"In any great adventure, if you don't want to lose, Victory depends upon the people that you choose. So listen, Arthur, darling, closely to this news: You won't succeed on Broadway if you don't have any Jews."
For a minority forming less than one quarter of one percent of the world's population, Jews are massively disproportionately represented in the media both as characters and creatives (i.e. actors/writers/directors). This is mostly because much of the most popular media are created in the USA, and specifically in the two parts of the USA with the highest per capita Jewish populations, Los Angeles
and New York City
, making this trope, in part, SoCalization
and Big Applesauce
Of course, like so many others, this rather sensitive and in no way value-judgemental trope began as an inversion of another trope. There was a time when working in media was one of the few options for ambitious, intelligent, well-educated people who happened to be Jewish. Anything considered to be academic or high art would be under considerable pressure to appear "respectable," and cater to the segregationist views of the time. Anyone who was not (or could not pass for) white, American- or British-born, heterosexual, Christian (most likely Protestant), and often times male might be considered a risk to the company's reputation. Since radical new media, such as film
, Comic Books
and, later, television
were often callously dismissed as vulgar
, they tended to hire the people no one else would take — i.e. Jews. Despite the doomsday warnings of segregationist Moral Guardians
, new media took off and people who once had to scramble for an employer became part of history. In short, many might say that the Jewish people who ran Hollywood did so because they were the ones who built it
. Most major Hollywood studios, including the Big Five (20th Century Fox, RKO Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and the Little Three (Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and United Artists) had at least one Jewish founding member, with the prominent exception of Walt Disney Studios (as such, some say
that Walt Disney hated Jews, when in fact his beef was specifically with left-wing Jewish labor leaders he suspected of infiltrating his studio), and every American studio currently has Jews in at least some high ranking executive and creative positions. Creative types usually write what they know, and despite the ever-lingering specter of antisemitism in the early twentieth century, many writers, directors, producers, etc. most certainly would have passed on their own perspective into their work, intentionally or not
This trope does not lend itself to a simple list of examples, as such a list might smack of antisemitism ("what's with all these Jews?"). This is not what this trope is about at all. It is, nevertheless, noticeable to viewers and readers who live in areas where Jewish populations are much smaller (e.g. the UK, where Jews were, according to the 2001 census, outnumbered three to two by Jedi
). As it's a Trope In Aggregate
, please add examples only where this trope is lampshaded
, or possibly averted
if it's really incongruous.
It should also be noted that often, while Jewish heritage is common in media, Judaism and Jewish culture are often rare-the audience will be told that a character is Jewish, but uniquely Jewish cultural events will not be discussed (outside of the occasional Very Special Episode
revolving around Hannukah or Passover).
Contrast White Male Lead
, although in many genres they do intersect. This usually results in All Jews Are Ashkenazi
- In the 2009 one-shot comic Watchmensch released by Brain Scan Studios which parodies the Watchmen series, Rorschach is depicted as a lawyer who is known instead as "Spottyman" and is pretending to be Jewish. While a Jewish lawyer in NYC is nothing remarkable, a Gentile pretending to be Jewish is usually doing so because of this trope.
- The leads in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle were almost turned into two Jewish guys due to Executive Meddling. The producers added in two Jewish roommates as the lead characters' friends.
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights jokingly replaced the Friar Tuck character with a Hasidic Rabbi (a cameo by director Mel Brooks himself).
- Woody Allen's Gag Dub film What's Up, Tiger Lily?? replaces the Japanese detective's name with "Phil Moscowitz."
- Doug the Head in Snatch obviously believes in this trope. He appears the stereotypical Jew, wearing a yarmulke, saying "oy vey", running a slightly dodgy jewelery and precious stones business. He isn't actually Jewish, but he affects Jewishness because he believes it's good for business.
Turkish: ...and in the diamond business, it is good business.
- In Lord of War, Yuri's father puts a great deal of effort into convince people he's Jewish because he believes it's good for his business networking.
Yuri: ...contact at the synagogue landed me my first gun: an Israli-made UZI.
- The 2008 version of the Red Baron has a fictional Jewish pilot in his scadrille who uses a Star of David as his symbol, for no seeming reason but to reassure viewers that Not All Germans Are Nazis and that it is okay to cheer for a militaryman from the Second Reich.
- Many of John Green's books have Jewish characters - Margo, Pudge, etc.
- In Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry (set during the Irish Revolution just after World War I) has the hero have a rather anvilicious friendship with a Latvian Jewish refugee. At the time there were about 3000 Jews in Dublin (0.8% of the population) so it comes across as a bit forced since the only real reason for them to be Jewish is so Doyle can make the IRA seem even more evil when they disapprove of his friendship.
