Friday, June 29, 2007

Jews and Entertainment

Heather Ferreria left the following comment on my post about Spiderman 3 and it got me thinking:

As a Sephardic Jewish chick also in the film ind., I'd like to know for giggles why Ashkenazi guy directors always love casting Irish Gentiles who look like them as the impossible action lead who gets the unmistakably shiksa dame. Google a photo of Tobey Maguire. Then Google one of Sam Raimi. Place side by side and compare. Then edit in fact that Sam Raimi is hot into shiksa (oh surprise) redheads. Living vicariously, are we much?I'd like just once to see a hot studly Gentile guy director cast his Jewish doppelganger as the intelligent, nebbishly lead who gets the hot, raven-haired intelligent Jewish girl. Think it will ever happen? Ha!I'll take Ed Burns or Edward Norton any day over Woody Allen. I think most of us would. So all my lead actors from now on are going to be goyim! It's time for Jewish girl director revenge!

Now, yesterday I was home sick (I am a big mess without CJ) so I did what any intelligent, homebound person with internet access will do. I trawled the major networks for full episodes of their shows online. This lead me to watch old episodes of NCIS, a CBS show. In case you are unaware, NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and as we know, I love all things Naval.

Now one of the characters on NCIS is called "Ziva Davide" and she is a former-Mossad agent working for NCIS. Now I'm pretty unclear about this for a number of reasons. Primary among them being that I thought you couldn't work for the US government if you had ever served in a foreign army. Maybe not, though. So, I've provided a picture of her below:

Now, this character is played by Cote de Pablo. That's right, an Israeli character is being played by a Chilean woman. Is Hollywood suffering from a lack of Israelis? That seems unlikely, no matter where I go I find Israelis, and I'm not even looking. Anyway, this absurdity came to a head during an episode where there is an ACTUAL Israeli who portrays a rogue Israeli arms dealer. Unsurprisingly "Ziva" was less than pleased with him, however, when she confronts him in Hebrew she can only say one line, and that with a bizarre accent. Seriously, they got a real Israeli for the bit part, but couldn't find a single one for the regular role? Seriously? Israel is a country full of beautiful women. Beautiful, deadly women! Perfect for this show.

It just seems absurd. Maxim knows that Israelis are attractive, if only we could get the rest of the industry on the bandwagon.


michael said...

Sam Raimi's wife is Jewish. I think we can draw firmer conclusions about his preference in women from whose bed he shares, rather than from who he casts.

Also, apparently it never occurred to Ms. Ferreria that since Spider-Man has forty years of well-established characterization, Raimi was not at great liberty to cast a "raven-haired intelligent Jewish girl" in the part of Mary Jane, the, ahem, shiksa redhead.

I guess I sort of fail to see the problem - a Jewish film director helms a film dealing with an established story involving non-Jewish characters, and we're supposed to be offended that our lovely shtetl goddesses aren't strongly represented? God, can we ever fucking watching/read/listen to ANYTHING without probing into the sexual, cultural and religious affiliations of its creator?

Also, in Sam Raimi's further defense, the female lead in his first movie, Evil Dead, was the very Jewish Ellen Sandweiss, and the sultry and - yes - raven-haired ingenue in Army of Darkness was played by the Jewish Embeth Davidtz.

But even if Sam Raimi was married to a Swedish swimsuit model and every one of his children had an umlaut in their name, and was on record stating "I won't cast Jewish women because of their sinister hook noses" - who cares? It is his prerogative not only as a filmmaker, but as a human being. This kind of obsessive ethnic navel-gazing - especially extremely tenuous sexual psychobabble like Ferreria's comment - makes us look bad.

Annie said...

Michael- I agree in the Spiderman example, the point was that it got me thinking.

Anonymous said...

For a lead role they probably cast the best actress possible. How often does her heritage come up that it matters that she isn't really Israeli. For the bit part its easier to get an actor who only needs to act a little.

Jack's Shack said...

the point was that it got me thinking.

I am a big proponent of engaging in thought. That is not being sarcastic. I think that a lot of what happens around us is geared so that people do not have to think.

Annie said...

Anon- they talk about her Israeli heritage basically every episode. Either about being Israeli, or in Mossad, or something. At least in every episode I've seen (which is 6 or so this season).

Jack- um, thanks?

The Pedant said...

All the Israelis are busy playing Arabs. Just check out Tel Aviv born Oded Fehr's career.

Heather Ferreira said...

A joke of mine elicits this elaborate kvetchfest? I'm flattered. And it is spelled Ferreira.

>>God, can we ever fucking watching/read/listen to ANYTHING without probing into the sexual, cultural and religious affiliations of its creator?<<

Um, no? Do we ever?

Michael, are you of the tribe? Doubtful. And even if you are, I must have hit a nerve! How DARE a Jewish girl director take the comedic route and cast the way the boys do from now on. FYI, the male lead in my upcoming feature is Jewish. I pronounce feh upon you.

No sense of humor, sheesh...

Heather Ferreira said...

And just FYI, as a PS, when I briefly hung out near Sam (I went on A DATE, as in one only, with his brother Ted), he was NOT married, and he was VERY much into shiksa redheads, including one who was by his admission, actually, "a tigress". Ask him. Or do you know him?

I realize he has his fanboys, and defend him all you want, but until you're in a place to know the *full* story, there we are. A man can be attracted to something different than he is married to; or don't you know that?

And am I kvelling about the brief, sexless encounter with said Raimi brother? Yes I am, LOL...

Get a sense of humor. Those who bark at jokes were obviously stung personally by the barb.

michael said...

Most people who have senses of humor don't feel the need to trumpet the quality of their own (an irritating trait), especially when coupled with self-important, namedropping bullshit. And yes, I am of the tribe, and no, I'm not a Sam Raimi fanboy, and yes, you are tedious.

Those who bark at jokes are obviously stung personally by their paucity of humor.

harley said...

I personally think that only people who exactly resemble in ethnic/genetic make-up the character they're portraying should be given the roles. For NCIS, an Israeli woman, for A Mighty Heart, a French woman of Dutch-Jewish, Afro-Latino-Cuban and Chinese Cuban ancestry to play Marianne Pearl, and for Spiderman, a guy who was bitten by a genetically engineered spider.

It's so simple. When will Hollywood get the point?

EV said...

I hit "comment" to point out the absurdity of blaming Sam Raimi for "casting" decisions made by Stan Lee half a century ago -- but I see Michael has done the honors already. Thank you Michael! And double thanks for referencing EVIL DEAD, a franchise that forever pardons Raimi for his current slop and swill.

I only want to add that any director who casts Garfield as an orange cat must have a pathological obsession with orange-furred felines.

Anonymous said...

This discussion is quite bizarre. Who cares what the ethnicity of the actors playing Peter and Mary Jane is? Andrew Garfield, who plays the next Spider-Man, is Jewish. James Franco, who played the "old" Harry Osborn, is Jewish on his mother's side. Not a lot of people know this, but Topher Grace's father is Jewish (Grace played Venom, and not very well). So, just as with most franchises, there are some Jews or part Jews around if you know where to look. Why criticize? And why criticize even if there were no Jewish actors at all in the Spidey films? Sam Raimi isn't obligated to cast Jews in his movies any more than Marc Webb, the new, non-Jewish, Spider-Man director, is obligated to cast a non-Jewish Spider-Man (in fact, he did the opposite). Chris Columbus isn't Jewish but apparently loves casting Jewish lead actors in his children's movies (see Percy Jackson as the most recent example or go back to The Goonies and Gremlins for the first). I wouldn't want that to stop.