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Jewesses with Attitude

Rachel Berry's nose job

Glee might be a poorly written, pandering, and completely infuriating show, but it remains to be the only mainstream TV show today with a lead female character who is open about her Jewish identity. The topic of this week's episode, "Born this Way," was about Jewish women and nose jobs. In the episode, stereotypical Jewish girl Rachel Berry, played by Lea Michele, considers getting a nose job. You can watch the episode below, or on Hulu.

Here are some key quotes from the episode:

Rachel: Are you suggesting I get a nose job?
Doctor: You're sixteen right? That's when I gave my daughters theirs. It's like a rite of passage for Jewish girls.

Puck: Every year girls show up at temple after their 16th birthday and they look slightly different. And you know what, even though it's easier to make out with them without getting constantly stabbed in the eye, they're not as hot.

Puck: I just want to talk to you, one hot Jew to another ... Your nose has been passed down from generation to generation as a birthright. It's a sign of the survival of our people.

Kurt: Do you want to disappoint Barbra?
Rachel: Of course not, she's my idol.
Kurt: If you get a nose job you'll be spitting on her legacy. Barbra refused to believe that beauty could only be defined by the blonde, chiseled faces of Hitchcock's beauties, so she redefined what beauty was and became the biggest female star in the world.
Rachel: What if I cant be like her. Isn't she's one in a billion?
Kurt: So are you, Rachel. If you let one misguided societal pressure make you change the way you look, then you wont just be letting Barbra down. You'll be letting down all the little girls who are going to look at your beautiful face someday and see themselves.

We have blogged about both Rachel Berry and nose jobs plenty of times here at Jewesses with Attitude. There's a lot to talk about because for Jewish women, a nose job isn't just a nose job. It becomes political because it's tied to our Jewish identity. For some it's a way to look "less ethnic," and for some it can be a feminist act. Gayle Kirschenbaum recently created a documentary about her nose and her mother's insistence that she get a nose job.

In "Born this Way," the Glee club holds a "Barbra-vention" to remind Rachel that her idol, Barbra Streisand, embraced her "Jewish nose" and redefined beauty on her own terms. I think it would have also been great if they had mentioned Jennifer Grey, "Baby" from Dirty Dancing, who did put herself in the corner by getting a nose job and losing her distinctive looks.

I was thinking, though, that there are probably not that many young Jewish girls who consider Barbra Streisand their idol these days. Are there any current Jewish women pop star icons with schnozzes? The biggest pop star Jewess of the moment is Natalie Portman, and while she embraces her Jewish identity, her looks align with the traditional standards of beauty - straight hair, small nose - that are not so "Jewish." Could Lea Michele could fill that role? She's no Barbra... yet. But maybe it's time for a new, female Jewish pop icon with a nose.

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Rachel Berry's nose job." 27 April 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/rachel-berrys-nose-job>.

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