Critics pan ‘painful’ portrayal of Jews in race relations rom-com ‘You People’

Film topping Netflix charts accused of playing on stereotypes for cheap laughs, depicting Jewish main character as white, privileged and uncool foil to Black, Muslim love interest

Jonah Hill, left, and Lauren London in a scene from 'You People.' (Courtesy: Netflix)
Jonah Hill, left, and Lauren London in a scene from 'You People.' (Courtesy: Netflix)

The hit Netflix comedy “You People,” which explores race relations between the Jewish, Muslim and Black communities in America, has come under fire for allegedly reinforcing antisemitic tropes about Jews being “white, privileged and racist.”

The film, starring comedian Eddie Murphy and Jewish actor Jonah Hill, follows a Jewish man and a Black Muslim woman as they fall in love and attempt to navigate cultural and religious barriers between each other and their families.

It has become a runaway success for the streaming service, racking up more than 55 million viewing hours in its first week. However, some critics have complained that the comedy relies heavily on damaging stereotypes to drum up cheap laughs.

“The Jewish family are positioned as white, privileged and racist. The Black family just has a stern dad. At the end there’s much Jewish apologizing for racism. None for antisemitism. That word never appears,” tweeted David Baddiel, author of “Jews Don’t Count,” a polemic against antisemitism among modern-day progressives.

Allison Josephs, an American Orthodox Jewish influencer and executive director of the nonprofit Jew in the City, accused the movie of conflating white privilege and the Jewish American experience.

Jews depicted in the film “can just call his Jewish family friend” and get a job, she complained on social media. “Because it’s what we all do. We get our jobs with all those Jewish family connections.”

Josephs told US outlet Newsweek that she had spoken with many other Jewish people who are “really, really upset by this movie.”

“There were so many falsehoods, or so many claims put out there without any challenge. And so now that becomes just part of what people may accept to be true. It’s an erasure of Jewish history and an invalidation of all that we’ve been through and all that we continue to go through. It was a really painful movie to watch,” she said.

Screen capture from video of Kanye West during his appearance on the Timcast podcast, November 28, 2022. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Writing for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Cinthya Silverstein shared her disappointment seeing the film’s monolithic treatment of race and culture and approach to “comedy based on persistent racial ‘othering.’”

The families in the movie, she wrote, bore little resemblance to her own blended family of Mexican and Black Jews.

“In creating the world for ‘You People,’ the writers continue a dated tradition of movies that overly simplify the worlds they depict based on racial binaries,” she wrote.

Media consultant Linda Lovitch, writing on The Times of Israel blog platform, noted the timing of the film amid concerns of an uptick in antisemitic rhetoric and increased scrutiny of Jewish-Black ties.

“Unacceptable at any time, a movie flogging these negative stereotypes is especially troubling at this moment,” she wrote. “It would be a good time for Jews in Hollywood to put forth positive images of Jews. It’s shameful when the groveling, oblivious, over-woke Jew is the best we can do.”

Jewish-Black relations came under the microscope recently following a series of high-profile antisemitic incidents in the US centered around prominent Black celebrities Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. West, a rapper now known as Ye, recently began loudly pushing anti-Jewish rhetoric, which climaxed with his telling far-right shock jock Alex Jones that he “loved” Nazis, and defended Adolf Hitler. Irving, a basketballer for the NBA’s Nets publicized an old video by the Black Hebrew Israelites, who are critical of Jews, resulting in his temporary suspension from the Brooklyn team.

Josephs also aimed fire at Jonah Hill for his role in the film. “The only two possibilities are that he’s ignorant, or he is full of so much self-hatred, that he didn’t push back,” she said.

“I think the film is irredeemable,” Josephs added. “And I think it’s horribly damaging, and I think it will increase a division, a wedge between the Black and Jewish community. I think this movie will endanger Jews. I think it’s a really irresponsible movie.”

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