Friday, January 23, 2009

Hey, Mr. Producer, How About Doing Ten Minutes Worth of Research?

This Sunday evening, CBS will be airing a TV movie called Loving Leah. It's a fictional story about a woman in the Lubavitch community who, recently widowed and childless, will now end up marrying her husband's brother. Of course, the brother is not Lubavitch (or even religious), but that's a separate issue.

Of course, the producers could have actually called up a rabbi -- any rabbi -- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, whatever, and asked "hey, do Lubavitch Jews actually *do* that anymore? Do they really have widows marry their dead husband's brother?" Of course, no one performs yibum anymore -- in fact, we've pretty much outlawed it and mandated chalitzah. But no -- why let a few facts get in the way of a good story?

This reminds me of the episode of Grey's Anatomy where an Orthodox Jewish girl decided it's better to die than to receive a porcine heart valve transplant. Again, a simple phone call to any rabbi would have revealed that any rabbi -- from the frummest Orthodox to the most secular Reconstructionist would have told her that she is not only allowed to have the transplant but that she should actually do so.

What really annoys me about this is not so much the fact that they got it wrong -- heck, we all make mistakes. But the fact that they got something wrong in a community that 98% of the viewing knows nothing about (or worse, has gross misinformation about) only helps to perpetuate bad stereotypes about Lubavitch Jews and Orthodox Jews in general.

So, how about if, instead of making stupid mistakes and painting Orthodox Jews in a bad light, producers actually pick up a phone and run a thirty second plot summary by a rabbi -- any rabbi? Is that too much to ask?

The Wolf

Hat tip: Pesky Settler. (Go to PS's blog and see the YouTube clip of Susan Essman [one of the stars of the show] trashing Lubavitch Jews).


Product said...

The news media always finds stupid and ignorant pundits on every topic, but couldn’t locate one rabbi?
Maybe all is not lost. Try to give them a poke, if you care. CBS may be biased, but I doubt they would deliberately mislead.

Lion of Zion said...

good post

harry marlyes had a post about 1/2 year ago about an episode (don't remember which show) that relied heavily on the advice of a (chabad) rabbi

Jewish Atheist said...

It's not just Orthodox Judaism. Anytime there's a movie about anything you know about (chess, fly-fishing, guns, auto mechanics, Greek philosophy, whatever) you'll find ten huge, glaring errors that a two-minute conversation with an expert should have prevented.

I assume they just don't care about accuracy.

mlevin said...

That's why I love Lost. That show doesn't really have major mistakes, because people overly analyze every little thing. Like i remember in the first season, the made a mistake where a character was holding a gun with his right hand, but in a close up shot it looked like a left hand. Viewers picked it up within minutes.

Lion of Zion said...


i just walked away from the show. my wife is still watching it (she loves it).

first of all, the show makes it patently clear that the decision here to perform yibbum is extremely exceptional and contrary to the norm.

and whatever mistakes (or rather i would prefer to say unrealistic scenes) there are in the movie, there is no anti-jewish bias here.


[spoiler alert]


yes. last night i saw "my bloody valentine." there is a scene where a girl, who presumably never fired a gun before, shoots someone holding the gun in one hand. i was thinking how unlikely this is, but then again its hollywood. anything can happen. including a girl shooting a pistol with one hand or yibbum.

Anonymous said...

Wolf, What do you expect? Accuracy? From CBS?

Ichabod Chrain

BrooklynWolf said...


Thanks for the follow up. However, yibum today is not just "contrary to the norm-" it's downright frowned upon. I'm not aware of any single Orthodox rabbi that would permit it.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

It's very simple. No Yibum no plot so they chose to ignore this inconvenient truth.