4 Insane (Jewish) Pop Culture Antiheroes

By Loryn Stone

 

Representation in the media is a unique experience. Every person of all colors, creeds, and sexualities deserve to see a character on screen that resembles themselves physically that isn’t just some kind of parody, punchline, or trope. When I was a kid, my fellow Jewish brethren clung tenaciously to anyone that seemed remotely Jewish on TV because it’s all we fucking had. Be it Jay Sherman schmaltzing around, thinking everything stinks? Adam Sandler and his little Chanukah song? Excellent. It’s our god damn anthem. Fran Drescher sauntering around the WASP mansion, whining? Great. We’ll take her too. Let her run for President. Who gives a fuck.

But then, I realized I was looking in the wrong place. Hey, you can’t fully blame the eyes of a child who is seeking positive role models, can you? Back when you’re little, all there are good guys and bad guys. But what about those delicious antiheroes in between the lines? If I’d only had the foresight to understand antiheroes, my life would have not only been better…but funnier too. Well, it may have taken thirty-two years, but I’ve caught those Jewish Antiheroes by the proverbial balls and now I’m going to share them with you.

Le’chaim, mate.

 

4) Marv from Home Alone 2

daniel-stern-home-alone.jpg

As someone who was a very young child in the early-mid 90s, I’ll admit without shame that I loved the Home Alone movies. My mother was…somewhat of an angry-crazy person…and for some reason was staunchly against any sort of Christmas media tainting the eyes of her divine, Jewish offspring.

But Christmas has magic in it, even more so when you’re not allowed to join in any Christmas games. The Home Alone movies captured the excitement of Christmas with a fun, cartoonish tale of Cat-and-Mouse, a young smart-ass kid outwitting two wet bandits, or the Sticky Bandits, or whatever the fuck.

That said, you don’t even understand the joy that came over me the moment I saw this scene.

Happy Chanukah, Marv. He said Happy Chanukah Marv!

This moment was important to me on so many levels as a kid. Primarily it’s a win because actor Daniel Stern got to keep the Jew. Now, Marv isn’t quite a villain in the traditional sense. When you think about it, he and Harry never quite got away with their naughty schemes. Sure, they considered murdering Kevin in the middle of Central Park at night. But really, they didn’t do it. They were baddies, no doubt, but they weren’t balls-out villains. And considering that Marv basically plays second-fiddle to Harry, it’s even more reason he’s a sympathetic character.

 

3) Lord Zedd from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers

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Lord Zedd- the Gwar-like veiny monster muscle man who replaced Rita Repulsa during the very long first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Back when I was a kid, Lord Zedd was such a badass that I didn’t even realize he wasn’t based on any original Japanese footage. He was an All-American boy. And while seemingly eviler than Rita, (hell, he stuffed her back into that trash can and gave Goldar back his wings) Lord Zedd still most definitely lingers in Antihero territory.

Why is that, you ask?

Well, first and foremost, Lord Zedd is well…unsuccessful in his murderous attempts. He berates Rita for getting foiled by children, but he doesn’t make do any better. Second, he still manages to be funny. Do you remember that part in the original MMPR movie, when the protruding chin ooze dude captured Zedd and Rita in a snow globe and they end up rooting for the Rangers, cheering them on to win and restore Angel Grove to its natural “totally not Culver City, CA” glory? See, we’re on Zedd’s side. He’s not truly a villain; just a cranky antihero.

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But it wasn’t until I recalled his very first introduction that I recalled something about him, and it was in the line “You have made me very angry.”

 Wait a minute, Lord Zedd…is that guilt you’re spouting there?

Villains are supposed to be pure evil. And they’re often evil for the sake of it, or they truly believe they’re not the bad guys. But here, we have Lord Zedd, snake-staff and all, yelling at his subornments about how disappoint he is.

That should have been the first clue. But all suspicions were confirmed later in the series when Rita comes back, gives herself a makeover, drugs Lord Zedd, convinces him to marry her, and…

They have a Jewish wedding.

