Netflix slammed for portraying Jews as 'white, privileged and racist' in hit rom-com ‘You People’

The film has faced backlash for reinforcing ‘painful’ stereotypes and ‘playing the Holocaust for laughs’


The hit Netflix film “You People" which portrays relationships between Jewish, Black, and Muslim communities in the US has been criticised for depicting Jews as “white, privileged, and racist.”

The comedy, starring Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy, centres on a romance between a Black Muslim woman and a Jewish man, exploring how the pair encounter religious and cultural hurdles between themselves and their relatives.

While the show has been a commercial success, racking over 55 million viewing hours within seven days of its premiere, much commentary has expressed dismay at the script’s reliance on stereotypes.

"The Jewish family are positioned as white, privileged, and racist. The Black family just has a stern dad. At the end there’s much Jewish apologising for racism. None for antisemitism. That word never appears,” wrote comedian and “Jews Don’t Count,” author David Baddiel.

Allison Josephs, a Modern Orthodox Jewish influencer and founder of the Jew in the City nonprofit which works to combat stereotypes about religious Jews, claimed the film conflated white privilege and the experience of American Jews.

Jewish characters in the Netflix hit “can just call his Jewish family friend” to get a job, “Because it’s what we all do. We get our jobs with all those Jewish family connections,” she scathing wrote online.

Ms Josephs told American magazine Newsweek that many Jewish people she had spoken with were “really, really upset by this movie.”

“I think the film is irredeemable. And I think it’s horribly damaging, and I think it will increase a division, a wedge between the Black and Jewish community. I think this movie will endanger Jews. I think it’s a really irresponsible movie.”

“It was a really painful movie to watch,” she continued.

The UK-based antisemitism charity Campaign Against Antisemitism also complained that: “‘You People’ normalises harmful rhetoric against Jewish people and contains several unchallenged tropes.” 

CAA also said it was disappointed that the film “repeatedly played the Holocaust for cheap laughs,” adding that: “the word ‘antisemitism’ does not appear in the entire film”.

"The antisemitic trope that Jews were en masse slave traders is perpetuated. Again this is not really challenged at all,” they went on.

Jewish photographer Cinthya Silverstein expressed her disappointment at the movie’s narrow approach to questions of culture and race and use of “comedy based on persistent racial ‘othering’,” and said the characters bore little resemblance to her family, which includes Black and Mexican Jews.

“In creating the world for ‘You People,’ the writers continue a dated tradition of movies that overly simplify the worlds they depict based on racial binaries,” she wrote for The Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The film's launch comes after a series of high-profile incidents which spotlighted relations between Jewish and Black communities. Last year rapper Kanye West began expressing antisemitic views online, and stating that he “loved” Nazis. 

Last November the Brooklyn Nets basketball team suspended African-American player Kyrie Irving for a minimum of five NBA games after he failed to "unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs". It came after the sports star shared an Amazon link to the 2018 film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America”, a movie based on a 2015 book by the same name, which tries to blame Jewish people for anti-black racism.

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