November 6, 2014 Hasidim in Media: Talk Yiddish to Me
Among my circles, we often discuss the inaccurate portrayals of Hasidim in media. From books to movies, or especially movies, it seems secular media can’t get it right. The minor details; the garb, the clumsy Yiddish, are often most jarring to natives. I thought it would be interesting to look at media closely and try to point out what I think they got right and what they got wrong.
The parody video “Talk Yiddish to Me” got a number of things so right, I had to rewatch it several times. It manages to work with the kind of humor that those who know the culture would love. My favorite little detail was the plastic for the black hat. It isn’t raining but that young man is wearing the hat cover as if he’s brazing a thunderstorm. Anyone who is used to its regular use can appreciate the absurdity. The last time I saw a hat cover on a video was — never.
There’s also a parody of the Hasidic minivan culture, and how much value men place on the “fully loaded” minivan. Some people like nice BMW sedans, Hasidic men like fully loaded Hondas. The actors are dancing before the car’s backup cam and showing off. And when they get into the van, the men flip their long coats up, like the real deal. Crackup.
Regrettably, as is so often the case, these things are only male. The woman in the video looks like a Hasidic bubba NOT, red glasses and all, and her inedible fish-sticks cooked in bleach does not work with the reality of a Hungarian Hasidic culture known for its excellent cooking of heimish, simple, hearty meat-and-potato foods. Besides, why is bubba cooking in a commercial kitchen?
To me — these things pop out like eyesores.
Although I could find out who the actors were, I’d like to share my impressions before I look it up, to show you what sounds real to me — and what doesn’t. The backup dancers with their long hair in the front and strange sidecurls don’t look authentic at all. The main actor with the shtreimel has a Yiddish accent that is NOT Hasidic, and his way of gliding — it doesn’t feel right. But his beard is good, he tucks his hands into his belt in a fine way and they figured out that the glasses belong ON TOP of the sidecurls! And he’s wearing glasses. Most Hasidic men do.
The young boy without the beard seems like a real Hasidic bochur, albeit Israeli, per his accent. He’s wearing a tall beeber hat.
And my favorite, the man with the tallis, he has me convinced. He throws his tallis over his shoulders, or pats it in front while singing, or shakes back and forth while fiddling with the fringes on it. He has that comfortable way with his tallis that men who wear it regularly have. And that open coat; very Hasidic cool. His accent is great too. I’m not sure about his hat though. It’s something of a cross between a shtufen hit and a crach hit. Perhaps Borough Park?
Watch the video and let me know what you think! Enjoy!