Sarah Silverman is certainly no stranger to controversy. She is a liberal who is also a vocal supporter of Israel. Now she has come out and condemned what she calls “Jew Face.” on her “The Sarah Silverman Podcast.” But is she just being sarcastic to prove a point?
We have all heard about how Hollywood today has become so politically correct that it will no longer cast non-minorities in minority roles. This also applies to LGBT characters, so a trans person must now be cast to play a trans character. And ahead of its 33rd season this year, the beloved television comedy “The Simpsons” announced that it would “retire” the Indian character Apu. This character was criticized over the years for being a negative stereotype of Indian Americans.
Hank Azaria, the actor who played the voice of Apu for more than three decades, even felt that he had to apologize for the character ever having existed in the first place. And “The Simpsons” also hired black actors to play the show’s black characters in place of the white actors who had previously done so for thirty years.
So, it seems that this is what Sarah Silverman is trying to mock here; if all of the above has become necessary, then why does this not also apply to Jewish characters? Shouldn’t only Jewish actors play Jews?
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The response to this point is usually that American Jews do not need to be concerned with how they are portrayed and that it is only people of color and LGBT people who have been discriminated against and portrayed with insulting stereotypes over the years.
What exactly did Silverman say? On her podcast the comedian said, “There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being,” Silverman said. “One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.’”
“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,” added Silverman. “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?”
Silverman went on to give examples of this, such as the recent casting of the non-Jewish actress Kathryn Hahn to play the late great Jewish comic Joan Rivers in a new biopic TV mini-series called “The Comeback Girl.”
But was this all meant to be tongue in cheek? Maybe Silverman is just making fun of the people who say such things? After all, people on the right tend to use her as an example of how liberal entertainers can get away with doing deplorable things like putting on black face.
On a 2007 episode of her television show “The Sarah Silverman Program” called “Face Wars,” Silverman wore black face around town after a black person told her that she had no idea what it was like to be black in America. Silverman, of course, was shouted out by people everywhere that she went.
The joke was that since her character on the show was kind of dumb, Silverman assumed that this was the normal hostility directed against African American. She did not realize that people were angry at her for wearing black face.
So maybe the reason why the Left did not “cancel” her was that normal people understood the joke here and what she was trying to say.
But even Sarah Silverman was forced to recant and say that she regrets having done that on her show. She once told GQ, “I don’t stand by the blackface sketch. I’m horrified by it, and I can’t erase it. I can only be changed by it and move on.”
“That was such liberal-bubble stuff, where I actually thought it was dealing with racism by using racism,” added Silverman. “I don’t get joy in that anymore. It makes me feel yucky.”
But at least Sarah Silverman is still a supporter of Israel, slamming to so called “The Squad,” a group of left-wing women members of the U.S. Congress, last week on her show for trying to block continued funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
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“Do not defund the Iron Dome. My family lives there. It just seems to prove the point that I didn’t think existed – people really only like Jews if they’re suffering,” said Silverman on her podcast.
The actress is actually a supporter of these Congresswomen. She also said, “It’s just frustrating cause my girls in The Squad really didn’t want it to be funded. They wanted to defund it. All the Iron Dome does is protect civilians from getting hit by missiles and bombs. What do you think might happen if you take away the one thing that protects people from missiles in a place where missiles are constantly flying at you? That’s dark.”
In the end the vote for the funding passed overwhelmingly, 420 – 9. Even the reputed leader of “The Squad,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, did not vote against it in the end and instead voted “present”