The subtext of any pop culture piece on Jewlicious is always the age old question “Is it good for the Jews?” I watched season 2 episode 2 of Glee recently and the answer is… well, not so clear. Glee, the Fox show about Glee Club at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, does not lack for Jews, both overt and covert. First there’s Brad Falchuk, one of the show’s Executive Producers and writers. His Mom Nancy Falchuk has been the National President of Hadassah since 2007. That’s pretty Jewy, even by Hollywood standards where almost everyone in the biz is a yid. Hadassah… that’s some serious yichus! But who gives a shit about the behind the scenes people, right? There’s plenty of Jewyness on the show itself.
We have the mohawked Puck, aka Noah Puckerman whose family celebrated Simchat Torah by watching Schindler’s List. Do I need to tell you how fucked up that is? I hope not… Puck it seems is also a bit of a prophet. Who can forget his description of one divine exhortation: “When I woke up, I knew it was a message from God. Rachel was a hot Jew and the Good Lord wanted me to get into her pants.” The Rachel in question is Rachel Berry, the other overtly Jewish character in Glee club. With her two gay dads she brings new complexity to the “who is a Jew” debate. She does have a Streisandesque air about her, she is very ambitious and driven (Jew!) and like many of her fellow secular American coreligionists, she is dating a non-Jew (Finn Hudson, the school’s quarterback and a member of the Glee club).
Next we have the crypto Jews… Is Artie Abrams, the nerdy paraplegic a Jew? What about his love-interest, Tina Cohen-Chang? Does that mean her Mom is Jewish? Finally we have Quinn Fabray, head cheerleader and Finn’s former ex. As a hot, blond sexy cheerleader, former head of the school’s Christian abstinence club until she got knocked up by Puck, she has tremendous Sh*ksappeal (I can’t really use that term anymore, can I?), she is actually played by Member of the Tribe, Dianna Agron. Go figure.All of this however, is merely a prelude to the Jew issues raised by the most recent episode of Glee.
Featuring a guest appearance by Britney Spears, the episode was so popular that half an hour after the episode aired, 7 of the 10 trending topics on twitter were Glee-related. One of the trending topics was the term “Jewish Cloud.” See, after getting a shot of Nitrous Oxide at the dentist, Glee club member and cheerleader Brittany caressed Jacob Ben Israel’s Jewfro and said that it looked like “…a Jewish cloud.” She was tripping, get it?
Jacob, played by Josh Sussman, was an important part of this episode. The Glee club’s use of a Britney Spears number at a school assembly seemed to have hypersexualized everyone, and nowhere is that hypersexuality more on display than it was with Jacob. Jacob offered to kill his parents and give Finn his house if he let him have Rachel after she showed up to school in a Britney Spears inspired schoolgirl outfit. Afterward, Jacob was caught in the Library, butt naked and apparently pleasuring himself. But that was restrained compared to Jacob’s behavior at the homecoming assembly when the Glee Club performed “Toxic.” At least at the Library, he was (mostly) alone whereas at the assembly he appeared to be pleasuring himself while moaning and screaming out loud.
This episode had massive ratings. Massive. It drew 13.5 million viewers, even more than the season debut the week before and broke all kinds of records. Glee’s depiction of Jews tries to mirror, at least in some respects, the complexity of modern Jewish America. But Jacob Ben Israel’s cringing, self-loathing, hypersexual character seems to be a Jewish cliche based on a combination of Portnoy’s Complaint and Der StÃ¼rmer.
I’m not Abe Foxman and Jewlicious is not the ADL and I am not at all suggesting that Glee’s writers are anti-Semitic. However, Jacob’s over the top behavior is weak, juvenile and ultimately uninteresting. My suggestion? Since Jacob is both Jewish and a blogger, why not model his character more on Nick Denton, the founder of the Gawker media empire? A young Nick Denton (MOT) transplanted from London into Ohio, struggling with his sexuality and whatever… it’s got to be more interesting than the current Jacob Ben Israel tomfoolery.
Returning to the original question of this post: Glee. Good for the Jews? I have to make a small confession. The truth is, I don’t really care. Please don’t hate me.