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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Why Hollywood's Jewish guys fall in love with shiksas

From Diane Keaton to Mariel Hemingway to Scarlett Johansson, Woody Allen's favorite women have been WASPy blonds. [UPDATE: As many readers have noted, Johansson is actually Jewish, so perhaps I should call her a WASPy blonde Jewess.] At any rate, Allen is not alone. As Liel Leibovitz writes in a fascinating new essay in Tablet magazine, "Since the dawn of American entertainment, Jewish women were largely rendered invisible, absent everywhere from burlesque to Hollywood to prime-time television. Instead, they watched as their sons and brothers and husbands became successful producers, directors and impresarios, powerful men who then chose to populate their works with a parade of sexy, sultry shiksas who looked nothing like their female kin."

It's a big, bold accusation, but Leibovitz does a pretty persuasive job of proving it, digging all the way back to the earliest days of burlesque, when if you worked for the striptease kingpins the Minsky Brothers, you had to be a blond or a redhead, never a brunet. The early Hollywood moguls, eager to shed their shtetl roots, quickly dumped their first wives for Gentile trophy dames and largely banished both Jewish men and women from their all-American hymns to assimilation, forcing Jewish actors like John Garfield (Julie Garfinkle) and Danny Kaye (David Kaminsky) to change their names to far less ethnic-sounding monikers.

But Leibovitz argues that even today, long after Jewish TV execs allowed male characters to be named Seinfeld, Steinberg and Fisher, they still required the guys to lust after decidedly non-Jewish women. She points to a slew of shows, including "Mad About You," "Chicken Soup," "Flying Blonde" and "Anything But Love," that all feature neurotic Jewish (filmmaker/pajama salesman/biz exec/writer) men pining after gorgeous and free-spirited shiksas. Each show was designed around the idea of transformation, or more specifically, the power of a non-Jewish woman to extricate her Jewish lover from his suffocating, crass and unhealthy environment.

When it comes to being an onscreen presence in a Jewish guy's life, blonds clearly have more fun, whether it's Cheryl Hines playing opposite Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or Drew Barrymore being Adam Sandler's love interest in "The Wedding Singer" and "50 First Dates." (Maybe I'm forgetting someone, but by my count, it wasn't until 2008's "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," where Sandler played an Israeli hairdresser, that he cast an actual Jewish actress -- Emmanuelle Chriqui -- as his romantic partner.)

Leibovitz could expand her critique, since when it comes to being invisible, African American women have it even worse than Jewish women, rarely if ever getting a meaty part playing opposite black mega-stars like Denzel Washington, Sam Jackson and Will Smith. But her point is well taken. In an era where Jewish women have cracked the glass ceiling time and again as producers and studio executives (from Sherry Lansing and Laura Ziskin to Gail Berman and Amy Pascal), it's slim pickings when it comes to parts for actresses looking to shine in the spotlight. In Hollywood, if you're a Jewish woman, your best career possibilities are still behind the camera, feeding all the good lines to the shiksa goddesses.

Speaking of shiksa goddesses, here's one with a spider in her bathroom:


Comments () | Archives (36)

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Hey crosspost, the fact that, say, Ben Stiller is 50% non-Jewish has never stopped the Patrick Goldsteins of the world from commonly describing Stiller as "Jewish" in articles like this one (and the same is true for many others who fit their views). Since I assume you were referring to Keri Russell, it ain't wishful thinking (see And in Goldstein's writing, it's clear he implies that Johansson or Sandler's co-stars are "totally" non-Jewish, no ambiguity. As for your own post, congrats on dredging up an ever more bountiful collection of stereotypes. Hope you feel proud of yourself.

As for ReasonedResponse, while I agree with the bulk of their post, I'm continually baffled at the fact that Streisand and Midler seem to be the only two Jewish actresses some people have ever heard of. Obviously, it has something to do with, again, stereotypes. Debra Winger and Lauren Bacall seem like two far better examples to me.

You should add Asian men to your list of those who are invisible on the silver screen. When there is an Asian female in a movie, she's invariably paired up with a white man as a romantic interest.

For my generation it's all about Asians - namely Koreans and Chinese. You get the controlling Jewish mother, with better genetics and the lack of that gnawing incessant need to debate Jewish women have.

And for the record, my Jewish side of the family is "suffocating, crass and unhealthy" so I don't see a problem.

Portnoy's Complaint - read it!

Shouldn't some one add "Mork and Mindy" to the list?

This article is offensive on so many levels. As a Shiksa woman who formerly worked in Hollywood, the bigger question is why are we treated like prostitutes by Jewish men in the film business. Why is that OK?

What I found confusing is that the majority of the convincing proof offered came from the television world, but female film executives were getting busted for it. Woody Allen is going to do what he wants to do, not what some studio exec suggests. If the writer had kept it narrowed down to just television, it might have been more persuasive.

Why hasn't someone thrown Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings into the mix? Or Sarah Silverman? I mean, she effed Matt Damon.

The following actresses are Jewish, and they're not feeding good lines to any so-called "shiksas" (an ethnic group I'm not familiar with):

-Ginnifer Goodwin
-Amanda Bynes
-Mila Kunis
-Jennifer Jason Leigh (100% Jewish)
-Alicia Silverstone
-Bar Refaeli
-Gwyneth Paltrow (father was Jewish)
-Debra Messing
-Nat Portman & the half-Jewish Scarlett Johansson
-Debra Winger
-Ashley Tisdale
-Amanda Peet (her mother is Jewish)
-Jennifer Connelly (same as Peet)
-Alexa Davalos
-Sarah Michelle Gellar
-Melanie Laurent (hottie from Inglourious Basterds)
-Alyson Hannigan (her mother is Jewish)
-Rachel Weisz
-Ellen Barkin
-Evan Rachel Wood
-Goldie Hawn (her mother is Jewish) and her daughter Kate Hudson
-Jami Gertz
-Jamie Lee Curtis (half)
-Julianna Margulies
-Margarita Levieva
-Rashida Jones (raised in her mom's Jewish faith; and her mom is actress Peggy Lipton, who's 100% Jewish)
-Mia Kirshner
-Selma Blair
-Michelle Trachtenberg
-The Arquette sisters and Rachel Bilson (all are half Jewish)
-Sara Paxton
-Winona Ryder

And there are more. I'd say that's a very respectable representation.

Well, at least this piece has people talking. I wish we were past having to keep count of who is what race/religion and how many parts of that race/religion each person is, like fetish scientists. I think that our industry, mass media, is full of talent and if we want to be as progressive as we say we are then we should show it and mix it up. Call centers in Pacoima are more integrated than a lot of offices in our line of work.

Ever heard of Lucille Ball?

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