Jewish Thought-Funny Jews
becoming increasingly diverse in terms of casting, with shows like: Jane
the Virgin, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, Scandal, How to Get Away With
Murder, and The Mindy Project. However, stereotypes
such as “the loud and ‘ghetto’ Black woman,” or the “spicy Latina/Latin maid,”
or the “quiet and submissive Asian woman/tiger mom,” are still perpetuated
on our TVs today, specifically in terms of the mother characters. The media
representation of racial and ethnic minorities is highly relevant in the
context of social integration of groups and minorities into mainstream society.
In the literature on media representation of minorities, a common observation
is their low visibility or marginalization as well as their negative
generalizations and contextualizationSH1 .
emergence of more diverse primetime television shows arrived in the 1980’s and
this time period was also seen as the boom of television shows. This resulted
in shows like The
Cosby ShowSH2 and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, two extremely successful TV shows
centered around families of color. African-Americans were now cast in lead
roles and the audience (both black and white) was now laughing with instead of
at these African-American characters.
of African-American women have played an important role throughout the history
of the United States, for they were used to justify economic and social
structures such as slavery and segregation. Patricia Hill Collins, author of Black
Feminist ThoughSH3 t said: “Portraying African American women as stereotypical mammies,
matriarchs, welfare recipients and hot mammas helps justify US black women’s
oppression”4. These famous
stereotypes have been regularly used in both politics and popular culture
alike. However, none of these stereotypes represent the truly complex nature of
the individual. As
I mentioned before, television plays an important part in portraying these
stereotypesSH4 . African-American female characters in television are often
one-dimensional and it distorts the reality of black women. Three main
stereotypes of African American women have continuously reoccurred in U.S.
history: the Mammy, the Jezebel and the Sapphire5.
to Patricia A. Turner, “a truly fictional character”, the mammy traces back to
the post-Civil War period. African American women were forced to work in the
Big House: cook elaborate dinners, clean the entire premises and take care of
the children. In reality these women were often teenagers, ripped away from
their families in order to take care of white families they had never met. The
myth that was created, however, depicted a totally different image of the mammy
character. The mammy became an asexual grandmother type who dedicated her life
to her white family. She became the symbol of maternal care and instinct. She
was depicted as overweight, even though her food supply was severely rationed
by the white slave-owners. It may, therefore, be safe to argue that the myth of
the mammy was created to remove all the “heinous dimensions of slavery” and
soothe the Southerners’ conscience5 . The most popular interpretation of the mammy in American culture is the
role played by Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind. Although the role as
house slave won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her
the first African American actress ever to win an Oscar, it is important to
mention that her success in US cinema was made on the backs of misrecognized
African American women who in real life looked nothing like the Gone With the
next stereotype is the Jezebel. The Jezebel stereotype represents African
American women as promiscuous man-eaters whose sexual appetites. Just like the
stereotype of the mammy, the jezebel was invented to rationalize the concept of
slavery. In the nineteenth century, women there was a strict dress code for
women that made them adhere to a code of piety. This image of the virtuous
Victorian lady contrasted sharply with African American women working in
slavery. Many black women were forced to work half naked; labouring in cotton fields with their
skirts hiked up. In order for white slave-owners to reconcile with the fact
that they forced these women to nudity, the jezebel image was created to
justify their cruel behaviour and reaffirm white superiority. SH5 The next stereotype I’m going to discuss is The Sapphire. The Sapphire,
also known as the angry black woman (ABW) stereotype, depicts an African
American woman as a loud, verbally abusive, emasculating matriarch. Whereas the
mammy can be seen as the symbol of “good” motherhood, the Sapphire symbolizes
the “bad” black mother. I never realized until I was introduced to these three
stereotypes the box that black women were put in in television. When thinking
about each stereotype, I can distinctly recall a tv show or movie where the
black women fit into the molds I presented. The last stereotype I’m going to
present is the Strong Black Women. The stereotype of the strong black woman,
also often referred to as “the superwoman complex”, was developed by African
American women themselves to fight back against the degrading three previously
discussed stereotypes that were created by white Americans. African American
women wanted to create a more positive image of themselves and one that black
women could actually look up to. This stereotype is a blend of all the positive
traits of the previous stereotypes into the ultimate independent black women.
