January 9, 2005
Why Hot, WASPy Chicks Love Jews
by Joel Stein
This is embarrassing to admit, but we thought you didn't like us. So while we Jews were controlling the media, we tried to avoid putting actual Jewish characters in front of you. Seinfield, sure. But we made George Costanza Italian. We gave Craig Kilborn a talk show.
But now that you've spent about $200 million to laugh at Ben Stiller's mega-Jewish parents dealing with his WASPy soon-to-be-in-laws in "Meet the Fockers," we feel comfortable showing you our big Jewish selves. Philosemetism, which is so new we had to invent a word for it, has led to a whole new genre: Jewsploitation.
In addition to "Fockers," there's the movie "The Hebrew Hammer," Heeb magazine, Jewcy clothing, Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" and his animated film "Eight Crazy Nights," and an upcoming collection of bar mitzvah stories called "Bar Mitzvah Disco."
The fact that young Jews in Hollywood feel comfortable creating Jewy characters isn't surprising. That's what happens when you forget to stop scaring us. You let us into your country clubs, gave us your women and encouraged our most annoyingly self-righteous member to run for president. So now that we've assimilated to the point where we're completely the same as white people, we're trying to re-create a community by shoving our culture down your throats. The bizarre part is that the same masses who saw "The Passion of the Christ" are into it.
With "Meet the Fockers," otherwise sane people in red states were willing to fork over $6 ? or however much they pay for movies in their Third World economy ? to hang out with my parents for two hours. The success of "Meet the Fockers" shows that America is familiar and comfortable enough with Judaism to get the jokes. Al Jazeera may be right.
The stereotype in Jewsploitation isn't the neurotic, nervous Jews of Woody Allen films, which you guys never seemed to like much. The Jews in "The Fockers" are loud, inappropriate, obsessed with sex and bodily functions, overly affectionate, liberal, earthy and smothering.
These traits seem to amuse people who don't get two helpings of it a day from parents who can't seem to understand that this is precisely why we moved 3,000 miles away to Los Angeles.
But they are also the traits that eventually teach the WASP parents in "Fockers" to loosen up and enjoy life. It's the same function black people perform when they are forced to be in movies with Steve Martin. Blacks do voodoo; Jews do therapy. We both are portrayed as clownish people who eat too much, talk loudly, rebel against authority, use colorful slang, over-emote, are too in touch with our bodies and are clannish. We happen to be the only two groups of people in the world who don't just pretend but actually enjoy jazz.
Josh Neuman, the editor of the Jewsploitation magazine Heeb, is concerned about this new role. Then again, like most Jews, he's concerned about everything.
"It's a kind of a fetishization of the Jew," he said. "In the middle-American mind, Jews are beloved people. They're a special kind of Christian. They're like babies. They haven't yet matured into full-fledged humans. I don't think it's 'Meet the Fockers' today, Kristallnacht tomorrow. But I don't think kabbalah is a good thing."
Neuman has a point about this fetishization thing. Like the assimilated Ben Stiller character who marries Teri Polo in "Meet the Fockers," super-WASPy women seem to be into us. Suzanne Somers once told me that Jews make good husbands because we have good relationships with our mothers.
Good relationship, suffocation, what's the difference? The point is Suzanne Somers likes us.
And I love Jewsploitation. It's what we were doing already anyway. When you belong to a people who can completely pass as white, you have the luxury of exploiting your difference when it's to your advantage and hiding it when it's not. It's why we crafted this clever but adorably harmless image. We've infantilized ourselves. Because hot WASPy chicks love babies.