We Should All Be Paying Attention to the Antisemitism at UC Berkeley

In an ideal world, college (and higher education in general) is an opportunity to spread our wings and see the world beyond what we think it is. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in the real world, which is far more complicated.

A couple weeks ago, a controversy erupted at UC Berkeley in California. Back in August, nine student groups adopted by-laws in which they agree to not invite speakers who “hold views in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.” In other words, the campus has certain sections that are judenrein.

First of all, Palestine is not occupied. Second of all, Israel is not an apartheid state. Third of all, they boiled the complex issue of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict into the idea that all Jews support Israel and subjugate Palestinian neighbors. None of this is true.

Recently Noa Tishby visited the campus and tried to get an understanding of what was going on. The video below speaks for itself.

Sarah Silverman responded to this news as perfectly as one can.

I wish that we would see each other as human beings first and then see us via whatever labels we use to identify ourselves. But we don’t. We rush to judgment and make a generic statement about who they are. My fear in all of this is that the students are our future leaders. Who knows where the poison they spread today will take us tomorrow.

P.S. I don’t know about anyone else, but Kyrie Irving’s apology seems a bit half-ass.

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Throwback Thursday: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Perception is not always everything. How we see ourselves is not how others see us. This can apply, in writing terms, to how we see antagonists. We, as the audience, know that they are up to no good. But this character believes that they are doing the right thing.

The 2012 Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph, is the story of an old-school video game villain who wants to be seen as a hero. Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) wishes that he was seen in a good light by the residents of the game he inhabits. The problem is there can only be one protagonist, Felix (Jack McBrayer).

He sees his opportunity to change his reputation via Seargent Calhoun (Jane Lynch) in a first-person shooter game. In doing so, he lets loose a virus that may shut down the entire arcade. The only way he can save himself and his world is through an unexpected ally: Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).

Can Ralph change his self-image and his entire world before it is too late?

I love this movie. It is funny, it is supremely entertaining, and it has heart. It also has a message about self-esteem and trying to prove that you are more than what others think you are.

I also love that the female characters are equal in terms of narrative and image to the male characters. They are not confined to “traditional” female roles.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Does Sarah Silverman Have a Point About Hollywood’s “Jewface” Problem?

In today’s media environment, representation is key. After too many years of the Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual male dominating our screens, the call for diversity has only gotten louder and will continue to do so.

Last week, comedian and actress Sarah Silverman called out Hollywood for “Jewface“. In laymen’s terms, it is when a non-Jewish actor plays a Jewish character (ala Kathryn Hahn playing Joan Rivers in the upcoming biopic). Her description of this phenomenon is as follows:

“It’s defined as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and center, often with makeup or changing of features, big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection. And in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”

In response to Silverman’s comments, actor Tony Shalhoub, who plays Rachel Brosnahan’s father in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, (neither of whom are Jewish) said the following:

“We were trained to — at least I was — to not play myself, to play characters and so it’s troubling to me that they’re limiting actors.”

He is right. An actor’s job is to pretend to be someone else. As long as they can play the role, it shouldn’t matter what their ethnicity or family background is. The problem is that too often, a character who is a minority is either ground down to the base stereotype or the actor is Caucasian, but the person they are playing is a POC.

I think she has a point. The problem as I see it is both in casting and the writing. If every performer was hired solely based on their race, religion, or where their ancestors came from, dramatized fiction would be severely limited. While it would be nice to see a Jewish actor playing a Jewish character, I have to be realistic. For me, it comes down to the script. The person I am seeing on screen must be fully drawn. If the writer(s) rely on how they think a Jewish person (or anyone) thinks or feels without making them human, that is where the problem lies.

Best Movies Of 2018

2018 has been an interesting year for movies. Below is my list of the top ten movies of 2018

  1. Widows: Women in action movies are at best the romantic significant other and at worst, the damsel in distress. Widows flips the genre and the expected narrative on its head and tells the story of four women who take fate into their own hands after the deaths of their criminal husbands.
  2. The Wife: Based on a book by Meg Wolitzer, Glenn Close plays a woman who questions her life choices as her husband reaches the peak of his career.
  3. Ralph Breaks The Internet: The sequel to Wreck-It Ralph follows Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) as they journey from their world of arcade games to the Internet.
  4. The Party: A group of friends get together to celebrate the professional success of one of them. In the process, hard emotional truths are revealed.
  5. Black Panther: Based on the comic book of the same name, an African King must fight for his throne while leading his country into the future.
  6. Vice: A biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
  7. The Favourite: Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) may sit on the throne of England, but she is not the one who is really leading country. Two women in her court vie to be her favorite and to gain power that only comes from being close to Queen.
  8. A Star Is Born: A Star Is Born is the 3rd reboot of a narrative that audiences have seen since the 1930’s. Unknown Ally (Lady Gaga) sees her career dreams turn into reality while her mentor/lover’s career flails due to addiction issues.
  9. Crazy Rich Asians: Based on a book by Kevin Kwan, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) travels from New York City to meet her boyfriend’s family for the first time. The visit is a bit more turbulent than Rachel expects.
  10. Aquaman: Based on the comic book of the same name, Jason Mamoa plays Arthur Reed, a man who is born of two worlds and must choose where he belongs.

This will be my last post of 2018. Thank you so much for visiting and reading my blog, your support means the world. Wherever you are this New Years Eve, have a safe and happy one. I will see you in 2019.

Ralph Breaks The Internet Movie Review

When creating animated movies, the creators have to walk a fine line. They have to appeal to both the children and the adults, which is often easier said that done.

Ralph Breaks The Internet premiered today. A sequel of Wreck-It Ralph, the film starts off six years later. Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are still the best of friends. But Vanellope is feeling hemmed in by how predictable her life is. When the game controller on her game breaks, Ralph and Vanellope travel to the Internet to find a new controller. Their plan is supposed to be simple, find the controller on Ebay and go home. But as the saying goes: “mortals plan and G-d laughs”.

While trying to stick to the plan, Ralph and Vanellope meet Shank (Gal Gadot) and Yesss (Taraji P. Henson). Will they be able to accomplish their goal or will things to awry?

This movie is brilliant, funny and appeals to all ages. It has the humor that speaks to the kids and the emotional gravitas that adults will appreciate. I also appreciated the scenes with the Disney Princesses. Without giving too much away, I will say that it was nice that Disney stepped into the modern era by stepping away from the traditional narratives of these traditional characters.

I recommend it.

Ralph Breaks The Internet is presently in theaters. 

Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World Book Review

Anyone who has children will tell you that being a parent is not easy.

Rabbi Susan Silverman (oldest sister of comedian and actress Sarah Silverman) should know. The mother of five (three natural daughters and two adopted sons) chronicles her life as a mother in her 2016 memoir, Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World. Born into a family that was culturally Jewish, but not practicing, she was raised as an atheist. As an adult, she became more religious and chose to make her living as a Rabbi. She also knew that she wanted adopt, in addition to have children the traditional way. The book is not just about parenting, but also about faith and dealing with everything that life brings.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I think everyone can relate to her journey, regardless of whether or not we have children.  There is a normalcy to her story that makes the reader feel like they can sit down with Rabbi Silverman and have a conversation with her, even if they don’t know her.

I recommend it.

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