Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Presentations of Judaism in Media


In weeks 6 we will explore presentations of Judaism in Media. Specifically we will consider how religious Jews have been framed in popular films and how these characterizations and the messages they send have evolved over time. We will read and discuss Nathan Abrams, article entitled’ “My religion is American”: A Midrash on Judaism in American Films 1990 to the Present’, which provides an overview of framings of Jews in cinema over the last three decades. Then we will focus on the images and messages communicated about Judaism in the 2004 film "Meet the Fockers" through reading Samatha Baskind's article entitled The Fockerized Jew?: Questioning Jewishness as Cool in American Popular Entertainment. As you read please reflect on what seem to be the dominant narratives told about religious Jew in film and what shifts, if any there seem to be in the representations of American Judaism

 


12 comments:

Paige Dusthimer said...

In the article "The Fockerized Jew" it is noted the emergence of Judaism in the media has come a long way, before Jews were just interesting, yet in this film they are emphasized as being "cool". It is interesting to me the writers enthusiasm for the cool factor reflected in Jews in this movie. It truly makes you step back and look at this from another angle, from an "Other's" point of view. I was oblivious to the fact how under-appreciated and under-represented the Jewish community was in the media. It is not something one would really take notice of, of course unless you are a Jew. It was refreshing and shocking to look at it another way, something I would have totally overlooked.

Karlie Willbern said...

This week has been my favorite so far, because it shows the evolution of how Jews have been represented in the media throughout time. It is interesting to see the difference in opinions about what is the right and wrong way to represent Jews.

Karlie Willbern said...

Nathan Abrams, "My Religion is American": A Midrash on Judaism in American Films 1990 to the Present & Samantha Baskind, "The Fockerized Jew"

In Nathan Abrams' "My Religion is American": A Midrash on Judaism in American Films 1990 to the present, Judaism in American film history is closely examined. The way Jews have been portrayed throughout film and behind the camera has been steadily evolving with time. The article explains that before 1990, when Jews were starting to appear in movies, that their Jewish practices or beliefs were never the main storyline. Writers usually just stuck to small details of the faith here and there. As time passed and the somewhat close-minded population of America became more comfortable with the idea of Judaism, the more it was represented on the big screen. Flash forward to the year 1990. Abram argues that "the sitcom Seinfeld (NBC, 1990-1998) marked a shift in American visual culture in many ways." He goes on to explain the the show described Judaism not only in an ethnic way, but a religious way as well, with examples of conversion and bar mitsvahs. Abrams also mentions the movie "Meet the Fockers" which leads in to the next article, "The Fockerized Jew", by Samantha Baskind. In this article, Baskind focuses on the more humorous side of Judasim and expresses how the movie "Meet the Fockers" brings a new light to Jewish people that many may never have thought existed. In the movie, the not-so-typical Focker family, are certainly not what people would envision as "normal" Jews. Roz, the mother of Greg aka Ben Stiller, played by Barbra Streisand is a sex therapist for the elderly (very uncommon for a Jewish woman), and the father, Bernie, played by Dustin Hoffman is basically a hippy. Though unconventional they still seem to exude certain Jewish qualities such as the Yiddish slang used by Roz and Bernie's habit of keeping and showing off all of Greg's old tenth place ribbons from grade school. As a whole, this article basically explains the now "coolness" of Jews, and how filmmakers are becoming more open and honest with all aspects of Jewish heritage.

Claire Levatino said...

Something interesting I sound about "The Fockerized Jew" is that while it makes Jews look "cool" it doesn't portray their religion or culture in the correct light. In fact Hollywood uses Judaism as the kind of brunt to their joke throughout films like Meet the Fockers. As viewers we probably just watch the movie and laugh, which is the intended purpose, but for Jews it is probably not as laughable. The view of Judaism in Meet the Fockers is not a correct interpretation, yet this is how the viewers of that particular film will see them.

Cal Smith said...

It's very interesting to me that my whole life I have seen actors such as adam sandler, ben stiller, and dustin hoffman and never once identified them as Jewish. Although I'm sure if I grew up in a community with Jews or as a Jew i would've. It seems like that they don't publicly have to advertise or boast about their faith or upbringing, and the way to identify it is through simple personality identifiers or how they present themselves in film. Because as "Cool Jewz" presents there is or was a marked movement in film that favored or was more lenient to a Jewish personality.

Rachel Ann said...

These articles show the evolution from being assigned the term "Jew" to practicing "Judaism" on screen. I never compared "Meet the Fockers" to other movies that have Jewish roles; the difference in the portrayal of the Jewish family in "Meet the Fockers" is much different than that of most films. They are made to look exceptionally "normal" and without all of the stereotypical roles that they are usually assigned. They are normal but still engage in Judaism and practices, not just Jewish in the movie. After reviewing previous films in the article it is evident that the role Judaism in film has come a long way.

Daniel Humada said...

in my experience with watching movies with Jewish characters, the Jewish character is usually ragged on for being a jew. the jewish character is often not the "cool" character and the abuse the said character takes is often comedic as his stereotypes are played up. But movies like "Meet the Fockers" are trying to portray the jewish characters as normal and not amp up their stereotypes for comedy

Jordan Brooks said...

It seems obvious that Hollywood misrepresents Judaism in meet the fockers. If Ben Stiller is not embarrassed by the misinterpretation of Judaism, does that mean he is sacrificing part if his heritage to seem "cool"?

Delma Ramirez said...

While reading "The Fockerized Jew" I found it really interesting how the author emphasized the way Jewish traditions and values were depicted in "Meet the Fockers" versus other popular movies. Comparing the fact that majority of popular culture and media portray Jews as a victimized group and/or in a sense "ashamed" of their religion, yet the Focker family embraced it while adding a comical twist. This article by far has been my favorite because it was easier to connect with since I myself have seen the movie and therefore able to interpret the reading.

Zachary Lix said...

It was interesting to read about how the positive representation of jewish culture in the media affected many people so profoundly. It gave them a sense of pride seeing someone they could Identify with on the silver screen. I is interesting to see how hollywood is has changed and tries to reach out to many different groups.

Lynna Jezek said...

I was very intrigued by how the Jewish identity has developed through film over time. I realized that American Jews of today can take comfort in the fact that TV and film is giving them a collected and good image, whereas in the past their presence in film was characterized by stereotypes and even victimization.
Both articles discuss how films from more recent years have helped to portray Judaism as something "cool." Although this has promoted the image of Jewish people in some respects, there are still concerns of misrepresentation and a discrepancy between secular ethnicism and religion in the media. I realized that Jews, though not to the degree that Muslims may face due to recent events, are still very concerned about the proper representation of their religion/lifestyle on the screen.

ModernDayFreyja said...

I enjoyed reading abut how Jews are portrayed in most movies because it gives audiences who may be unfamiliar with Judaism a brief peek and show that the Jews are not quite so different from other people and that stereotypes cannot always be trusted. Although Jews may not make up the mass or close to the majority of the media, the fact that they are gaining momentum in many media sources helps them be able to outsource and represent themselves.