Dear Mr. Apatow:
Tonight I took a break from the sadness I have felt since the shootings in Sandy Hook to see your new film “This is 40”. I looked forward to what I knew would be a slice of life, with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann playing two parts of a couple resembling my real life coupledom. And indeed it was. You put my life on the screen! I was glad to step out of the zone I have spiraled in since the shootings and I was grateful for the break. However, this is not a film review. That will come here on this blog later this week. Instead I want to tell you about something that happened during your movie.
The legendary Albert Brooks and wonderful Leslie Mann were having a very touching moment in the hospital after Paul Rudd’s biking accident, just five minutes before your film ended. I don’t want to give too much away, but the two characters kissed and made up, tears rolled down Mann’s cheeks and then he asked her for $40 for a cab-ride home. The timing of his comment was impeccable and the audience laughed, including me.
And then out of nowhere, the patron next to me loudly stated: “Oh my god, what a f-kin’ Jewbagger!”
My heart dropped. I have lived in the New York area for many years now and while I won’t say that I haven’t experienced anti-Semitism up here, I will say that the incidents are few and far. When I first moved to New York, I was no longer the only Jewish person in a crowded room. I was one of many. I’m a proud Jew and I am the first to declare my religious affiliation.
I nearly flew out of my seat. Thankfully, your film was almost over and I’m sorry to say that the remaining moments were ruined. I was thinking to myself, do I say something or let this go? I moved closer to my sister and wished I could move to another seat in the theater. As his laughter got louder, I got more insulted (even though that was a good sign that your movie is very, very good, please know that I am not saying otherwise).
After the film ended and the credits started rolling, I felt obliged to stand up for myself, for the Jewish people, so I simply turned to him and said, “Jewish people are not the only people who like money, you know.” I guess I expected an apology. After he had made the comment during the film, I thought I saw him acknowledge my discomfort in the dark after he made the remark.
But instead, I got this: “F—k you! Who do you think you are? If you want me to think otherwise, tell your people to stop perpetuating the stereotype in films, books, on TV and everywhere, you f—k’in bitch.”
My sister and the guy’s companion did not understand what had erupted between us, and I was so shocked. I was just looking for an apology or explanation. Instead, I got cursed out and made to feel like I was at fault.
I look at your film and the way Albert Brooks was portrayed. He’s an aging father who can’t support himself and his family, so his son supports him. His son calls him a mooch, but they have a very loving relationship. There is nothing “Jewish” about it. Am I surprised that someone took it as a stereotype that is so perpetuated that he thinks all Jews are money-grabbers? Absolutely.
When I was a sophomore in college in Georgia, I had a roommate from a much smaller town. From the minute I moved in, she treated me like a leper. I got prank calls from her friends asking me how much money was in my dad’s bank account and how much money I had in my bank account. Within weeks, she moved out. She thought I had horns. It broke my heart, but I had my own room the rest of the school year and, as a result, I became very active with the University Hillel.
But what good can come out of ignorance like this? Perhaps I’m very sheltered in my New York suburb where I am surrounded by Jewish people, not all terribly observant but all very proud.
There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing Jews portrayed on screen. It’s always a slice of life when I see films with Jewish themes and stories I can relate to and laugh and cry about. My father was not that dissimilar to Albert Brooks when he was in better health. He was funny as hell and not great with his money as he approached old age either.
But aren’t we all? Who’s good with money when they get older? Can’t one say that Brooks reminds him of their own parents, regardless of religion?
Mr. Apatow, I wanted you to know about the comment made by this guy because I’m sure that anti-Semitism is not the type of reaction you want. It took me by surprise, and I’m sure you would feel the same way. You are also a proud Jew. What would you have said to this guy? I know what Mel Brooks would have said: “Yes, I am a Jew! What about it? What about it?”
I, for one, am so glad that you bring Jewish life to the world on screen, over and over again, using bits of our history to tell each story, and I hope that others appreciate your work and don’t have to put up with the ridicule I encountered tonight.
Kind regards from your fan,
Holly Rosen Fink