March 14, 2006

"The New Adventures of Old Christine:""The New Adventures of Old Christine"

A reader writes about the new sitcom starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, who was Elaine on "Seinfeld." Her father, by the way, is billionaire businessman GĂ©rard (William) Louis-Dreyfus. Forbes estimates the family's net worth at $2.9 billion.

The premise is she is divorced and her husband’s new girlfriend is also named “Christine”.

The show comes off as a kind of liberal rich actress trying to reconcile her liberal views (which make her a good person) with the way she lives her life. In the pilot she is sending her young son to a private school and clearly feels conflicted. She tells her son that he shouldn’t think he is better than anyone. He responds by asking if he is better than “murderers”. She responds that yes he is better than murderers but no one else. Then he asks if he is better than “racists” and she has to admit that, yes he is better than racists. I think there is an implication of a moral pecking order here.

We next see them driving to school in a tiny hybrid (I assume) auto and the kid notes that all his classmates are in huge SUVs. He asks why everyone else has such a large car and Christine responds something to the effect of “they don’t believe in themselves”.

When the enter the classroom it looks like Hitler youth. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is the only brunette in sight. The kid asks, innocently, “where are all the black kids?” His mom responds that they had one in the brochure. Earlier in the show she reveals that he was accepted to the highly competitive school by claiming to be 1/16 Cherokee.

She displays a mild guilt throughout the show. The way I read this is that these people ... rationalize sending their kids to private schools, away from minority students by claiming they were somehow tricked and anyway they aren’t as “white” as most of the people in the school and they are still good people because they rate racists a step above murderers and care about the environment and show it by driving a consciously small car.

One of the striking anomalies of modern American life is the degree to which very wealthy Jews (even members of the Forbes 400 overclass) still feel oppressed by the supposed dominance of the old WASP upper class, even though fellow Jews typically make up at least a plurality of the ultra-elite circles in which they move.

I'm also dubious about the ubiquitous term "guilt." If a Julia Louis-Dreyfuss character, with her fabulous head of hair, is the only brunette in sight in a private school classroom full of blondes, then her vocal solicitude for the blacks excluded from the school probably doesn't have much to do with blacks per se, or her own sense of guilt, as with using blacks as props in her struggle for social one-upsmanship over the blondes. A lot of black anti-Semitism is motivated by their sense that Jewish expressions of racial liberalism have more to do with intra-white ethnic gamesmanship than with blacks.

On Gideon's Blog, Noah writes:

And the rabbi gave an interesting sermon apropos of Purim (which starts tonight). He compared the position of the Jewish community in America today with Queen Esther's position in King Ahashuerus's Persia: that is to say, a position of power or, more precisely, profound influence on those who wield power. And, he said, that power implies responsibility - specifically, the responsibility to use it to prevent grave wrong (as Esther did in acting to prevent the genocide of the Jews). He went on to urge the congregants to write letters to Congress to press for stronger action on the situation in Darfur.

Now, this is not an argument I've heard very often. Usually, when I hear a Jewish exhortation to the flock to do something about this or that injustice, and to be especially sure to take such action because you (the hearer) are Jewish, the reasoning takes one of three forms. Either (1) we Jews have suffered, so we should be acutely sensitive to others' suffering, and not accept the excuses of those who either perpetrate or ignore that suffering; or (2) as God liberated the Jews from captivity in Egypt, and as we are enjoined to imitate God in His striving for justice, we have a religious obligation as Jews to help the oppressed; or (3) Jews should be aware of our collective vulnerability, historical and continuing, and therefore for our own good always take the other side of the kinds of groups, movements and individuals who have victimized us in the past, and who could threaten us again in the future. Nothing wrong with any of these arguments. But you (or at least I) rarely hear a Jewish leader saying, in so many words, that Jews must act to prevent this or that injustice because we are powerful, and power implies responsibility.

That with power comes responsibility was apparent to Stan Lee (originally Stan Lieber, writer of Spiderman), but the notion that American Jews are now pretty powerful is usually dismissed today as an anti-Semitic canard.

I'm a huge fan of enlightened self-interest, so I'm worried that Jews, who need a realistic understanding of their own situation, are not getting an accurate picture due to the fear imposed on the media of having your livelihood ruined for one frank remark. Think of how Gregg Easterbrook, of all people, was fired from his ESPN football commentary job by Michael Eisner in 2003,for mentioning the moral responsibilities of Jewish movie studio executives in his blog on The New Republic, which is owned by that notorious anti-Semite Martin Peretz. And note how little protest Easterbrook's firing engendered.

In the long run, it not good for the Jews to be the one group immune from criticism.

By the way, totally changing the subject, speaking of former cast-members of Seinfeld trying to make it with new sit-coms, isn't it about time for the television industry to stop trying to figure out a new sophisticated "Seinfeld"-like vehicle to star Michael Richard, who as Kramer was perhaps the funniest supporting character in television history, and make this slapstick expert the star of a show for children?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

No comments: