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I’ve never watched HBO’s True Blood, but after hearing a bit of buzz and reading this article, I watched this clip to see what the fuss was about that made the author so upset.

Marjorie Ingall wrote that she was disappointed with the show because the first reference to something Jewish, after having ignored Jews for four seasons, is a character chanting in what she refers to as “bastardized Hebrew” during a blood-letting/consuming ritual. She makes the case that the show is comparing Jews to vampires in several subtle ways, which is inappropriate given the Jewish history with blood libels.

While I think that most of the comparison is grasping at straws, the part of her argument that is weakest and actually even made me a bit upset is that the ritual is not chanted in Hebrew at all. While watching the clip, I quickly recognized the language of the chant as Aramaic. How embarrassing for Ingall. Perhaps next time she should do some research before crying “wolf” in her witch-hunt for anti-Semites.

Ingall’s little faux pas got me thinking about how Jews are represented in the TV shows I’ve been watching lately. It’s not clear to me why she was so bothered by a lack of Jewish representation in a show about vampires (especially when she got upset at the first reference because it’s insensitive to the blood libels to connect Jews to vampires). Many television shows include a token Jewish character. Often these characters are represented with some sort of (usually) inoffensive stereotypes, and nobody really feels the need to get insulted and point out the anti-Semitism of portraying a Jew as a successful doctor, lawyer, banker or physicist who still lives with his overbearing mother. Although I usually find humor in the stereotypical television Jew, I do not find a show to be lacking if it leaves out the Jewish guy.

In the past weeks, I’ve enjoyed all three seasons of The Good Wife (which I recommend, if you’re looking for a new show). One of the characters, Eli Gold, is a good Jew. When Eli was first introduced in the show, I admit that I was expecting him to be portrayed as rather sleazy. Like Ingall, I have a tendency to assume that when Jews are stereotyped on TV it’s going to be full of negativity and make us all look bad. But it turns out that not only does the show represent Eli as an upstanding, honest character with a tendency to lean towards the moral and correct path, they also include several references to the Middle-East conflict. The first time Israel was mentioned my heart almost skipped a beat. I was entirely certain that they would make Israel out be the bad guys. Much to my surprise, the writers managed to stay impressively neutral and portray both sides in what seemed to me a fairly unbiased perspective. The part of this that I found to be most incredible was the way that Eli’s character interacted with a leader of the Muslim community. When the characters initially meet, the Muslim asks Eli, a crisis manager, to help fix the Palestinian image following a protest in which things went awry. Eli responds, “You know I’m Jewish, right?” The two go on to work together, and in the end we see that Jews and Muslims can, in fact, overcome differences and get along. There is even another example of that in the same episode, but I do not want to spoil it for you, as it’s a great show and you should watch it.

But I digress. My point is that sometimes Jews are represented in television in a negative light, other times quite positively and occasionally not at all. There is no need to dig deep into the roots of the writers’ psyches to find some way of making them terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad anti-Semites. It’s a show about vampires, for goodness sake! It’s not necessary to play the victim and write a three-page article condemning the show for it’s use of Aramaic.

August 2019
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