‘Umbrella Academy’ co-creator says accusation of anti-Semitism on Netflix show is ‘factually incorrect’


(JTA) — The co-creator of the Netflix superhero series “The Umbrella Academy” pushed back against criticism that the show features anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Based on a comic book series of the same name, the show includes an underground society of lizard people who secretly control the world and their handler — who speaks Yiddish in at least one scene.

“The accusation of anti-Semitism in ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is hurtful and, more importantly, factually incorrect,” Steve Blackman said in a statement. “I wrote these episodes, created the character, and am myself Jewish. While I understand audiences sometimes receive things in a different way than creators intend, The Handler was not created as an anti-Semitic character.

“The Handler speaks every language, including Swedish, Mandarin, Yiddish, and English as we saw this season, and The Commission is not an evil organization; they do not control finances, governments, or the media. The only thing they control – and more importantly, protect – is the timeline of our fictional Umbrella Academy universe.”

Critics, including on social media, have said that an organization dedicated to controlling the world headed by someone who speaks Yiddish plays into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews published an open letter criticizing the show following the first season.

“The use of a Yiddish saying by the evil boss of an organization which controls the world’s timeline is clearly an anti-Semitic trope,” the group’s vice president, Amanda Bowman, told the Sun, a British tabloid, after the open letter was published. “Whether intentional or not, this makes for very uncomfortable viewing. Netflix should take action to remove the racism from this scene.”

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