There are times a spade has got to be called a spade.
So I’ll take one for the team and just say it straight out- I, Lottie Kestenbaum, am a reality show junkie.
I would like to believe I am a smart and intelligent woman who has no problem speaking her mind. Hate to toot my own horn here, but I am definitely an individual with more than just a touch of creativity.
However, when it comes to TV, well that’s just another story. Some may even insert the word “pathetic” between “another” and “story”.
I have used many justifications when asked why I watch such garbage.
The most famous answer I give is because I just don’t need to think about it. After attempting to understand Hebrew all day in my Israeli college I think my brain cells deserve some relaxing time, as do I.
I’ll admit it’s a poor excuse.
Again, I can’t lie and apparently have no shame so I will say it bluntly, I have religiously been following Keeping Up With The Kardashians for the past six years. I think I am pretty much the third wheel in Scott and Kourtney’s chaotic relationship.
I absolutely love the Real Housewives series, which follows bourgeois “housewives” in a few different states around America.
Ok. At the risk of embarrassing myself further I will stop.
So when I got news from my fellow junkies back in America that this new Bravo TV show is about to air, I got all comfy on my couch, bought some ice cream and was ready for a girl (not “girls” because my friends have lives and don’t want to watch garbage with me) night in.
All I heard about the show was that it was based on the lives of five unmarried, wealthy, Jewish New Yorkers, which is fortunately or unfortunately right up my alley. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t get a little excited when there is a mention of Shabbat or kashrut on national TV and when there is a chance you may see a store or restaurant you know? The title of the show, “Princesses: Long Island” sounded a little too trashy, but then again when it comes to reality TV what isn’t trashy.
I really thought, and naively so, I would be able to relate to some parts of the show. Clearly it goes without saying that I did not watch the trailer before I saw the first episode. I was excited to watch the women on the show discuss Jewish questions and concepts and was looking forward to hearing that my friend’s cousin’s doctor’s niece’s sister in law was on the show, and of course showing that fun fact off to the world.
Well, needless to say I was wrong.
The first person we are introduced to is Channel. I was thinking maybe her name is Chana and the producers changed her name to something a little bit more appealing. But no no, her g-d given name was Channel. Ok, fine we are all entitled to out of the box names. I for one shouldn’t be talking.
Anyways, Channel tells us that she is Modern Orthodox.
Ok, well people do say New Jersey and New York are different so maybe the standards for Modern Orthodoxy differ as well. I am not one to judge. Well at least I try.
As the show unfortunately continued I was just sinking more and more into my seat.
Once the first episode ended I found myself covering my eyes. Not because I was scared that some big green monster would pop out of the screen (even though a few breast implants looked as though they were about to explode), but rather because I was just so mortified.
The show successfully managed to paint a dirty picture for women, but an even filthier picture for Jews.
All I could think about was the people who were watching this show in the middle of No Jews Land. The show portrayed these women as selfish, arrogant, money obsessed, stupid (for lack of a better word), embarrassing, and condescending in the worst way possible.
The way the five women casually used the word “shalom” or felt the need to yell “Manischewitz” whenever they saw a bottle of wine, for some reason hit a core within me. I felt as though my beloved religion was being mocked and not by outsiders, but by insiders.
The way they all claimed that Jewish girls live with mommy and daddy and sit by the pool all day until some prince in shining Armani armor and overflowing with cash sweeps them off their feet, made me cringe.
The way a neighborhood is seen as dangerous if there are wired gates as opposed to the perfect white picket fence made me question maybe my hometown, Teaneck is dangerous.
Ok calm down that was a joke. Teaneck is lovely. Really.
And the way these women always manage to throw in some Yiddush word here and there just to remind us that they are Jewish. Because don’t all late twenty something year olds constantly talk like old babushkas while in a gay club in New York?
As a blogger and fashion lover one of my favorite blogs to follow is Fabologie. The purpose of Fabologie is to show religious Jewish women that they can look fabulous and wear the latest styles and trends fresh off the runway without compromising the Jewish laws of modesty. The mastermind blogger, New Yorker, Adi Heyman, works in the fashion industry and recently blogged that she was approached by two separate production companies to star in her own reality show. However she politely declined. She blogged that her reason being that with one word or one action Judaism can be twisted and she was not willing to risk that.
“At the whim of a TV editor, Judaism can be exploited, molded and served to viewers world-wide…” (http://fabologie.com/a-modest-reality/)
I could not respect Adi more for this decision. As tempting as a reality show sounds, Judaism is too precious and holy to allow anyone to misconstrue it. The fame and the money are just not worth the damage.
I realized after watching the first episode of Princesses: Long Island, that there is a point where enough is enough.
Everyone has a different sensitive spot. I know plenty of people who were completely disturbed by the way New Jersey was represented in Jersey Shore, as well as people who are sickened by the twisted definition of love as shown in the Bachelor.
For me it is Princesses: Long Island. To watch five Jewish women completely epitomize what Judaism isn’t about and to abide by some behavioral code that is found nowhere in the written or oral Torah sickens me.
Judaism is not about showing up to the Shabbat table as if you are about to walk in a runway show.
Judaism is not about lounging around all day while you wait for your nice Jewish doctor or lawyer husband to pop out of the blue.
Judaism is not only about dating and getting married.
And Judaism doesn’t start once you are married as the show made it seem.
How dare Bravo take five girls who they clearly knew could be easily manipulated or just plain old dumb and create a show that mocks a beautiful religion.
How dare five Jewish girls take part in a show that mocks their religion, all 13 million of their fellow Jews, and themselves, not just as women but as Jews