Rubbish like Jewish Mum of the Year is bad for us

By Jonathan Sacerdoti, October 11, 2012
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Across the denominational spectrum: those vying to be a free-sheet’s agony aunt, via primetime television

Across the denominational spectrum: those vying to be a free-sheet’s agony aunt, via primetime television

Inherent in programmes like Channel 4's dreadful “Jewish Mother of the Year” and “Jews at Ten” is a trap common to many other manifestations of antisemitism: if Jews complain that their religion and culture is being trashed, they must be humourless. Thus Jews are twice ridiculed, once for their putative ugliness as a people, and again for not being willing to laugh at it.

Television production companies like Shine and Princess Productions (who made this series) have dedicated development departments to think up ideas for new programmes. I have worked in both companies' development teams, and know well how ideas like this tend to be created. The disproportionate amount of attention our tiny community is getting on TV – including six recent ‘affectionately’ derisory comedy shows – marks a worrying trend.

A peculiar hybrid of “The Apprentice” and “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”, this unimaginative series reinforces many negative stereotypes about Jews by mocking a selection of eccentrics who just happen to be Jewish. Their willing involvement is the fig leaf for the stereotyping.

TV companies are constantly trying to repeat past successes, crossing one format with another and seeking new niche communities or minorities to mock, continually claiming it is just light-hearted fun. That they deliver boring, derivative formats might be a crime against TV, but their disregard in causing damage to minority communities is the more serious and unjustifiable charge they must face.

Watching this kind of rubbish is bad for us: it makes us judgmental of others, less respectful of diversity, and more prone to stereotyping. A study by Dr. Brian A. Primack of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has even shown that every extra hour of TV we watch increases our levels of depression. No doubt programmes like this play a big part.

The unwitting complicity of members of any minority in mocking their own community can never excuse their deliberate exploitation by a TV company. The wider Jewish community ends up suffering because of the vanity and naivety of a few, amplified by the calculating encouragement of cynical TV producers.

Last updated: 1:06pm, October 12 2012