Many of my favorite shows are on USA, including Covert Affairs. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s your basic, predictable, highly entertaining spy show about Annie Walker, a young spy who is skinny, blonde, and speaks about 8 different languages (including Hebrew). She goes on missions around the world, protecting assets and defusing bombs for the CIA.
This season the show introduced a new character, a young tech-ops specialist named Reva Klein. Although they haven’t made explicit mention of her Jewishness, her name is a pretty good giveaway. She’s skinny and beautiful, but with dark hair (of course). She’s incredibly book smart, but she’s also socially awkward, anxious, uncomfortable out in the field, and unable to tell which wild berries are poisonous and which are safe. Reva’s the one who fell and broke her leg somewhere along the border between Poland and Belarus. Good thing she had the blonde shiksa there to feed her the safe berries and carry her to safety. (Also, Reva was a varsity swimmer at USC. Of course. A Jew who can swim, but can’t survive in the forest. What a shocker.)
Reva’s not the only stereotypical Jew on the show. Eyal Lavin is a swarthy Mossad agent who shows up from time to time, usually to save Annie’s butt. He’s strong and sexy and more than competent, but also devious and completely self-interested. (He reminds me a bit of Eric Bana’s character in Munich.)
A few years ago I might have made note of Reva’s bumbling, annoying ways and moved on. But now I have two daughters—two Jewish daughters (one of whom is a blondie, thank you very much). And I can’t help but wonder what it will mean for them to see female Jews portrayed in this way—smart, but not necessarily tough.
It pisses me off, because it’s not true.
From Masada to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to the unbelievable stories of innovation and survival that led to the creation of the State of Israel, we have hundreds of years of experience kicking ass. And it’s not just Mossad agents I’m talking about—it’s regular men and women who have fought their way through wars and persecutions to keep the Jewish people alive.
It’s time that mainstream media starts reflecting that truth.
In the meanwhile, I’ll do what I can. Yes, I’m going to teach my daughters to swim and use a computer. But I’m also going to teach them to hike and kayak and drive a stick-shift and read a map and cook a 5-course meal. (Ok, maybe my husband will teach them that.) We’re going to talk about Jews on TV, and what they look like, and what they do, and what’s real and what’s not. We’re going to talk about the rebellions and uprisings and all the ways they can be Jewish and kick ass at the same time. And then maybe we’ll go kick a little ass ourselves.