- Of course the most famous literary Dubliner of that era is also Jewish: Leopold Bloom. One of the things about them is that in the nationalist-Catholic vs. loyalist-Protestant divide, Jews were "neutral", or at least not obviously aligned with one of the sides. Had the hero cultivated a friendship with an Irish Protestant, the readers' set of expectations would have been completely different.
- Lampshaded in the FAQ (Future Alien Questions) section of Earth (The Book) for religion.
Q: We were surprised you devoted so much time to Judaism, since it made up only one fifth of one percent of the world's people.
A: What do you mean?
Q: It just seemed disproportionate.
A: Oh. Well. Sorry you had a problem with the pages about the Jews.
Q: We didn't have a problem with them.
A: Really? Because it sounds like you had a problem with them.
- In the later Frank Herbert-penned Dune books, a small group of Jews help some of the protagonists. The improbability of Jews existing as more-or-less the same culture thousands of years later after several major galactic cultural upheavals is lampshaded.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay explains this in relation to The Golden Age of Comic Books.
- "Davids" (Chasidim) are one of the three recognizable modern-day faiths that are confirmed to still exist in Sterling Lanier's Hiero Desteen books.
- In Enders Game, the Polemarch, Strategos, and Hegemon of Earth are all Jewish, and a popular military myth claims that Jewish commanders never lose wars. It's noted, however, that the soldier who turned the tide of the war was in fact not Jewish, but half-Maori.
- Jon Stewart (né Leibowitz) is fond of exercising J-Word Privileges with this trope, as when he jokes on The Daily Show about the "Jew-run media". Once while accepting an Emmy award, Jon claimed the secret to the show's success was "diversity;" he then indicated the dozen or so white men making up the writing staff and pointed out one who "used to have a beard" and another who "isn't Jewish".
- Rick Sanchez blamed this trope for his dissatisfaction over his career trajectory as a TV journalist. In an interview that quickly went viral, Sanchez blamed the abundance of Jews in the media, and specifically Jon Stewart, for his failure to become a leading name at CNN. Apparently he couldn't think of a single reason other than his Cuban heritage for why he wasn't the most respected journalist at CNN.
- Surprisingly, considering the city in which the show is set and the Jewish heritage of its producer, averted in CSI: NY. Neither the main characters nor the actors who play them include any Jews. Particularly notable in that its sister show CSI: Miami, which is set in a city that houses substantially fewer Jews than NYC, does include Jewish cast members (the most prominent being Jonathan Togo, who plays CSI Ryan Wolfe).
- On a sketch from Mr. Show, David Cross played a Right Wing Militia Fanatic who claimed that his property was his own country. He ran cameras off his land whilst yelling that HBO stands for "Hebrew Box Office" and various complaints about the liberal Jew-run media.
- Invoked on Breaking Bad by Saul Goodman (actual name McGill), who finds that work as an Amoral Attorney comes easier if people think you're Jewish.
- The creator of The Wire had to explain his intentions when he put a very Jewish man into the role of the "evil lawyer". He explained that every gangster in Baltimore is represented by one of three or four Jewish lawyers who specifically are hired by leading gangsters. To him, the role was about realism, not being politically correct. In contrast, the "good lawyer" of the show is also Jewish, though it's much less noticeable.
- The eponymous Sons of Anarchy include an overtly Jewish member who wears a Chai necklace and works Bar Mitzvahs. This is unusual for an outlaw motorcycle club, which often have white supremacist ties. The fact that the Sons are a multicultural club who stand against the local Aryans helps make them sympathetic as protagonists.
- On Northern Exposure Joel Fleishman was a New York Jew forced by circumstance to live in rural Alaska. Being the only Jewish person around caused him grief on a few occasions - literally, when the call went out to find 9 other Jews to form a minyan with him when his uncle died. In another episode his semi-girlfriend Maggie's mother asked him to come to Michigan to meet her; no particular reason, she had just never met a Jew before.
- In the first season of Louie, Louie CK gets a part in The Godfather. His agent tells him Matthew Broderick asked for him specifically, and that they're remaking the Coppolla original "but with all Jews".note
- Bless Me Father: In the comedy about Irish Catholics in a London parish, the local Rabbi (this is North London) is both a professional peer and something of a friend to Duddleswell. He pops up in several shows and stories, first as a member of the local association of religious ministers, where he gives sage advice, and again in an episode where an Irish Catholic boy from Duddleswell's parish wishes to marry a Jewish girl from the Rabbi's congregation. Priest and Rabbi are seen hammering out a pre-nup, largely concerning which religion gets the children, and how many will be Catholic and how many Jewish. Both parties agree that at least they are in full doctrinal communion on one thing: Irish father, Jewish mother. There will be lots of children. The commandment to be fruitful and multiply is scrupulously observed by both religions.
