|Screenshot from Nurses (TOI)|
Because of TV production problems due to COVID, NBC is starved for new content and they are looking for it outside of their usual fare. In one instance they found it in a series called Nurses which is produced in Canada. From whom they apparently acquired the rights to broadcast it. I tend to like medical programs so I watched the first episode. I found it entirely boring and did not watch the show after that.
But I had heard that on February 9th they had portrayed Orthodox characters on the show. Whenever that happens I try and watch how they portray us. Which is usually totally inaccurate. So I went to NBC’s website, found that episode, and watched it.
It was bad. I had never seen anything like it. And that says a lot because Orthodox Jews are never portrayed in a favorable light. With rare exception, there are always inaccuracies when ‘Hollywood’ tries to depict us. The bottom line is that ‘Hollywood’ sees a bunch of weirdos when they look at us. Orthodox Jews are never portrayed as normal. Even when their portrayals are sympathetic we are always quirky to one degree or another. And we have weird customs.
But this episode of Nurses takes the cake. It was so laughable that it’s hard to believe anyone with a brain could portray Chasidic Jews that badly. The characters looked fake; the dialogue sounded fake… and religious values they attributed to them were fake. There was nothing at all realistic in those portrayals.
At the time I just chalked it up to ignorant and lazy writers, producers, directors, and actors who wouldn’t know a Chasid or any Orthodox Jew from hole in the ground. They relied on stereotypes, half truths, and preconceived negative notions. They had no knowledge of our beliefs and practices. And didn’t take the time to find out. They did absolutely no research.
I didn’t really give it a second thought after that. But maybe I should have. Because in truth it was much more than just laughable. It was downright antisemitic. Now I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. I’ll bet they thought their portrayals were actually sympathetic. While at the same time truthful about the weird – even racist and misogynistic - views of Chasidic Jews.
It doesn’t matter though. Good intentions are worthless without a commitment to the truth. Which none of the people responsible for that show bothered to find out. How bad was it? From the Times of Israel:
The indignation was set off by an objectionable storyline in the hour-long drama, which follows a group of nurses in a Toronto hospital. In the episode, a young Hasidic patient is told he will need a bone graft to heal his broken leg, leading his devout father to recoil at the possibility of a “dead goyim leg from anyone. An Arab, a woman.”
Saying that the storyline was objectionable is an understatement. It was disgusting. The public reaction reflects that:
“The representation in this episode was offensive and ugly, reinforcing antisemitic stereotypes. We appreciate this quick action after the ADL and others called for accountability,” (Jonathan Greenblatt) tweeted.
Allison Josephs, who blogs about Orthodox life as the founder and director of Jew In The City, also harshly criticized the episode.
“The idea that such a surgery would be problematic in general or problematic because of where the bone came from not only is categorically false according to Jewish law, it is a vicious lie that endangers men who walk around with curled side locks and black hats,” Josephs wrote.
Next time ‘Hollywood’ wants to portray Orthodox Jews they would do well doing a little research first. Or at the very least hire one as a technical advisor.