What, did Lord Zedd change his last name from Zeddowitzsky at Ellis Island?!? This is a Jewish fucking wedding! The Hava Nagila! The constant eating! The dancing that goes on way longer than it needs to! The smashed fucking glass! I know these things!

Oh, dearest stars in the loneliest skies, all of my dreams came true that day. My beloved Power Ranger baddies were Jewish.

Now this was the representation us Jewish kids were dying for all along!

 

2) Cher Horowitz from Clueless

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You read it correctly, Lurkers. Cher Horowitz, the protagonist of her own narrative, is making our list of Jewish antiheroes. It’s a very simple stereotype Amy Heckerling placed Cher into when writing the role; a Jewish-American Princess living in a Beverly Hills mansion with her Daddy, the lawyer, eventually lusting after a nice-Jewish boy (okay, and former stepbrother) Josh.

The joke of the movie, more or less, is that Cher impedes in everyone’s business like the nosy little Yenta she is, trying to make everything better for them only if it directly benefits herself. So, in her deciding that everyone around her is clueless and has no idea what they’re doing, it’s revealed to the viewer that she in fact is the one who’s completely naïve about everything.

Anecdotally, that’s a marvelous lesson. One with amplitudes of merit and fuzzy feelings. But when you take a step back and really examine Cher’s behavior, she’s without a doubt an antihero, and not a protagonist. Perhaps an unreliable narrator, if we want to take the literary approach. But overall, even for a teenager, she’s not a very good person.

Cher turns her nose up at Ty for dressing like a mid-90s grunge princess. She also talks some smack about The Valley. She sets up her two teachers just so they’ll be in better moods and give her and her classmates better grades. She accepts the student body’s gushing over her achievements with fawning smiles and curtsies. Cher also, once she decides she has a crush on Josh, finds ways to hang all over him. And what about that tiny part no one mentions?

Cher and Josh.jpg

She openly causes Josh to bone some jailbait! Yeah, okay, we’ve all boned dudes that were too old for us. Sure, great. But it wasn’t like, the unseen climax of a movie.

You keep your word and I’ll keep mine. Redemption character, good guy, whatever you call it. Cher is a damn Jewish antihero if I ever saw one.

 

1) Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski

Walter

Before even discussing this character, I have to ask. How many of us out there had that friend who just obsessively quoted Water’s dialogue? Like, just kept rambling without an end in sight.

From “You’re over the line, Donnie!” to “This is what happens, Larry!” to the delightfully infamous I don’t roll on Shabbos. SHOMER FUCKING SHABBOS!”

big-lebowski-john-goodman.jpg

That said, where exactly does Walter fall in this universe of terrible people? I mean, we see him, a huge angry veteran screaming, pointing guns, and smashing a car with a crowbar. He’s an absolute dick to Donnie, complete with another catchphrase in “Shut the fuck up, Donnie.” But all this said, does it make him a bad person?

No, it doesn’t. It makes our big, cranky, Jewish friend a loveable antihero. Because really, think of all the good Walter has going for him. Hell, he kept Judaism even after he and his wife Cynthia broke up. I know hundreds of Jewish kids who denounced that shit the second they turned fifteen (although we keep the cultural stuff because that’s where all the good food is). Walter is a loyal friend. Plus, he watches is ex-wife’s puppy when she vacations with her new boyfriend. He’s an exemplary self-loathing Jew. You’d never know he wasn’t born one.

All right, all right, I take it back.

Perhaps self-loathing Jew isn’t the correct nomenclature.

 

 

Loryn can bake one hell of a Kugel and thinks it’d be cool if you followed her on Twitter. She also has a personal blog. If you want to buy yourself an awesome Chanukah present, you can buy her debut novel My Starlight, a young adult contemporary novel about anime fandom, cosplaying, love, loss, and sexuality. It will be released August 3rd 2018 by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

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