Critics again warn Netflix’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ promotes anti-Semitic stereotype

Critics again warn Netflix’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ promotes anti-Semitic stereotype

Second season of hit series continues to show head of underground society of lizard people, who secretly control the world, occasionally speaking Yiddish

Screen capture from video of 'The Handler,' played by Kate Walsh, in the Netflix series 'The Umbrella Academy.' (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of 'The Handler,' played by Kate Walsh, in the Netflix series 'The Umbrella Academy.' (YouTube)

The Netflix superhero series “The Umbrella Academy” is being called out, again, by critics who say it promotes anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The show, based on a comic book series of the same name, includes an underground society of lizard people who secretly control the world and their handler — who speaks Yiddish in some scenes.

When “The Handler,” played by Kate Walsh, was shown in the first season last year using the language developed by European Ashkenazi Jews over the last 1,000 years, it drew complaints that it suggested the bogus, anti-Semitic claim that a Jewish cabal shapes and controls world events.

With the start of the second season, social media users criticized the show for continuing to depict “The Handler” speaking Yiddish.

In 2019, as the first season aired, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published an open letter criticizing the show.

“The use of a Yiddish saying by the evil boss of an organization which controls the world’s timeline is clearly an antisemitic trope,” the group’s vice president Amanda Bowman told the Sun, a British tabloid, after the open letter was published. “Whether intentional or not, this makes for very uncomfortable viewing. Netflix should take action to remove the racism from this scene.”

“The Umbrella Academy” is the streaming giant’s adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, about a family of estranged siblings with superpowers who reunite to save the world from the impending apocalypse. The siblings are up against The Commission, an evil organization that controls the world timeline and eliminates those who threaten their control.

Jewish writer Katherine Locke told the Sun in 2019 that she also believed the show, which co-stars Ellen Page, promotes the “antisemitic conspiracy theory that there’s a secret cabal of Jews controlling or manipulating the world.”

“This scene played right into that. And I think the important part here is: some people will brush this scene off. A lot of people didn’t even see it … But there are two groups of people who will see it, and whom I believe are meant to see it: Jewish viewers, and antisemites. It felt like a dog whistle and a warning all in one,” she said.

In the final episode of the first season, the head of The Commission says several lines in Yiddish to her assassins so her prisoners won’t understand them. According to the Sun, as she berates her assassins for failing in their mission, she switches to Yiddish to urge them to kill the siblings, saying: “The eggs think they’re smarter than the chicken.”

The Sun report also noted that the original comic book series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba did not have the character speaking Yiddish.

The real-life modern conspiracy theory involving lizards who control the world is often associated with British writer David Icke, who draws from the anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

“The Umbrella Academy” premiered on Netflix to largely positive reviews from critics and viewers.

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