Linda Lovitch

Thanks for the crrringe, Jonah Hill

'You People' depicts Jews as obtuse and apologetic for enjoying white privilege. Is that the only kind of Jew acceptable in the US today?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Shelley Cohen in a screenshot from the trailer for 'You People'
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Shelley Cohen in a screenshot from the trailer for 'You People'

Last Friday, I figured I would watch the new movie by Jonah Hill and Lauren London, “You People.” My daughter and her friend (both Israeli-born) were with me. Within minutes, her friend said, “crrringy” (that’s with a very Israeli accent). I didn’t even know Israelis knew the word. It was the perfect word for what I felt.

After reading innocuous critiques of the movie about the relationship of a star-crossed, Black-Jewish couple, I was curious to see how they dealt with a very volatile issue these days – the tenuous relationship between Jews and Black people in the US. I have been privy to many discussions on my latest obsession, the Clubhouse  app in which there seemed to be a very basic lack of understanding about who Jews are and how to define us.  Are we white? Do we enjoy white privilege? Many people seemed intent on defining us. And many Jews seemed intent on letting them.

I kept watching the movie in one of those “I should watch the whole thing, even though it’s excruciating” situations. Right off the bat, there was the incredibly insulting parade of all the old Jewish actors – Hal Linden, Elliot Gould, Richard Benjamin – and making them balloon stereotypes. It went above and beyond, even including an accused sexual abuser. How such esteemed actors agreed to portray these characters is beyond me.

And don’t get me started on the “Portnoy’s Complaint” stereotype of no-Jewish-woman-ever-being-tolerable-enough-to-date!

Jonah Hill’s mother Shelly Cohen (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), was, of course, “beyond woke”  saying things like – “I think the police are terrible to black people.” Or – in order to learn more about her future daughter-in-law’s culture, she watches the Chris Rock documentary on Black women’s hair. I get it – she’s trying to be “cool” and “hip” and just tries too hard. But, it’s insulting. What Jew doesn’t know what an Imam is? Hill and London decide to use her misunderstanding as a funny shtick. At least she tries to relate to her future daughter-in-law and does it without any malice. The only time she shows a little backbone is when Akbar Mohammed, the father of the bride-to-be played by Eddie Murphy, mentions Louis Farrakhan. “Are you familiar with the Minister’s work?” he asks. “I am familiar with what he said about the Jews.” Finally, a Jew who stands up for herself. For a minute.

The movie is equal-opportunity in portraying both the Jewish and Black characters as extreme and insulting. I guess I can appreciate that. Akbar, of course, has to be a total hard-ass and try to break down the future son-in-law. In contrast to the masked discomfort of the Jewish parents, he, at least, is clear that he is very unhappy to have a possible white man as his daughter’s choice.

The piece de resistance is when both Shelly the Jewish mother and Akbar the Muslim father apologize after making the couple’s life hell. Louis-Dreyfus’s character apologizes “on behalf of all white people and all Jewish people.” I am not exaggerating when I say that this was physically painful for me. Apparently, a Jew who is incredibly obtuse and apologizes for enjoying white privilege is the only kind of Jew acceptable in the US today.

Unacceptable at any time, a movie flogging these negative stereotypes is especially troubling at this moment. Jews in America are experiencing a terrifying increase in antisemitism coming from the alt-right and the far left. Kanye “Ye” West’s recent deranged anti-Jewish tirades, and the fact that they weren’t universally condemned, sent a message that Jew-hatred is going mainstream. It would be a good time for Jews in Hollywood to put forth positive images of Jews. It’s shameful when the groveling, oblivious, over-woke Jew is the best we can do.

I guess I will just have to wait for a movie with fierce and proud Jewish characters. Luckily, Tarantino lives around the corner.

About the Author
Linda Lovitch is a media and communications consultant in Israel, working with government spokespersons, ambassadors, high tech executives, start-ups, universities and non-profits. Linda helps people to communicate with clarity and confidence whether talking to live, televised or online audiences.
Related Topics
Related Posts