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Haddy the Hebrew: How Jews became villains

Warning: This column contains spoilers for "Do Revenge" and "Glass Onion."

Stop me if this has happened to you: You're sitting down to watch a movie. Let's say you're babysitting, and you put on a Disney film, a classic movie. As you watch, you see the princess and her family with their light, straight hair, button noses and slender bodies. They don't look like you but that's okay, it's just a movie! And then, you see a character that does look like you. Let's say it's a female character, and she has dark, curly hair and a nose bump, and she looks rounder than the other characters. Here's some representation! And then, it is revealed that this character is the antagonist, trying to take down the thin blonde princess and her family. You watch as the character that looks like you is revealed to be the villain. What does that say about you?

Not all representation is positive. More often than not, the representation of Jews in pop culture relies heavily on stereotypes. The token Jewish or Jewish-coded character is often a nerd or a villain. This is not a new phenomenon. 

Last March, Hey Alma (which I used to work for!) wrote an article titled, "Why Do So Many Disney Villains Look Like Me?" The article asserts that all Disney villains are Jewish-coded. I want to take this a step further and point our attention to the fact that even live-action films fall prey to this. When Netflix released "Do Revenge" in September, there was some discourse surrounding the character Max Broussard, who is ostensibly the villain in this teen-targeted film. Max is revealed to have been the mastermind antagonist in the third act of "Do Revenge." While he explains his plot, a Star of David is visible on his chest. It is important to note that Max is the face of male privilege. He is the founding member and president of the asinine group "Cis Hetero Men Championing Women Identifying Students League." His wealth and scheming nature might have been unremarkable if it weren't for the six-pointed star dangling from his neck. 

"Glass Onion," the much-anticipated addition to the "Knives Out" universe, has a similar issue. The billionaire tech mogul later revealed to be the mastermind murderer, is also Jewish-coded. Although he is not wearing a Jewish star like Max Broussard, nor does he have stereotypical Jewish physical features, he does have a Jewish name. Bron is an especially Jewish last name, and Miles is a popular name for Jewish men, although it is not specifically Jewish in nature. Like Max, though, his overt Jewishness is revealed in the film's third act. He proclaims, "Mazel tov!," the Hebrew phrase which is used to mean congratulations. The context of this is also an allusion to Jewish tradition, as the characters around him are breaking glass sculptures when he says this. In a Jewish wedding, the groom steps on and breaks a glass cup before kissing the bride. Miles is alluding to this tradition and alluding to his Jewishness. 

Jewish-coded villains arose out of the public's fear of the other. Jews have long been "othered" in Western society, and making villains look and talk like stereotypical Jews is how that ostracization is conserved. This is especially important with children's media. If children are taught from a young age that a villain looks and acts like a Jew, then the othering of Jews can be passed through generations without explicitly being taught. 

The opposite side of the coin is true too. When Jews see themselves in villains, we feel ostracization. Coding villains as Jewish is a tactic that works to keep Jews on the outside, and its presence in pop culture doesn't show signs of stopping.

Hadass Galili is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hadass by tweeting her at @HadassGalili.

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