Controversial comedian Jonah Hill is in the hot seat over his new Netflix hit, “You People,” which critics claim is “horribly damaging” for its “disturbing” stereotypical depiction of Jews.
The plot of the film is an old one: A boy and girl from completely different backgrounds fall in love and must break the news to their parents.
Netflix sums it up this way: “Families and cultures clash when two LA millennials from different backgrounds fall in love and face the ultimate relationship test: meeting the parents.”
Hill plays Ezra Cohen, a Jewish man, who falls for Amira Mohammed, a Black Muslim woman, played by Lauren London.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny play Ezra’s woke parents, with Eddie Murphy and Nia Long playing mom and dad to London’s Amira.
Something ensues, but according to “Jews Don’t Count” author, U.S.-born British comedian David Baddiel, it wasn’t hilarity.
“It’s a Jews Don’t Count fest,” Baddiel tweeted. “The Jewish family are positioned as white, privileged and racist. The black family just have a stern dad. At the end there’s much Jewish apologising for racism. None for antisemitism. That word never appears.”
He was responding to a tweet from Jew in the City Founder and Executive Director Allison Josephs, who stated, “‘You People’ is just really, really bad. In so many ways. Not sure what they were hoping to accomplish, but it didn’t work.”
It’s a Jews Don’t Count fest. The Jewish family are positioned as white, privileged and racist. The black family just have a stern dad. At the end there’s much Jewish apologising for racism. None for antisemitism. That word never appears.
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) January 29, 2023
Josephs explained her position to Newsweek.
“I’ve spoken with so many Jewish people who are really, really upset by this movie,” she said. “I think one of the biggest frustrations for me, watching the movie was not being able to comeback to some of the outrageous claims that were made.”
The film, she stated, is full of “falsehoods” that go unchallenged.
“As the viewer, you’re just subjected to listening to the conversation. There were so many falsehoods, or so many claims put out there without any challenge. And so now that becomes just part of what people may accept to be true,” she said. “It’s an erasure of Jewish history and like an invalidation of all that we’ve been through and all that we continue to go through. It was a really painful movie to watch.”
Josephs, whose nonprofit works to dispel Jewish stereotypes, noted the “cheap” shots the film takes at the Holocaust, the depictions of Jewish women as having large noses, and the reinforced notion that Jewish families obtained their generational wealth largely through the connections they had.
Just as offensive, Josephs contends, is the portrayal of the Muslim family’s devotion to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom Josephs called a “virulent antisemite.”
“A direct quote from him is that he’s not an antisemite, he’s an anti-termite,” she noted. “This is a guy that literally uses Nazi-like language to describe Jews. It’s deeply disturbing that Farrakhan is put up on this pedestal.”
“Then [in the film] they do a comparison of slavery versus the Holocaust,” she continued. “It certainly shouldn’t be a competition, but the pain of the Holocaust also shouldn’t be downplayed as not mattering or being insignificant.”
Then there’s the “completely insane” bit where the notion that Jews made major bank off the backs of U.S. slaves is floated.
“It completely erases the fact that most Jews came to this country fleeing systemic Jew hatred, whether it was Cossacks or Nazis or a systemic exile from the Arab world in the mid-1940s,” Josephs said. “There are very few Jews that came to the U.S. in positions of power.”
“Yes, there were some Jews who did have slaves in the South,” she conceded. “That was a thing. But this idea that Jews had some disproportionate role in the slave trade is untrue. It’s honestly some Louis Farrakhan type of garbage.”
And this movie promotes this ignorance and much more ignorance. It all goes unchecked. And since it’s under the guise of “comedy” and “satire,” we’re not supposed to take it seriously
— Allison Josephs (@jewinthecity) February 1, 2023
Hill, who co-wrote the film with director Kenya Barris, is himself Jewish, and that’s the part that pains Josephs the most.
“I’m not sure what Jonah Hill’s situation is,” Josephs said. “The only two possibilities are that he’s ignorant, or he is full of so much self-hatred, that he didn’t push back. But it’s one of the two or both.”
The writing, she contends, is full of “antisemitism.”
“The lines that are written in this movie, because they’re not challenged, because they’re put out there unchecked, paint the Jew as the powerful one, the privileged one, the rich one,” she said. “It’s both implicit antisemitism and then also very explicit antisemitism.”
Overall, Josephs concluded, the film is “irredeemable.”
“I think the film is irredeemable,” she said. “And I think it’s horribly damaging, and I think it will increase a division, a wedge between the Black and Jewish community.”
“I think this movie will endanger Jews,” Josephs stated. “I think it’s a really irresponsible movie.”
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