that hosted them.
They depended on patronage so that they wouldn’t starve, and, along with the unfortunate fact that Plato’s railings against mimetic art in general still held strong, led to the moral and social disapproval against theatre and movies. It was lessened a bit by the fact that in the West during the 17th and 18th century more of the upper class attended plays, but this in turn only created a divide between “tasteful” theatre and popular theatre.
This was carried over to the movies – nickelodeons (named for the fact that the entrance fee was a nickel in the US) and matinees were popular with a working class barely starting to transition out of the Industrial Revolution, drastically changing their leisure habits in an age when free time was still mostly a thing for the rich. Movies were projected to a large amount of people, usually in tents, converted store fronts, or even the street.
It is of no surprise then, that a large portion of acting troupes and playwrights were made up of poor immigrants and the lower class in general – in the US, for example, the Irish and Jews (to say nothing of the overwhelmingly Ashkenazi presence in Western entertainment). Modern Jewish comedy has its roots in the big presence Jewish actors had in theatre, especially vaudeville – Ziegfield Follies, anyone?– and the subgenre of Yiddish theatre. Most people have heard of the Marx Brothers, Sarah Bernhardt, Sophie Tucker, Ida Rubinstein and Ed Wynn.
With all of the prejudice towards the theatre extended to movies, again, this was one of the few places Jews could excel in. And it’s for this reason that all of the Big Six Hollywood movie studios, with the exception of Disney, were started by Jews. Not because some tinfoil toting conspiracist thinks that this is just ZOG in action.