By Loryn Stone
Representation in the media is important for everything. No matter what your color, creed, body-type, sexuality, it’s always a relief to see someone in a show, movie, musical act, etc. that you connect with on some sort of human level. The same goes for religion. And as I’ve mentioned before, when you’re a Jewish kid (or any other minority for that matter) sometimes it can be hard to find representation of yourself in the media.
But within representation, there’s a fine line. Did the creators get it right? Are they pandering? Is that character repulsive? Even worse, intentionally so? And if on purpose, are they using that Judaism to enhance that character’s yuck factor to be edgy?
See? It really is easier to just put those damn presents under the tree.
That’s why we’re taking a look at some cartoon characters who are unapologetically Jewish. Characters that represent the Heeb tribe! Characters that are our Israelite brethren!
Even if we didn’t ask for some of them.
Jay Sherman from The Critic
The Critic (season one) is without a doubt one of the best cartoons ever created. The dialogue is hilarious. The animation, stellar. And the humor was unapologetically dry. One of the more memorable side stories was how main character Jay Sherman, clearly Jewish in looks and personality (seriously, he’s more Jewish than a yenta Grandma) was adopted by a WASPY family who somehow can’t confirm his religion. With his insecure know-it-all high brow attitude and eye-rolling scoff, Jay Sherman was an early hero to all of us weird Jewish kids. Until Fox cancelled the show and it was picked up by ABC with way shittier animation and story lines.
Thanks for nothing, ABC. I hope Jay Sherman gives you a Jewish guilt trip.
All the (Jewish) Clowns
I’ll speak for myself, but when that Simpsons episode aired that revealed Krusty the Clown as Jewish, it was a shock. In retrospect it makes sense as a wink and a nod to the number of Jewish standup comedians, but at the time, I didn’t know that it was okay for cartoon characters to be Jewish. Much less have a father who is a Rabbi. And for some reason, when Lisa said to Bart “I’m not going to learn ancient Hebrew.” It was even more satisfying because yeah, Hebrew! That language my Dad speaks to everyone but me and my sisters. Neat!
But as I got older and my interest in The Simpsons waned, a new Rock and Roll Clown stole my heart. A combination of musical Jewish men Gene Simmons and David Lee Roth, Dr. Rockso from Metalocalypse was the new Jewish Clown in the hood. He was fun, exciting looking, an excellent front man, and he did a lot of cocaine.
All the Jewish Mutants
No Jewish cartoon countdown is complete without mentioning the token Jews from X-Men, Magneto and Kitty Pryde. A brilliant article was already written about the Jewiest Moments in X-Men by Jay Deitcher on Unleash the Fanboy. There’s admittedly nothing else I can add to the topic, because Jay did it better. But just the fact that we have Jewish X-Men (a holocaust survivor, at that) is enough to get the koach going.
That means strength.
Kyle Broflovski from South Park
Kyle Broflovski was a beacon of hope to us poor Jewish kids whose parents wouldn’t let them join in any Christmas games. From the overbearing loud mom to the kippah-wearing Dad, it was easy to recognize overlapping traits in his family to the rest of ours. Kyle was teased for being Jewish and he is overall a sympathetic character (with a Jew-fro that represents the hair plight so many frizzy-haired Jewish kids face. And most deservingly, he gave us a song, “The Lonely Jew on Christmas” (which beats the South Park rendition of “The Dreidel Song” for best Jew-Holiday-tune) and allowed us to finally throw Adam Sandler’s embarrassing “Chanukah Song” out that damn window.
Neil Goldman from Family Guy
Neil Goldman is one of those nerdy Jewish characters with all the negative traits of a nerdy Jewish person. He’s wimpy, whiny, manipulative, and his parents are worried about everything. He’s also a spit-sucking, retainer-wearing creep whose early feelings for Meg Griffin boarded on stalker. But like a victim of Stockholm’s Syndrome, she finally fell for the weird lurking Jewish boy next door- and he rejected her thoroughly.
Tommy Pickles from Rugrats
Tommy Pickles’ Judaism (half, on his mom’s side, which in Judaism means full) feels like one of those boardroom PR moves pandering for inclusivity. Remember when his grandpa hurt his schmaggegy? Yeah, that’s not even a thing. While it should have been a delight when we found out the imaginative, strong willed baby-leader was Jewish, it fell flat. Maybe it was my pessimism, but Tommy’s Judaism felt like a forced PR move for some cranky executive to get a bonus for allowing Passover to be on TV.
Or maybe it fell flat because the show was garbage.
Now if there was a Jewish character in Doug, on the other hand…
All the Jewish Disney Channel Characters
Last but not least, no countdown of Jewish cartoon characters would be complete without discussing all the Surprise Jews hiding in the Disney Canon. Did you know that Beefy Antihero Kronk of The Emperor’s New Groove fame was Jewish? SURPRISE! According to a direct-to-video sequel, our favorite tent pitcher dreams of a Jewish wedding! Got a character with an unpronounceable Russian-esque last name? SURPRISE! Jewish! And how about the Pepper Ann, the titular star of the bland slice-of-life Disney cartoon Pepper Ann? Surprise! Possible Jew?
You know, if they’re not gonna try anymore with this then neither am I.
Follow Loryn on Twitter. She also has a personal blog. Her debut novel My Starlight, a young adult novel about anime, cosplaying, fandom, love, loss, and friendship will be released August 3rd, 2018 by Affinity Rainbow Publications.
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