The usual suspects are all up in arms about some statements made during Mark Maron’s WTF podcast during an interview with comedian Seth Rogen. The podcast was meant to promote Rogen’s new movie An American Pickle, starring Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, a Jewish (duh) man who immigrates to America from an Eastern European shtetl in 1919, gets a job in a pickle factory, falls into a barrel of pickles and then wakes up 100 years later to a very different world. It’s obviously a story with powerful universal themes but it’s also very, very Jewy. So obviously, during the course of the podcast, Maron and Rogen had to discuss Jews and Israel. That’s where the trouble started – as the interview progressed, Maron was not unaware of the potential for controversy, stating “We’re gonna piss off a bunch of Jews.” Here’s some of the controversial exchange:
Maron: Do you want to live in Israel?
Maron: I’m the same way and we’re gonna piss off a bunch of Jews… For some reason my mother, who’s not religious, her generation, they’re kind of hung up on Israel and they find comfort in it. I couldn’t imagine living there.
Rogen: No. There are nice parts… at best you are convincing yourself that you are far enough away from a major conflict to not worry about it which is a terrible thing to convince yourself of. I don’t understand. To me it just seems very, like an antiquated thought process. Like, if it’s for religious reasons, I don’t agree with it because I think religion is silly. If it is truly for the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place especially when that place has proven to be… pretty volatile. “I’m trying to keep all these things safe, I’m going to put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place! That will do it!” It doesn’t make sense to me. And I also think that as a Jewish person, like I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life. You know, they never tell you, that oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was– just sitting there, oh the f*cking door’s open!
Maron: Ours for the taking.
Rogen: Yeah. Literally they forget to include that fact to every young Jewish person: Basically, oh yeah, there were people living there.
It’s so weird that no one ever taught Rogen about Palestinians, despite the fact that he went to a left-wing Habonim Dror Camp. It’s also weird that despite having met Israelis, both Rogen and Maron have a very stereotypical view of what they are like:
Rogen: I classify Jews as either soft Jews or sinewy Jews… like Israelis are very, like… they’re leathery and veiny and muscular and sinewy. I would put them in a “tough” category
Maron: Yeah, they don’t fuck around. Israelis aren’t going to put up with our fucking middle class Jew bullshit… they don’t even care if we’re religious…
Rogen: I haven’t gotten along with an Israeli…
Maron: I don’t think I have ever gotten along with an Israeli.
Rogen: At my Jewish summer camp, there were Israeli counsellors who were fresh out of the army. They were psychotic and they would torture us.
Rogen certainly loves to be dismissive of his Jewish identity – when discussing the fact that he was married to a Jewish woman he said “I would have been totally happy marrying a non-Jewish person, it’s only coincidental that [wife Lauren Miller is] Jewish, and it really bothers her when I say that. She wants her Judaism to have some value to me, even though it doesn’t, in any way, shape or form.”
But Rogen does express some basic understanding of the Jewish condition writ large when he observed “That’s why my grandfather was so tough… And why my grandmother was so tough… everyone hated them. People beat the shit out of them… If you meet a Jewish person in America… they’re probably here because someone tried to kill their grandparents not that long ago…”
I remember my dad frankly telling me ‘People hate Jews. Just be aware of that. They just do.’ … And it’s honestly something that I am so glad was instilled in me from a young age, because if it wasn’t, I would constantly be shocked at how much motherf*ckers hate Jews, because they do! … It is pervasive and it is prevalent and it is to many Jewish people so confounding that they don’t assume it’s true … I’ve tried to put a lot of thought into why it’s happened … People obviously hate people who do not look like them. … I think people also have a weird fear of people who look like them but do not believe the same thing they do fundamentally.
So what are we make of this? Does Seth Rogen hate Jews? Does he hate Israel? Many believe so and that opinion is shared by right-wing pundits who moan and groan, as well as anti-Israel stalwarts who celebrate Rogen’s perceived dismissal of Zionism.
But, this all makes sense if you look at it from the disjointed rambling of Stoner logic.
Duuude. I don’t give a sh*t about Judaism. But also it totally sucks that people hate Jews. I’m super Jewy and my next movie has Yiddish dialog and Jewish themes and, wait, I don’t care about Judaism, right? But I’m worried about the Jews living in Israel because they’re like all gathered there in one place and all it takes is one nuke or one lost war and they’ll all be dead! Uh… you gonna eat those Doritos man?
For a guy who never learned of the existence of Palestinians while growing up literally surrounded by peace activists, Rogan does exhibit a keen understanding of the geopolitical realities that challenge the State of Israel on a daily basis. His solution – spread the Jews around so that they’re less of a target – makes sense if you’re stoned – but ask Seth (preferably when he’s not high) to move back to his ancestral shtetl in Schlupsk in order to avoid being rounded up by some Tea Party, KKK-loving militia, and see what he says. If he agrees to go back, then I’ll move back to Casablanca. Because Jews living as a minority spread all around the world has never been tried before… What could possibly go wrong??
Yeah. I didn’t think so bucko. I wonder what his lovely wife, actress and director Lauren Miller, has to say about all this. I am also keenly monitoring his Mom’s awesome twitter account @RogenSandy in the hopes of hearing her perspective. In all this hullabaloo, I totally appreciate the controversy and the many conversations it has inspired. But don’t take it too seriously – stoner logic bro.
Now I’m a go crawl back in to my blender. An American Pickle starts streaming on HBO Maxx beginning August 9th. Please Jews, don’t be pissed off and boycott the film.