Thoughts on the Zohan

Okay, I realize the title is a bit of an oxymoron, since the mere mention of a movie with Adam Sandler in it destroys braincells. Still, I figure I should at least give a brief overview of my impressions of You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. I’ll be honest: I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t intend to. Maybe when this blog averages a thousand hits a day instead of a hundred,* I’ll shell out the money to see crappy movies (actually, my ticket will probably be funded through the sale of MM-themed tee shirts, mugs, mousepads, teddy bears, and kippot), but in the meantime, we shall all make do with the trailer.

Hoo boy.

Surprisingly enough, there’s one thing that I kind of like about the movie: its portrayal of a tough Jew. From popular fiction’s portrayal of Jews, you’d think that 100% of us were either Hasidim or neurotic intellectuals. Jews who are physically fit, or even (gasp!) fighters, are extremely rare; instead, we’re seen as perennial victims, shivering between Holocausts. So it’s nice to see a Jewish guy kicking ass.

If only Adam Sandler hadn’t been the one to do it.

One of my pet peeves about foreign-people movies is the use of heavy accents when they’re presumably speaking their own language. When Zohan tells his parents he wants to be a hairdresser, the three of them speak English in Hebrew accents. Why not just have them speak Hebrew? They’re three Israelis in Israel, right? Same goes for the two Arab guys in the car. Are English-speaking Americans such idiots that we can’t be trusted to read subtitles?

It’s not just the laziness that gets me – it’s the exotification. Accents create a distance between the speaker and listener. When someone speaks with a heavy accent – when it’s clear that they’re not fluent in your language – it’s harder to view them as fully human, with thoughts more sophisticated than the sentences they’re working to put together. (Cue the Colorblind Kid: “How prejudiced of you! I myself never let someone’s accent affect the way I view them. In fact, I never even notice things like ethnicity or race!” To which I respond: Keep telling yourself that, O Enlightened One.) So, by having the characters speak in accents, the movie intentionally distances us from them to make them seem strange and foreign.

The most disappointing (and predictable) element of the movie, though, is its one-dimensional portrayal of Arabs as terrorists. It’s not clear whether the Arabs in the movie are Palestinian or Lebanese – early on, we see a group of them wearing keffiyehs, but later on another group reports to Hezbollah – but the lack of civilians, and no sign of awareness that “terrorist” is rarely an accurate term, demonstrates that the filmmakers aren’t that interested in portraying Arabs as people.

Eight Crazy Nights, on the other hand – now THERE’S a movie!

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* By the way, how awesome is it that we’re already up to over a hundred hits a day? Never too late for link love, readers!

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3 Responses

  1. Didn’t we get to see tough jews in Munich? Who weren’t playing the whole thing for vaguely homophobic laughs?

  2. I did mot care for the politcal message toward the end of the movie… A Jew and Arab married? that’s like oil and water!!!

  3. What about Jewish Arabs?

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