way back in november when i first posted about bibleman, i promised to write more about the apparent antisemitism in the show. now that my situation has changed, i have more time to get around to such things. that first post was pretty light and, dare i say, a bit obsessive. this will naturally be a bit more serious, considering the subject matter.
i'm hardly the first person to notice an antisemitic vibe to the show. last june, station manager ken at WFMU's beware of the blog browsed through the trailers on the bibleman site and concluded that many of the villains are meant to be subtly gay or jewish. for the sake of this discussion, i'm not interested in some of the villains ken lists here—particularly the villains played by brian lemmons, who are often effeminate but don't scream "jewish stereotype" to me as much as the wacky protestor, sammy davey, or the gossip queen.
but long before ken's post, in july, 2004, a blogger named jen attended the bibleman live show and was disturbed by the apparent antisemitism of the wacky protestor character. (as i mentioned in november, the wacky protestor, seen in the first two pictures of this post, is a clone of jerry lewis's nutty professor.) jen has since deleted her blog, called "listen to jen", but it's still in the google cache:
Anyway, Bibleman's nemesis The Wacky Protestor came out, and was the SPITTING image of Jerry Lewis from the movie The Nutty Professor, a blatant copy.
He played the stereotypical buck-toothed, gangly Jewish geek. I know. Hmmmm. Seriously, THAT was the villian? Some geeky obviously Jewish stereotype? The villian minced and practically oy-veyed around and then went into some vaudvillesque Buddy Ebson song and dance routine. I absolutely could not believe my eyes.
The Wacky Protester hates Christians and hates the Bible. That was the plot. Not-Willie-Aames spewed scripture, they drew out swords, and Bibleman won. The end. The whole thing took an hour. I had to wonder what the deeper message was. Did the Bibleman people intend this to be rather anti-semetic? Maybe I am just hypersensitive, but to me, it sure felt that way. It isn't that I don't have a sense of humor or anything, but please. I can only imagine what the anti- defamation league would say, if they got a load of this show.
jen ended up writing to the bibleman team about her concerns, and within a few days, she got a letter back from jef scott:
Thank you for attending our latest Bibleman Live Adventure. My name is Jef Scott. I portray the Wacky Protestor in the Bibleman episodes, as well as the voice in the live show. You are correct, in that the Wacky Protestor is a carbon copy of Jerry Lewis' character, The Nutty Professor. I have been a Jerry Lewis fan for my whole life and have studied his style of film making extensively.
Knowing the boundaries we must keep in check while we produce the Bibleman episodes, I am very conscious of the villain's actions. The Nutty Professor film makes absolutely no mention of him being a person of the Jewish faith. It is true that Jerry Lewis is of the Jewish faith, but not this particular character he portrays.
Our intention is using this character is to create a conflict that can have a positive message and solution, sending the importance of Jesus Christ's Word to our children, as well as adults. We design the episodes to have many levels, so that a family can watch together and (hopefully) be entertained on these many levels.
Again, we appreciate your support and understand that our privilege, is to serve Jesus Christ.
Jef Scott Executive Music Producer/ Pamplin Entertainment
jen pointed out the obvious flaw in jef's argument:
What he doesn't understand is while it is okay for a minority to make fun of their own given stereotype (a la Chris Rock or Jerry Lewis for example), it isn't really tasteful or PC for a fundamentalist Christian to imitate Jerry Lewis doing a parody on geeky jews-then take it to the next level and villianize him.
I don't care what he says, The Nutty Professor is a very in-your-face Jewish stereotype, created by a master Jewish comedian. The fact that Jerry Lewis just so-happens-to be-Jewish, is not an accident Jef, Jeff, whoever you are.
i might have been willing to accept jef's explanation: that he's just a huge jerry lewis fan, and naively didn't notice that the nutty professor plays on jewish stereotypes. i might have believed that he just didn't realize that his characters could be seen as demonizing jews and that it was all a big misunderstanding. but then i realized that jef scott is also the actor who played sammy davey.
(the earliest online reference to antisemitism in bibleman is from thought viper on march 25, 2003 (scroll down), who had some things to say about sammy davey.)
i want to tell you about sammy davey; that's the whole reason i wanted to write this post. but to do so properly, i first need to briefly discuss another one of jef scott's characters, primordius drool (seen in picture #3 here).
for years, brian lemmons had played almost all the villains. when he left the show, jef scott was promoted to playing the lead villain roles. drool was scott's first villain. if the wacky protestor is the nutty professor then primordius drool is buddy love: he's smooth, confident, and even sings his own variation on "under my skin", where he's reworked the lyrics to describe his hatred of bibleman. (i quite enjoy the song, to be honest.) but like any jerry lewis knockoff, he's still a bit spastic, occasionally twitching and blurting out yiddish-sounding nonsense in a tourette's-like fashion. (anyone who's seen a jerry lewis impression should know what i'm talking about here; it was a staple of the lewis-inspired characters on animaniacs.)
drool devises a complicated plan: he will unleash a wave of attacks on the city. his intention is to trick the townspeople into putting all of their faith into bibleman rather than into god. because bibleman is not god, he will inevitably fail them, and the people will lose faith in both bibleman and god. the logic here is a bit peculiar, but typical for the show. and of course, drool's plan works... for awhile.
during the height of the crime wave, people are pissed at bibleman. desperate to save his image, bibleman goes on a daytime talk show to defend himself. the crowd and the host are hostile, to put it mildly. the host's name is sammy davey. and he's perhaps the most flagrant stereotype of a new york jew i've ever seen on tv.
let's start with his name: sammy davey, an obvious reference to sammy davis, jr, a flambouyant entertainer known for converting to judaism. he's also a somewhat sleazy daytime talk show host, which is itself a profession where jews have risen to prominence (see maury, jerry, sally jessy, etc). but that's just the beginning.
take a look at sammy himself, as seen in pictures 4 and 5. note the enormous afro of curly black hair and the thick-rimmed glasses, reminiscent of gene shalit. and look at his posture, the way he slumps and sneers and smirks.
if all that wasn't enough, what really gets to me is his voice: he has the accent you'd think he would, the classic stereotypical new york jewish accent. but it's not just that he has an accent (as riffraff1138 points out on wikipedia's bibleman talk page, the evil AI LUCI has had an accent like this for years). anyone remotely familiar with american superheroes would know that the proper pronunciation of bibleman is "bible man": he's a man with bible powers. but sammy davey repeatedly pronounces it "biblemun", like a jewish surname.
i can't properly convey just how "jew-y" sammy davey in a few paragraphs with a couple screenshots. you really need to hear his voice, if not watch him mince around the stage. ideally, i would post a video clip for you to see him in action. unfortunately, with my current computer setup i can either capture audio or video to my hard drive, but not both simultaneously. (i know it's possible, but haven't put in the work to solve the problem.)
but i'll do you the next best thing, and provide some audio highlights from the showdown. i've cut out bibleman's answers, as the whole sequence in pretty long; this edited version is almost 2 minutes. listen to the audio and look at the pictures of sammy davey and tell me that this character is not a blatant stereotype.
as a bonus, i'm also giving you this mp3 of the gossip queen singing her anthem, "the queen of gossip". look at the gossip queen in the final picture here while you listen to her song: look at her big hair, her huge hooked nose (obviously fake), her long fingernails, and her predilection for gold lamee and leopard print.¶