By Robbie Pleasant
I have writer’s block.
I know you can see that there are still plenty of things written in this article, and so you’re reading on in the knowledge that something has been said, but that’s in the future of my writing these words right now. At the moment, I’m looking at this blank page and wondering what I’m going to say to fill it.
Fortunately, that’s where my fellow writers here at Leviathan come in, for I may be the friendly neighborhood Jew, but I’m not the only one with random things on my mind. So at the suggestion of a fellow writer, let’s take a look at Jewish stereotypes popping up in characters who are probably not Jewish, and in fact aren’t even human.
I want you to take this time and run down to the nearest video store, and find a copy of the first two Star Wars prequels (if you can stand Hayden Christenson’s acting). Fast forward to the scenes where Watto appears and take a close look at him. A long nose, greedy, bit of an accent, and in Episode 2, a beard and what could almost be considered a metal yarmulke. Although I never connected the dots at the time, I later learned that many people complained about him being a Jewish stereotype. (Interestingly, as far as I’m aware, no one has complained about Jawas, the short little desert-dwelling junk merchants from “A New Hope.”)
The goblins in the “Harry Potter” series, the short, gold-loving, bankers of the magical world, have received similar complaints. As with Watto, I never thought of the characters as Jewish stereotypes, but apparently enough people did to complain about it.
This makes me wonder, is this a result of hypersensitivity or insensitivity? Are the characters really mocking stereotypes, or are some people so focused on finding something to complain about that they can take anything possibly resembling a stereotype and raise a fuss about it? So both Watto and the goblins love money. Big deal, does that make them Jewish? Maybe their physical features could be taken to resemble a Jewish caricature, but exaggerated features like ears or noses are common traits for fantasy creatures. Maybe I’m just brushing it off too quickly, or maybe those who raise ire have legitimate complaints, one can’t say with absolute certainty either way.
Now that I’ve said that, I find the writer’s block is returning and preventing me from writing a full conclusion. So I’ll leave it at that for now, and let you get back to watching the movies I had you rent. Perhaps this time you’ll notice something about the characters you never thought of before.
Published on page 63 of the Winter 2011 issue of Leviathan.