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 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.

Topics: Television
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huge gleek here. my fav quote from Rachel "I want my children to be raised in the Jewish faith." wasn't Lea conceived as hard to work with, a diva? one could have presumed that she would have wanted to have a word even in the lines written for her [also as Rachel and further more, as Fanny Brice "I know we're not supposed to change the lines, I just don't feel like Fanny would say this" (and she eventually said it her way)].  Lea is Jewish. the father-mother thing is old... there is something called patrilineality... (the Karaites, central asian Jews, Beta Israel). and talking about self-identification, Lea's interview in 2009, in the Daily News "I'm Jewish". her interview in 2010, in US Weekly "I'm proud of my Jewish nose". her appearance on the 6th ep. of s 08 of Who do you think you are? (May the Holy One, blessed be He, remember her family members that were killed during the Shoah) on TLC "I'm Jewish but now I really have the knowledge to back it up."... and some phrases come to mind "affirmative acts of Jewish identity"  "for those beyond childhood claiming Jewish identity public declarations may be substituted after a consultation with a Rabbi"...

The topic of this week's episode, "Born this Way," was about Jewish women and nose jobs.

Well, the topic of this week's episode was insecurities, with one character's insecurities centered on her nose.

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?

She's not (to my knowledge) Jewish, but Lady Gaga's nose is fairly prominent. In a recent Harper's Bazaar article (http://www.harpersbazaar.com/m..., she spoke out against plastic surgery(although there is internet speculation that she's had one herself).

Rachel (as in the character) isn't even Jewish (because no matter how many Jewish dads she had, her Jewish mothers are at the nice round number of zero --- as Miss Cochran, her mother, isn't Jewish) --- and neither is either of the Puckerman brothers.

OH, and the (male) Jewish actors are doing pretty well, too. I noticed this funny little plaque circulating around tumblr lately that demonstrates this... (excuse the profanity at the top). http://imahazardtomyself.tumbl... My favorite is Logan Lerman, top right. Could be the male version of Natalie Portman. Anyway, I think my point is not to argue but to say that we should celebrate all this, instead of harping over Lea Michele's insecurities. The fact that out of all these actors and actresses, Michele is the one who is cast as an explicit Jew, is a bad thing, not a good one that should be repeated.

Where to begin on this? I'm pretty sure young Jewish girls should look up to famous Jewish women because they share their cultural and ethnic heritage, and because they practice Judaism, not because they have a big nose! Jezz!

Talk about playing devil's advocate! You're basically saying a big nose is the prime point of identification between a young Jewish girl and some famous actress (what about the Jewish girls who don't have big noses? I guess they're out of this question).

I suppose you could talk about big noses in general... but why connect it to Jewishness? Like somebody said, Lady Gaga isn't Jewish, and neither is Rebecca Black (A Lea Michele-lookalike), Meryl Streep and her daughter, Sarah Bareilles, Penelope Cruz, Anne Hathaway, Sofia Coppola, Glenn Close, Joy Behar, Sandra Oh (to name some big-nosed actresses), or famous nose job-receivers Blake Lively and Ashlee Simpson.

I suppose girls with big noses can look up to these actresses... but do the actresses, or the girls, have to be Jewish for this process to occur?

Of course Natalie Portman is a great role model for Jewish women, and obviously Lea Michele is not. She has a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, and was not raised exclusively or mostly Jewish by any means. Surely this should be the primary criteria? I can't imagine on what planet Michele is is any way shape or form more Jewish than Portman. She's 100% Jewish and born in Jerusalem! If a super-famous actress was 100% Japanese, would anybody be making these bizarre statements about her and comparing her as less Japanese to an actress who was half-Japanese?

And to the person who mentioned Jewish actresses, there are plenty out there: Mila Kunis, Dianna Agron, Mia Kirshner, Ginnifer Goodwin, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kat Dennings, Alison Brie, Sara Paxton, and Scarlett. I'm pretty sure what should matter is their ethnic heritage, religious beliefs, upbringing, and self-identification. Not what their nose looks like to some random person on the internet.

Lady Gaga is Catholic.

There are a few Jewish actresses out there but not really out. And some character actresses who get roles based on their authentic noses and stereotypical presentations. I hope that changes. And for the legions of young Jewish women out there, I'm very glad that Rachel Berry's character did not have a nose job. Even though you dislike the show, and I only appreciate moments of it, it has a huge fan base, and hungry little minds who adore their favorite characters. I'm for anything that stops this disturbing trend of teenagers having plastic surgery, Jewish or not.

Good call.

FYI it's "rite of passage," not "right of passage."

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Rachel Berry's nose job." 27 April 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 15, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/rachel-berrys-nose-job>.

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