Princesses of Long Island: Not Good For The Jews (Or, Really, Anyone)
Chanel: Well, here we are again. I don’t like saying things like this, but watching this show makes me feel like a traitor to the Jewish people.
Jordyn: The show starts with quick shots of Hebrew, images of Jewish Texts, and folks milling around a Temple. Amanda, one of the shows princesses, quotes an old Jewish saying. There’s no getting around this—we’re watching a portrayal of Jewish culture. We are treated to a version of a Shabbat dinner, and to jokes about Manischewitz and gefilte fish. Jackie Hoffman, our lady of the Jewish stage, recently shared her opinion of the show, stating “this show Princesses of Long Island cannot be good for the Jews.” I have to agree with Ms. Hoffman.
Chanel: I also have to say, one of my least favorite reality show tropes (look, I watch a lot of reality tv, okay? Don’t judge me...) is the Girls’ Weekend, which was the focus of this episode. The entire point of it is to reinforce the idea that women can’t be friends because a) men are the whole reason for existing, b) women are innately catty, and c) ratings.
Jordyn: Wait—before we go any further, can we address reality tv in general? Because, I don’t watch a lot of reality tv. I was recently chatting with a good friend of mine, the managing editor of Heeb, and he challenged me to think about why this show upsets me more than other shows. I probably made it through a third of a Jersey Shore episode before turning it off. I do have to wonder—were we, as a Jewish population, up in arms about the dangers of ethnic stereotypes before we were a victim of such portrayals?
Chanel: That’s interesting. I think there are a couple of different tropes in reality tv—there’s this kind of thing—following people in a way that’s allegedly not scripted, and then there’s the competition scenario, which I do not watch. And, I think the answer is probably no. At least, I was personally not angry about the Jersey Shore guido stereotype. I was mad about the casually portrayed alcoholism, slut shaming, fat shaming, and domestic violence. (And I still watched every episode.)
Jordyn: A good friend of mine got me hooked on Survivor by calling it an amazing sociological experience. I think our fascination with other people’s “reality” is in itself an amazing sociological experience. If I wasn’t already happily employed, I’d be tempted to go back to school just to write a dissertation about the whole genre of reality tv. It really is interesting what we choose to watch, and what we choose to ignore.
Chanel: Jenn Pozner has done some amazing work around reality tv and how it impacts ideas about women. Everyone go read her book! (Reality Bites Back:The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV)
Jordyn: Well, I’ll tell you this much: the viewing public’s ideas about Jewish culture are probably being impacted in a less than positive way after this last episode. The producers seem to go out of their way to weave in droplets of Jewish culture. I want to judge these girls for being bad Jews, but really, I can’t. They have a right to be Jewish in anyway they want to be—I just wish they weren’t on TV spoiling it for the rest of us.
Chanel: Yeah, the idea of the “bad Jew” is really frustrating for me. (So is the “super Jew” thing, which Erica brought up in the last episode.) I think it’s the result of working for Hillel for so many years, and having so many folks tell me they’re bad at Judaism because they’re not as religious as their peers. That is some crap. Being observant is not the same as being moral.
Jordyn: A turning point in this episode was the idea that because someone (ahem, Erica) stole someone else’s boyfriend over ten years ago, they couldn’t bear to be in the same room. I was actually glad that this storyline was so over the top that it destroyed any semblance of credibility that the show had.
Chanel: Right. I mean, it was so typically reality tv that I was relieved. It had nothing to do with Judaism or anything other than... fabricated sad times? (Just kidding, Casey, I am REALLY sorry about the prom dress thing. A good prom dress is hard to find.)
Jordyn: I’m waiting for you to bring up what I know has to have been the only part of the show you applauded.
Chanel: Oh, yes! Masturbation! I loved that part of the episode! (Calm down, readers, there was no actual masturbation on camera.) There’s this great moment on the way to the Hamptons where Erica talks about masturbation and how much she loves it, and someone else (Chanel) says that it’s healthy! And Erica has no shame about it! Seriously amazing.
Jordyn: So, 42 minutes of tiresome cliches, one minute of a masturbation positive message. I’m still with Jackie Hoffman—this show? Not so good for the Jews.
Chanel: Don’t forget the relentless slut shaming! (Which goes under tiresome cliches.) And yes, I agree. Not good for...anyone.