Franny The Nanny

27 Oct

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I don’t watch television anymore at all however, when I was younger (high school and before) I watched lots of it. I wanted to pick a show that portrayed Jewish characters because I am Jewish and because I wanted to see if television has specific stereotypes of Jews. The show that stood out most to me of having a Jewish character was The Nanny. I watched this show from time to time back when it aired regularly, but I wanted to analyze it for this journal post. In class we talked about Evangelicals and Arabs, but we didn’t talk about Jews so I thought this journal post would be the perfect time to do so.

I picked a random episode. The one I picked is called “Schlepped Away.” I chose this because schlepped is a word that a lot of Jewish people use. The episode was about a vacation Mr. Sheffield planned for him and his kids. Fran (the nanny), Niles (the butler) and Ms. Babcock (Sheffields business partner) were invited to go on this vacation as well. The episode took place during winter in New York and they planned a vacation to go to the Caribbean. The day the whole crew left for the airport there was a huge snow storm. Niles was driving everyone in Sheffields limo, but the roads were so horrible that they were not getting anywhere. Fran suggested that they go to her mothers house so that they could reorient themselves and then get back on the road. When they all went up to Fran’s moms apartment, she told them that the airport was closed due to the bad weather. They all ended up getting stuck at Fran’s parents apartment for the next couple of days. After spending time there, the weather finally cleared up and they were able to go on their vacation.

In this show Fran is the Jewish character. In general she is very loud and talkative which tends to be a stereotype of Jewish women, especially New York Jewish women. In this episode, when the family was planning the vacation, Fran was reminiscing on a trip she took to Miami during the summer. Mr. Sheffield’s kids asked why she would vacation to Miami in the summer because it is so hot there during that season. Fran responded by saying that it was the off season there so all the prices were cheaper. Being cheap is a typical stereotype of Jews and she is portrayed in that way. In another scene when Fran was at her mom’s house, she took the chicken out of the fridge to begin to prepare it. In the chicken she found a love note and it ended up being from her mother’s butcher. Fran got upset but her mom explained to her that she was not cheating on her husband, but she flirted with the butcher from time to time because he gave her a discount on meat. This is another way of showing the stereotype that Jews are cheap and will do anything to save a few dollars.

Moving away from stereotypes of Jews in general, when I looked more at how the religious side of Jews are portrayed I noticed that television makes it known that they are Jewish but they do not usually show them celebrating holiday’s other than Hannukah (which is the least important holiday in the Jewish religion). In this particular episode, you can see that Fran’s family is Jewish because they have a menorah in the house as well as a Jewish star. However, the family is shown eating meat and dairy together (which many Jews do not do because it is against the religion). Not all Jews keep kosher, but in most shows I have seen that do have Jews present never show this side of the religion. All we see from television are the main stereotypes of Jews (like being cheap) as well as them celebrating a holiday that does not have much importance. The television shows never educate audiences about the values of the Jewish religion, nor the customs of the religion. The values in the Jewish religion are actually things like helping those in need, treat others with respect, standing up for fellow Jews, community building and the list goes on. In television, however, we see Jews as being stuck up, cheap, loud (the women)/Jewish American Princess, and being greedy.

In The Nanny we definitely see more of the negative stereotypes of Jews versus the positive ones. Since there is not a big percentage of Jews in this country, when other religions see this representation of Jews, they begin to believe it to be true because they may not know many Jews in real life. Just like we talked about in class, television represents Arabs and Islam in negative ways. Not everyone has an Arab friend to counteract these stereotypes, so they end up believing what they see on television. This is the same for Jews, and for any minority present in television. The Nanny presents typical Jewish stereotypes and although the show is funny and entertaining, it does not fairly depict Jews.

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