Hollywood Jews toughen up


Like Wall Street and the corporate law firm, Hollywood is one of those storied locales where the American Jewish success story is supposedly written (and dramatized, filmed, promoted, and re-released on DVD). But Lewis Beale, writing Sunday in the L.A. Times, says that films like "Defiance" (and its like-minded predecessor, "Munich") offer a marked departure from the Woody Allenesque (and Mel Brooksish, and Jerry Seinfeldian, and Adam Sandleresque) way Jews have been portrayed by Hollywood in the past — as, well, nebbishes. Now, Jews are manly and muscular and sexual conquerers — and, almost invariably, portrayed by non-Jewish actors.

But there’s one area in which Jewish men have yet to find Hollywood-style redemption: in their love lives. Here’s Beale:

Seinfeld, Sandler, David and the guys in "Knocked Up" seem to lust almost exclusively for non-Jewish women. "In the Apatow movies, there are no Jewish women at all," [the National Center for Jewish Film’s Lisa] Rivo says. "Part of the deal is that the nerdy Jewish guy gets the gorgeous shiksa. It’s pervasive in the Apatow films, and it’s shockingly backward."

And it’s not just as lovers; Jewish female characters are barely visible in mainstream media. Although Debra Messing, who is Jewish in real life, played one in TV’s "Will & Grace" and in the current "Nothing Like the Holidays" on the big screen, others, like the Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox characters in "Friends," are practically stealth Jews; we know they’re members of the Tribe, but they exist outside of any Jewish cultural context.

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