Move Over, Blackface... Here Comes 'Jewface'

(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Actress Sarah Silverman thinks Hollywood has a problem of repeatedly casting non-Jewish actors to play Jewish roles, coining the term “Jewface” in the process.

“There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being,” she said in a recent episode of her podcast.One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.'”

Silverman was referring to the recent announcement that actress Kathryn Hahn will be portraying Joan Rivers in an upcoming biopic limited series about the late actress and comedienne. Silverman apparently thinks that because Hahn was raised Catholic, she shouldn’t be allowed to portray the Jewish Joan Rivers.

Apparently, Silverman never got the memo that actors and actresses, by definition, portray people they are not. I think (and I could be wrong here) that’s why they call it acting.

Did Sarah Silverman have an issue with Matt Damon portraying an astronaut in The Martian? Damon is no astronaut. How dare he get that role! Should Morgan Freeman not have portrayed Red in The Shawshank Redemption because, according to the source material, the character was literally a red-headed Irishman?

How many movies have had British actors portray American characters? Is that taboo now? Should Andrew Lincoln not have the lead role in The Walking Dead? Or should Tom Holland not be playing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Should only women who have given birth portray parents? Should only veterans portray veterans? Should only Republican actors play Republican characters? Are there enough Republican actors? I doubt anyone would argue for such restrictions, so must we be so sensitive about Jewish actors playing Jewish roles?

How about the currently running sitcom The Goldbergs, which features several non-Jewish actors playing Jewish characters. Does that take away anything from the show? Not a bit. I can’t imagine anyone playing the role of Beverly Goldberg better than Wendi McLendon-Covey, who was raised a Baptist. The youngest son is played by Sean Giambrone, who is also not Jewish. He’s also in his early twenties playing a teenager in high school. Is that a problem too?

Just how far are we going to take this idea that actors can’t play specific roles unless they adequately represent the character they are portraying? Where exactly is the line?

Should Estelle Getty not have played Sophia Petrillo in the ’80s sitcom The Golden Girls because she was younger than Bea Arthur, who played her daughter on the show. Was that ageist? Should that role have gone to an actress old enough to have been Bea Arthur’s mother?

Was it similarly offensive for Gary Sinise to play the double-amputee Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump? Should an actual double amputee have been cast instead? Heck, what about the title role of Forrest Gump? Should Tom Hanks not have taken the part because he wasn’t mentally challenged like his character?

If Sarah Silverman has a problem with non-Jews playing Jewish characters, does she also believe a Jewish actor/actress shouldn’t portray a non-Jewish character? For example, imagine the classic show The Wonder Years without Fred Savage, a Jewish actor, because the character he played wasn’t Jewish. Should Gal Gadot not have played Wonder Woman? Daniel Radcliffe has Jewish ancestry—should he not have portrayed the non-Jewish Harry Potter in the movie series? Should Jewish actors be denied roles that aren’t specifically Jewish? If a non-Jew playing a Jew is cultural appropriation, wouldn’t the opposite be true as well?

The funny thing about acting is that no matter what, the actors involved are pretending to be something they are not. And I’m not talking about white actors wearing blackface to play black characters. Of course, no one is arguing for that, but do we really want to start adding more limitations to the types of actors who can portray certain roles?

The 2019 biopic Rocketman was widely criticized by virtue-signaling critics because the actor who portrayed Elton John, Taron Egerton, is heterosexual. According to them, the movie needed a gay actor to play the lead role. Even Elton John shot down those criticisms. “If people don’t like it, review-wise, or it doesn’t make one dollar, it’s the movie I wanted to make and that’s all that counts. I can look back and say, ‘You know what, I love it. I can live with it.'”

Egerton himself addressed the backlash in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I have spoken to gay people for whom it’s not a problem, and I’ve spoken to gay people for whom it is a problem,” he said. “I completely understand. But for my part, I’m an actor, and I did not get into acting to just play people like me.”

No one does. But the woke left doesn’t really understand what “acting” means.



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