You Have to Have Jews

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"In any great adventure, if you don't want to lose,
Victory depends upon the people that you choose.
So listen, Arthur, darling, closely to this news:

You won't succeed on Broadway if you don't have any Jews."
Sir Robin, Spamalot[1]

For a minority forming less than one quarter of one percent of the world's population, Jews are massively disproportionately represented in the media both as characters and creatives (i.e. actors/writers/directors). This is mostly because much of the most popular media are created in the USA, and specifically in the two parts of the USA with the highest per capita Jewish populations, Los Angeles and New York City, making this trope, in part, Big Applesauce.

Of course, like so many others, this rather sensitive and in no way value-judgemental trope began as an inversion of another trope. There was a time when working in media was one of the few options for ambitious, intelligent, well-educated people who happened to be Jewish. Anything considered to be academic or high art would be under considerable pressure to appear "respectable," and cater to the segregationist views of the time. Anyone who was not (or could not pass for) white, American- or British-born, heterosexual, Christian (most likely Protestant), and often times male might be considered a risk to the company's reputation. Since radical new media, such as Film, Radio, Comic Books and, later, Television were often callously dismissed as vulgar, they tended to hire the people no one else would take—i.e. Jews. Despite the doomsday warnings of segregationist Moral Guardians, new media took off and people who once had to scramble for an employer became part of history. In short, many might say that the Jewish people who ran Hollywood did so because they were the ones who built it. Creative types usually write what they know, and despite the ever-lingering specter of anti-Semitism in the early twentieth century, many writers, directors, producers, etc. most certainly would have passed on their own perspective into their work, intentionally or not.

This trope does not lend itself to a simple list of examples, as such a list might smack of anti-semitism ("what's with all these Jews?"). This is not what this trope is about at all. It is, nevertheless, noticeable to viewers and readers who live in areas where Jewish populations are much smaller (e.g. the UK, where Jews were, according to the 2001 census, outnumbered three to two by Jedi). Therefore, please add examples only where this trope is lampshaded, or possibly Averted Trope if it's really incongruous.

Contrast White Male Lead, although in many genres they do intersect. This usually results in All Jews Are Ashkenazi.

Examples of You Have to Have Jews include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry (set during the Irish Revolution just after World War I) has the hero have a rather Anvilicious friendship with a Latvian Jewish refugee. At the time there were about 3000 Jews in Dublin (0.8% of the population) so it comes across as a bit forced since the only real reason for them to be Jewish is so Doyle can make the IRA seem even more evil when they disapprove of his friendship.
  • Lampshaded in the FAQ (Future Alien Questions) section of Earth (The Book) for religion.

Q: We were surprised you devoted so much time to Judaism, since it made up only one fifth of one percent of the world's people.
A: What do you mean?
Q: It just seemed disproportionate.
A: Oh. Well. Sorry you had a problem with the pages about the Jews.
Q: We didn't have a problem with them.
A: Really? Because it sounds like you had a problem with them.
Q: No no no. In fact some of our favorite pages in the chapter were Jewish.

  • In the later Frank Herbert-penned Dune books, a small group of Jews help some of the protagonists. The unlikleyhood of Jews existing as more-or-less the same culture thousands of years later after several major galactic cultural upheavals is Lampshaded.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay explains this in relation to The Golden Age of Comic Books.
  • "Davids" (Chasidim) are one of the three recognizable modern-day faiths that are confirmed to still exist in Sterling Lanier's Hiero Desteen books.

Film[edit | hide]

