Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad Research

It is often aggravating to watch television or movies and read books supposedly about religious Jews. Like A Stranger Among Us or Holy Roller, or episodes of Law & Order. You can die laughing.
'Cause those peyos look soooooo authentic. Snort.
I was reading The Midwife of Venice because I had come across it on a recommended historical fiction list, and while it got some things right, it got plenty wrong.
Jewish men cannot remarry their ex-wives (only kohanim). One can drink wine in a gentile household (you kidding me?). A rabbi can decree conditions regarding pidyon shivuyim, specifically demanding that the captive divorce his barren wife (pidyon shivuyim is a serious mitzvah, and the idea that one would make criteria on it is unthinkable). Committing suicide is okay if existence is unpleasant, because, after all, they all suicided in Masada.

Um, why would a rabbi hold a wine cup to a woman's lips at the seder table? 

"He was so happy he could dance the hora." Right, in the 16th century. Oy. 

After sighing over these boo-boos I skimmed, bored, through the rest of the book. 

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, what a promising title. Except the author is an irreligious Jew, and not one of the tolerant ones.
The Yiddish and Hebrew is constantly used wrong. Two people go on a "shidduch date," they don't go on a "shidduch"; it's "B'Ezrat Hashem," not "B'Srat Hashem," and these are Ashkenazim living in England, so make that "B'Ezras Hashem."

All the mothers are fat and miserable caring after their too-many progeny. The men sport grimy beards. The protagonist wonders if her husband will beat her, then intentionally crunches her mother-in-law's foot in a door. Single 19-year-old girls are "spinsters" and are set up with men twenty years their senior. Everyone is wallowing in shvitz, even in the dead of winter. 

Hashem? His name is invoked when people just want to do what they want to do. Then it is God's will. Otherwise the hapless frummies gasp under an oppressive regime of public opinion, banned from any sort of fun.    

Now what I should realize is, if they get all this stuff wrong about us, what do they get wrong about other cultures the media portrays? Here I am, using movies and books as proofs of other cultural behaviors, when they are probably getting everything totally backward. Even Oprah's take on chassidus was imperfectly framed. (Although House, M.D. had a pretty accurate one, excepting two blunders.)

The only upside from slander like this is that it makes me more determined than ever to work on my novel. This is how it actually rolls in BP, y'all. 


FrumGeek said...

Or like that episode of The Good Wife where the chassidishe guy is wearing a ring :P

Sporadic Intelligence said...

I had that same horrible epiphany a while back, and realized that anything I think I know about different cultures is probably inaccurate....and then pushes me to finish my novel :)

Nechama said...

What a delicious thought! A whole novel by PL... hurry, hurry, schneller ;)

Princess Lea said...

FG: The "Blue Bloods" episode was particularly hysterical!

SI: Woo! Novel buddy! We have to make up for all the bad PR from the "unorthodox."

Nechama: It's going to take a while; I have no imagination so I pretty much rip it off my own life.

Anonymous said...

Is "This is how it actually rolls in BP, y'all." the title?

Princess Lea said...

Hm, there's a thought . . .