She can take care of herself and doesn’t need a man to pay her bills or take
care of her. Unfortunately, this sometimes puts African-American women in a box
because it also links these characteristics with suppressing their emotions in
order to achieve thisSH6 .
four of these stereotypes of black women can be found in television, even
today. Everybody Hates Chris depicts Rochelle as a sassy, no-nonsense mother
whose pride keeps her from working at any job where she feels disrespected or
unappreciated. She is extremely strict with her three children and often
challenges her husband. The connection between Rochelle’s parenting style and
her blackness encourages viewers to stereotype black mothers as loud,
domineering, and extremely harsh with their children and it draws on
previously-existing stereotypes, and her representation in Everybody Hates
Chris only reinforces this idea of black mothers. The popularity of the
loudmouthed, obnoxious, and strict Rochelle speaks to the appeal of Everybody
Hates Chris and the same can be applied with Sylvia Fine in The Nanny. —many
viewers like these shows and watch because of its stereotype-dependent humor.
Shows like The Nanny and Everybody Hates Chris exemplify the dramatization and
universality of the media’s portrayal of motherhood in not only Jewish culture
but in minority culture as well.
European Jews lived for centuries in small villages known as shtetls covering
areas of Germany, Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Slovakia, and Hungary and by
the 19th century,
a large amount of the world’s population of Jewish people lived in this area.
According to Hant, “Shtetl life was a harsh, but idealized life of family,
community, and commitement”6.Thousands of Eastern European Jews immigrated to the US during the
1880’s-1920’s and from this environment (in America), the Jewish Mother was
born. Hant also talks about how the Jewish Mother was caused by the “periods of
persecution” and “numerous superstitions that require extreme parenting
vigilance” that caused the mother to be seen as the protector of the family7 . This version
of the Jewish mother was the one that arrived to America during this period of
immigration. There is a positive portratal of the caring mother, always
available to listen, to help, to feed, to comfort a sick child. She is also
nurturing and excessively offers food which is symbolic to her, her family, and
love. Some of the more negative aspects of the stereotype originate from the
immigrant Jewish parent’s ambitions for their child to be successful. Dein
makes the argument that the Jewish mother “derives vicarious social status from
the achievements of her children, where she is unable to achieve such status
herself”8. Since the
parents are unable to take full advantage of American education themselves, the
need for success and social status transfers from them to their children. The
stereotype of the overbearing, over- involved, suffocating Jewish mother has
been a television staple since the beginning days of broadcasting in the 1940’s
and l950’s9 .The
character Sylvia Fine in the American sitcom The Nanny is an exaggerated
satirical depiction of the stereotypical Jewish mother. We see that she has a
“smothering” relationship with Fran she is outlandishly dressed,
materialistic, dominating. It is a skewed vision of the Jewish mother that’s
used in order to create more humor for the show. Mrs. Wolowitz, from the Big
Bang Theory was depicted as gout-ridden and and food-obsessed as well as her
unwillingness to let her son lead his own life.
are two different inteteractions between Howard and his mother from the tv
The doctor says you need to get exercise!
Mrs Wolowitz: I get plenty of exercise!
Howard: Crushing my will to live isn’t exercise! 10
Wolowitz: Howard, have you seen my girdle?
Howard: No, ma!
Mrs. Wolowitz: I can’t find it and I’m late for my Weight Watchers meeting!
Howard: Maybe it committed suicide! 11
idealized mother, a mother with all the answers who appears to live a
relatively happy life, apparently unburdened by any concerns outside her
obligations as dutiful mother, has been promoted by the popular media, seen in
the now-classic television shows like The Brady Bunch, and Father Knows Best,
among many others. Television has constructed an image of motherhood based on
the middle-class WASP ideal, which contrasts sharply with the lived experiences
of minority people. “Motherhood occurs in specific historical situations framed
by interlocking structures of race, class, and gender…For women of color, the
subjective experience of mothering/motherhood is inextricably linked to the
sociocultural concern of racial ethnic communities—one does not exist without
the other”11. This contrasts with the generally unfunny WASP-y mother characters from
non-minority mothers on tv and could be the key reason why (use as supporting
paragraph, not in thesis). This could be another reason why women of color are
depicted the way they are on tv. Of course, American history is filled with
mistreatment of people of minority races, and some of these stereotypes I
mentioned are a direct result of this. However, it’s important to recognize
that what the Nanny, The Big Bang Theory, and Everybody Hates Chris is that
it’s funny. The typical WASP mother is not typically the funny character.
is where you footnote the “literature on media representation of minorities.”
You may have more than one source in a single footnote.
show names in italics
titles in italics
don’t need to repeat this.
is not your language. Use quotation marks when pulling words directly from
other authors. Much of this paper appears to be plagiarized from a Dutch student’s
through the paper and I’m not clear what your argument is besides the fact that
sitcoms reiterate stereotypes about ethnic minorities. This is a claim that is
not arguable. That is, an intelligent person would not be able to argue the
opposite. I also so far have no sense that this is a paper that will be
comparing black and Jewish mothers. What is your argument? And what is your
argument about Jews?