Jewishness In Christmas Episodes
2010-12-15, 11:41 a.m.
Can I write some complaints about Jewishness in Christmas episodes? I already know I did that for Glee, but I finally got around to watching all of the shows I watch in Hulu that had Christmas episodes, and I have some thoughts. I'm probably not even justified in having these thoughts since I'm not remotely Jewish (sigh), but every year it annoys me when the Jewish characters get pretend-Christianned for the holidays or whatever.
Yes, I'm aware of just how annoying it is for writers/the culture in general to have to acknowledge the fact that some people don't do that when 99% of America is decorating Christmas trees and singing Christmas songs, but... ARGH anyway. If nobody on the show is explicitly of another religion (example: Eureka's Christmas episode, where as far as I can tell nobody is Jewish and I wouldn't expect it to come up), I don't much care, but making everyone Christian for the month is still freaking weird. Really, we can't have tolerance? We can't have people of all religions celebrating goodwill towards men or something?
I am a huge fan of Community, but I could not argue with this. I really agreed with this particular bit: "The only reason you'd need to come up with a universal, secularized, entirely inoffensive version of Christmas that is really about telling the people you love that you love them is that the actual, Christian version of Christmas is so firmly entrenched in your culture that it can never be removed, and the only way to accommodate the people in your society who don't celebrate it is to turn it into something it isn't"
That really sums it up. I loved last year's holiday episode, when it was established that EVERYBODY did something different, ranging from atheism/agnosticism to Jewish or Muslim, to even Jehovah's Witness (you don't see them much on TV) and Pierce's weird Church of Happyology religion. Everyone mixed together, everyone accepted each other. This year? They pretty much pitched that shit out of the window, to the point of retconning Annie and Abed as half Christian. "Christmas can be a Hanukkah thing," what now? Now, I can see Abed being into watching holiday specials anyway because he sucks up all pop culture, and I'm sure Dan Harmon and co. were utterly enamored of stop-motion animation. I enjoyed that aspect of it myself. And yet, the whole enforced Christmasness of it irritated me. I think it would have been interesting to see the mix of religions thrown into stop-motion and dealt with. Hell, why not do an episode about the lonely Jew/Muslim/JH/Church of Happyology on Christmas, in which Abed has a stop-motion dream about not being Christian? Yeah, so that doesn't milk the required Christmas Spirit teat, but it would have been something different.
Then there's Warehouse 13, a show that normally wouldn't even have to deal with a Christmas episode (and given how season 2 ended, it is pretty weird that they HAD a Christmas episode), that has an explicitly Jewish character. Now, they did put a dreidel by Artie's actor's name in the opening, which I liked. And yes, I'm aware that if these shows are taking place in 2010 (in both this and Eureka's case, it's kind of weirdly done), Hanukkah would be over by this point. But the half of the plot involving Artie features Claudia trying to get him a Christmas present, which ends up reuniting him with his estranged dad. I... don't really know what to make of this either. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it just kind of weird? Is it acknowledging the difference or not? (Sorta?)
I've been trying to think of other shows where this came up. I recall Willow on Buffy The Vampire Slayer saying she had to sneak out to watch Christmas specials at Xander's house, but otherwise her Jewishness has been pretty token, plus she's a witch and all. (Considering how many Jewish-raised witches I have known, this... well, doesn't seem that out of character for some of the folks I know too.) I also remember The Nanny having some kind of animated Christmas special yonks ago, and I remember thinking, "Uh, this is REALLY WEIRD when the main character's Jewishness is a constant plot point the rest of the freaking year."
Okay, you know what? I think I need to go write a TV Tropes page about this. I can't find any that have been done so far...