Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Meet the predatory princesses: how American TV turned cliché into ‘reality’

    Jewish American princesses of Princesses: Long Island (Photo: AP)
    Jewish American princesses of Princesses: Long Island (Photo: AP)

    It had to happen. After 'Real Housewives', 'Teen Moms' and 'Million-dollar Mansions', Jewish American Princesses were the next logical challenge for reality television to take on.

    Princesses: Long Island, which premiered on US channel Bravo on June 2 with an episode titled ‘You Had Me At Shalom’, follows six 20-something, college-educated women from affluent Long Island — Chanel, Erica, Ashlee, Joey, Amanda and Casey — as they search for a husband from the comfort of their parents’ lavish homes.

    In case you were wondering, the Jewish American Princess, or JAP, has four main characteristics: she’s rich, she’s cold, she’s shallow and she’s hunting for a husband. This show trots out these traits with such enthusiasm, they might as well have put them up as subtitles.

    The Jewish aspect is emphasised with the requisite dropping of a Yiddish term or two, and bold declarations about their levels of religious observance, which range from Chanel’s modern Orthodoxy, to Erica’s take on reformed Judaism (“We’re reform Jews, which kind of means we’re not that Jewish.”)

    Stephanie Butnick, editor-in-chief of Jewcy.com, an online magazine focusing on Jews in popular culture, grew up on Long Island. In an article called “Why Bravo’s ‘Princesses Long Island’ is Like, the Worst Thing Ever,” she explained why a TV portrayal of JAP pride isn’t the best thing for American Jews. But when asked to expand on her reaction, she added that though annoyed, she was not surprised.

    “I think it’s just the next logical step in reality TV. It’s not a big shock that they’ve gone to this pocket of culture. It’s so absurd, so over the top, that I don’t think it can be taken seriously. It’s sort of painful to watch, and not really good television,” she said.

    Even the Jewish aspect is not credible, she added.

    “It’s not really fleshed out, it’s just a character trait that they throw about. They say ‘Shalom!’ etc. It’s so insincere.”

    But as Deborah Dash Moore, Director of the Frankel Centre for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, pointed out, the Jewish American Princess stereotype has always been offensive. The term gathered steam in the 1970s and ’80s, “largely created by American Jewish men,” she said.

    What should be noted in this case, she added, is the way in which these women embrace the derogatory term. One of the more memorable moments of the pilot features Ashlee proudly declaring: “Bring it! I’m Jewish. I’m American. And I’m a princess.” That kind of talk, Moore said, is the real issue.

    “I think it’s a horrendous stereotype and one of the more unfortunate stereotypes that, for some reason, some Jewish women have bought into.”

    Not all agree. For Steven M Cohen, Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebew Union College Institute of Religion, the fact that such a show even exists is a reflection of how far Jews have come in America.

    “If you look at Jews in pop culture, you see a progression. Groucho Marx was obviously Jewish and never said so, Woody Allen was problematically Jewish, Jerry Seinfeld was proudly Jewish and Jon Stewart is comically Jewish. We’re in a sense living in a post-antisemitic age where you can make fun of that whole imagery.”

    However, he admitted that he had not actually seen the show.

World

Anthony Weiner jailed for 21 months

Michael Daventry

Monday, September 25, 2017

Anthony Weiner jailed for 21 months
World

Trump to crackdown on Iran and its "terrorist minions", says Pence

JC Reporter

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trump to crackdown on Iran and its "terrorist minions", says Pence
UK News

Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs dies aged 86

JC Reporter

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs dies aged 86
World

Rabbi among Mexico quake victims

Daniel Sugarman

Monday, September 25, 2017

Rabbi among Mexico quake victims
World

Netanyahu invited to meet Abbas in Paris

Rosa Doherty

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Netanyahu invited to meet Abbas in Paris
World

It's Chanucah Song time!

Michael Moran

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's Chanucah Song time!
World

Fox TV's awkward Kushner spelling mistake

Michael Moran

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fox TV's awkward Kushner spelling mistake
World

'Jews should pay for their own security' say Swiss

Daniel Sugarman

Sunday, December 4, 2016

'Jews should pay for their own security' say Swiss
World

Will the Austrian election make Norbert Hofer E...

Sonia Zhuravlyova

Will the Austrian election make Norbert Hofer E...