As I continue to watch TV shows like The O.C. and New Girl, both of which contain prominent Jewish characters that express their religious backgrounds freely, my immediate reaction is a proud and happy one. I think that it is so cool that TV shows, which millions of people watch, portray aspects of my religion and my life growing up. Although some of these stereotypical representations may go a little too far, it is great that people are taking the time to let the world know a little bit more about people’s Jewish backgrounds.
Let’s first take a look at The O.C. The O.C. follows a trouble teenager named Ryan Atwood who is adopted by the wealthy Sandy and Kirsten Cohen and their son Seth. Ryan and Seth take on the high-school troubles in the high-class world of Newport Beach as they form a friendship with one another and with others. Sandy Cohen, the Jewish father, and Seth Cohen, his son, take on their Jewish background as an identity. Throughout each season of the series we see yearly celebrations of Passover and Hanukkah. When I was watching these episodes, I thought it was amazing to see traditions that my family does at home being done in a similar manner on national television. Most shows and movies normally have yearly Christmas episodes with trees, Santa and presents, but here we have the opportunity to make Jewish traditions more commonly understood.
Seth Cohen’s character used his Jewish identity to show that different religions can mix and have the ability to coexist. He created the holiday “Chrismukkah,” a mix of Christmas and Hanukkah. The Chrismukkah episodes occurred seasonally, challenging the stereotype of intermarriage in families. Using stockings and Santa hat yarmulkes, the Cohen family showed that everything still works out when different religions come together through marriage. Many Jewish parents like their children to marry other people in Jewish families, but that is not always the case. These episodes of the O.C. show that it is still possible to maintain religious traditions even in these types of situations.
Now to move on to another TV show, New Girl, which is a comedic sitcom that follows the lives of 5 friends living in an apartment in Los Angeles, and their daily issues and adventures. Although it is sometimes overblown with short Jewish jokes, the show still displays important aspects of Jewish tradition. New Girl is another instance that displays that intermarriage can flourish and exist. One of the main characters, Schmidt, who outwardly expresses his Jewish identity in almost every episode falls in love with a girl named Cece. Even though Cece isn’t Jewish, their wedding still displays the Jewish traditions of breaking a glass as well as dancing the Hora. With references to Hanukkah and Bar Mitzvahs, New Girl also take advantage of their use of Jewish character’s identities to display aspects of Jewish religion and tradition.
Lastly, New Girl even recites prayer in one of the episodes. After Schmidt says a man’s life and has done this for the first time, he recites the “Shema.” Showing the prayer at the core of the Jewish religion outright on TV is an amazing sight to see. By Schmidt embracing his Jewish identity as a TV character and being seen by audiences full of millions of people, the accurate representations of the greatness of Jewish traditions are being showcased to the world.
Even though some television representation of Jews may be overblown and pompous, The O.C. and New Girls are instances where the creators and directors have taken these characters Jewish identities to be used for good. To be used in a way that emphasize the Jewish religion and traditions it embodies instead of making fun of them.