A Modern Jewish Woman

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It’s not so easy being a movie fan and a Jewish woman. Oh sure, there are plenty of mainstream movies told from a Jewish point of view—Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Judd Apatow, yadda yadda yadda—but from a Jewish woman’s point of view? Not so much. Even more annoyingly, too many Jewish male film directors cut Jewish women out of films entirely. Allen and Apatow, for a start, repeatedly take the scenario of “schlubby Jewish man, hot non-Jewish woman” as the basis for their romantic comedy, as though marrying out is the greatest happy ending a Jewish man can hope for. Allen, in fact, goes out of his way to achieve this set-up: the young woman who originally inspired Manhattan was, in fact, Jewish, but when it came to making the film he cast the supremely WASP-y Mariel Hemingway. Also, while Jewish men in movies are celebrated for their adorably Jewish qualities—funny, smart, yadda yadda yadda take two—Jewish women are too often characterized on screen as nasal nags who nobody would choose when they could have Mariel Hemingway or Katherine Heigl instead. So, like I said, not much for a Jewish woman at the cinema.

You’re all thinking “What about Yentl?” right now, aren’t you? Ahh, good ol’ Yentl, or, more specifically, good ol’ Streisand. I love Barbra Streisand as much as the next narcissistic Jewish woman with a fondness for show tunes, but there are two responses to this “what about Yentl?” argument: first, Yentl is one movie made almost a quarter of a century ago, and two, no one, really, can claim that Streisand provides a Jewish woman’s point of view in a movie. What she does—and God bless her for it—is provide la Streisand’s point of view. Lest we forget, Streisand cast HERSELF as the sexually irresistible psychiatrist Dr Lowenstein in 1991’s The Prince of Tides, who seduces Nick Nolte while he’s married to Blythe Danner. Now, I love that Streisand gave herself that part, but is this a scenario that reflects most Jewish women’s experiences? I’m going to go with no here. It is a scenario that entirely reflects Streisand’s ego, and that is why we love her.

So, as I was saying, not too much from the world of cinema in which your average Jewish woman can see herself—and by “average Jewish woman” I obviously mean me (hey, I told you I’m a narcissist.) With one terrific exception…

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