It was inevitable. I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet. That said, how could one not groan at the news that a production company is casting for the "Super Jappy" answer to Jersey Shore?
"Gone are the days where being a JAP is a bad thing – today Jewish American Princesses are proud," reads the casting notice, obtained by RadarOnline. Sounds a little bit like the Jersey Shore-style reclamation that irked Italian Americans, except that unlike, say, "guido," which the Jersey Shoreites adapted to "guidette," being a JAP has always been an exclusively female concept.
Producers say this show, which isn't yet attached to a network, will be a classier version of Jersey Shore (which in turn has already spawned spinoffs) and The Real Housewives franchise. "We want beautiful, fun, outspoken groups of Jewish American Women." And they want them to be based on Long Island, New York, which just happens to be where I grew up.
Alas, I have a feeling I'm not what they're looking for. Who is? Sure, there are plenty of young women around, Jewish and otherwise, whose lives seem defined by the sort of materialistic excess these producers likely want. And just as Gossip Girl conveniently climaxes each episode with a fabulous party, there is so much evidence that anyone following a so-called JAP around will encounter so many lavish parties. The bat mitzvah. The Long Island high school prom. The average Shabbat!
Here's an example:
Lauren Kaminsky, 17, a senior at Roslyn High School, said her pre-prom to-do list included a bikini wax and leg wax to prepare her for the post-prom beach visit, a tradition at many schools in the New York suburbs.
Her mother, Kim Kaminsky, said she would pay for the entire regimen, which she estimated would cost more than $1,000.
"They are used to having the best," Kim Kaminsky said, referring to her daughter's circle of friends, who normally go for weekly manicures and pedicures. "They are all stressed out about having everything so perfect, whether it's the boy or the dress or the shoes or the jewelry or the hair - every little detail they are worried about."
Okay, yeah, it can be fun to mock this stuff — how many jokes have I gotten out of the bat mitzvah of an acquaintance that had the theme, "[Her Name] 90210"? But as blogger Phoebe Maltz points out about this story ($27,000 bat mitzvah dress!), it can have less benign ramifications:
Conspicuous consumption happens all over the place, in America and beyond, but if at the center of it all is a 13-year-old "JAP," it's all the better. Photographs from bar and bat mitzvah's are now all the rage, meant to be looked at ironically, to induce cringing, and so on.
The problem, of course, is that the image of Jews in America becomes that of an overly-dressed-up adolescent, looking simultanously awkward and spoiled, coming of age amidst the exploitation of not only hired singers and uniformed caterers, but also of their very own religion. Is nothing sacred to these people? Good grief!
The stereotype undoubtedly has anti-Semitic undertones, but when it's used within the Jewish community as elsewhere, it can function as a cudgel against women who are considered too loud or too demanding. Spoiled economic dependency is tacked onto this. In other words, you don't need to buy or be able to afford a $27,000 prom dress to qualify, although it helps. Really, all you have to do is be a little too pushy, a little too... much.
Actually, maybe I do qualify. Call me!
Related: Fighting To Become Americans: Assimilation And The Trouble Between Jewish Women And Jewish Men
Shabbat Shalom From The Style Section [What Would Phoebe Do]
For Prom Night, Beauty Is Weeks In The Making [NYT]