- In Mad Men, Roger orders Peggy to hire the highly eccentric Michael Ginsberg as a copywriter against her better judgment simply because Roger thinks that every ad agency needs a Jew to be successful.
- Referenced in the first episode of Series/House when Wilson wonders how Foreman could have gotten through medical school without learning a thing or two about Jews (specifically, that they don't all keep Kosher).
- Season 2 of Defiance introduces Cai, an Irathient (alien race from another planet) Jew. He was orphaned as a baby and raised by a human Jewish couple. He is a practicing Jew and works as a lawyer.
- The website Jew or Not Jew, which speculates whether certain celebrities/historical figures/fictional characters are Jewish, inverted this with the Seven Dwarfs. They concluded that six of the dwarfs are Jewish (Dopey being the non-Jewish one) because apparently in a large group of Jews you have to have at least one non-Jew.
- The comedy song "All I Want For Christmas Is Jews"
- In his Hanukkah Song, Adam Sandler lists a whole boatload of famous Jewish folks.
- Strongly averted, with Jews being perhaps the only major ethnic group not prominently featured in American pro wrestling over the past century. This could simply be due to the fact that Jews usually don't aspire to professional sports in general, but some small-time Jewish wrestlers (Scotty Goldman, a.k.a. Colt Cabana, for instance) have claimed to have been subjected to anti-Semitic taunts from non-Jews from the highest echelons of WWE and other promotions as they have tried to work their way up through the territories. Perhaps the most famous exception is Bill Goldberg, World Heavyweight Champion in both WWE and WCW and of Romanian Jewish ancestry.
- Lampshaded hilariously in the Monty Python musical Spamalot, in the number "You Won't Succeed On Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)". They succeed after all because Patsy turns out to be Jewish, though he's reluctant to reveal it to heavily armed Christians. The joke was changed to "stars" in Glasgow out of fears that Scots just wouldn't get it.
- The title of the song in the London version is "You Won't Succeed in Showbusiness".
- In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims the predominance of Jewish lawyers in New York City was due to a shift in business culture. For decades the Ivy League WASP-dominated law firms wouldn't sully their hands with the "dirty tricks" parts of business law (e.g., hostile takeovers), leaving those cases to the rising Jewish law firms. Around the late 1970s, "dirty tricks" became the established culture of big business, and the Jewish firms were poised to take advantage of it while the WASP firms struggled to adapt to the new paradigm.
- For many centuries, Jews were prohibited from owning land and otherwise discriminated against. As a result, they wound up being merchants, moneylenders, and members of the new middle class. Christian and Muslim usury laws which made it a sin to collect interest also played a big role in getting Jews into finance (Jewish law prohibits charging interest on loans to other Jews, but not to Gentiles). Another profession that didn't require owning land or being a member of the upper classes was entertainment; in addition, "outsiders" have a different vantage point on the majority culture, which may help make them better entertainers.
- Jews could also cross the borders between Christian and Muslim kingdoms and get an in to the economy on the other side that couldn't be gotten directly. As a bonus this also made them handy diplomats and spies on occasion.
- This bit by Woody Allen:
"I was thrown out of college, and when I was thrown out of college I got a job on Madison Avenue in New York, a real dyed-in-the-wool advertising agency on Madison Avenue, wanted a man to come in, and they pay him ninetyfive dollars a week, to sit in their office, and to look Jewish. They wanted to prove to the outside world, that they would hire minority groups, y'know. So I was the one they hired, y'know. I was the show Jew at the agency. I tried to look Jewish desperately, y'know. I used to read my memos from right to left all the time. They fired me finally, 'cause I took off too many Jewish holidays."
- As of 2012, the United States Supreme Court contains three Jewish justices - Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan - or one-third of the Court's total. However, there has never been a Jewish Chief Justice, and there was no Jewish Justice on the court from 1969 to 1993.
- In Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century the writer sets up the ethnographical model of "Apollonarian" (territorial food producers) and "Mercurian" (wandering artisans) peoples. In his model Jews (except for Israelis who are Apollonarians) are Mercurians who, like Parsees, Roma, etc., survive by staying outside the conventional system and doing things awkward for an Apollonarian for reasons of tradition (that is, Jews were merchants because some aspects of that work were awkward for gentiles; just as some synagogues hire "Sabbath goy" gentiles to work on the Sabbath in a reversal of that). Under this theory the reason you have got to have Jews is that some jobs needed to be done by Jews or someone like them.