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Jon Stewart (né Leibowitz) is fond of exercising N-Word Privileges with this trope, as when he jokes on The Daily Show about the "Jew-run media". Once while accepting an Emmy award, Jon claimed the secret to the show's success was "diversity;" he then indicated the dozen or so white men making up the writing staff and pointed out one who "used to have a beard" and another who "isn't Jewish".
  • Rick Sanchez blamed this trope for his dissatisfaction over his career trajectory as a TV journalist. In an interview that quickly went viral, Sanchez blamed the abundance of Jews in the media, and specifically Jon Stewart, for his failure to become a leading name at CNN. Apparently he couldn't think of a single reason other than his Cuban heritage for why he wasn't the most respected journalist at CNN.
  • On a sketch from Mr. Show, David Cross played a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic who claimed that his property was his own country. He ran cameras off his land whilst yelling that HBO stands for "Hebrew Box Office" and various complaints about the liberal Jew-run media.
  • Invoked on Breaking Bad by Saul Goodman (actual name McGill), who finds that work as an Amoral Attorney comes easier if people think you're Jewish.
  • Surprisingly averted in Star Trek, which made a point of making the crew visibly multi-cultural but has never contained any main characters of explicitly ethnic Jewish background (or any other religious background, for that matter; historically, the producers of Trek have all been atheists or agnostics; when in one episode Picard talks about humanity "outgrowing primitive superstitious" like a belief in gods, he's speaking for the producers), although the two most prominent characters in the original series were played by Jewish actors.
  • The creator of The Wire had to explain his intentions when he put a very Jewish man into the role of the "evil lawyer". He explained that every gangster in Baltimore is represented by one of three or four Jewish lawyers who specifically are hired by leading gangsters. To him, the role was about realism, not being politically correct. In contrast, the "good lawyer" of the show is also Jewish, though it's much less noticeable.
  • The eponymous Sons of Anarchy include an overtly Jewish member who wears a Chai necklace and works Bar Mitzvahs. This is unusual for an outlaw motorcycle club, which often have white supremacist ties. The fact that the Sons are a multicultural club who stand against the local Aryans helps make them sympathetic as protagonists.
  • In an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry fires his lawyer whom he mistook for Jewish to handle his divorce and hires a legitimate Jewish lawyer. Ironically, the Jewish lawyer turns out to be a worse at his job.

New Media[edit | hide]

  • The website Jew or Not Jew, which profiles which celebrities/historical figures/fictional characters are Jewish, inverted this with the Seven Dwarves. They concluded that six of the dwarves are Jewish (Dopey being the non-Jewish one) because apparently in a large group of Jews you have to have at least one non-Jew.
  • The comedy song "All I Want For Christmas Is Jews"
  • In his Hanukkah Song, Adam Sandler lists a whole boatload of famous Jewish folks.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Strongly averted, with Jews being perhaps the only major ethnic group not prominently featured in American pro wrestling over the past century. This could simply be due to the fact that Jews usually don't aspire to professional sports in general, but some small-time Jewish wrestlers (Scotty Goldman, a.k.a. Colt Cabana, for instance) have claimed to have been subjected to anti-Semitic taunts from non-Jews from the highest echelons of WWE and other promotions as they have tried to work their way up through the territories. Perhaps the most famous exception is Bill Goldberg, World Heavyweight Champion in both WWE and WCW and of Romanian Jewish ancestry.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Lampshaded hilariously in the Monty Python musical Spamalot, in the number "You Won't Succeed On Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)". They succeed after all because Patsy turns out to be Jewish, though he's reluctant to reveal it to heavily armed Christians. The joke was changed to "stars" in Glasgow out of fears that Scots just wouldn't get it.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims the predominance of Jewish lawyers in New York City was due to a shift in business culture. For decades the Ivy League WASP-dominated law firms wouldn't sully their hands with the "dirty tricks" parts of business law (e.g., hostile takeovers), leaving those cases to the rising Jewish law firms. Around the late 1970s, "dirty tricks" became the established culture of big business, and the Jewish firms were poised to take advantage of it while the WASP firms struggled to adapt to the new paradigm.
  • For many centuries, Jews were prohibited from owning land and otherwise discriminated against. As a result, they wound up being merchants, moneylenders, and members of the new middle class. In addition to merchants, another profession that didn't require owning land or being a member of the upper classes was as an entertainer. In addition, being an "outsider" helps you to understand the majority culture in ways that help you be a better entertainer. It is for similar reasons that Blacks in the United States were able to become so prominent as tap dancers and musicians.
  • As of 2012, the United States Supreme Court contains three Jewish justices - Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan - or one-third of the Court's total. This has aroused much controversy, as the Supreme Court has traditionally been thought of as a microcosm of the United States as a whole. Together with six Roman Catholic justices, that leaves a Court with no Protestants for the first time in U.S. history - and Protestants are still a larger portion of the U.S. population than either Catholics or Jews. (If the Court's roster truly reflected current demographics, there would be only two or three Catholic justices and one Jewish justice at the most.)