The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, April 11, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's blog at The Huffington Post website.
Shiksas in Film
The advent of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen has placed at the forefront of modern American cinema Jewish male-gentile female (Shiksa) relationships - although this angle is often not explicitly (or is only tangentially) acknowledged in their films (as in Knocked Up, for example).
In the current Greg Mottola film, Adventureland, however, inter-religious relationships are the focus. And this presentation is bigoted and unattractive. Non-Jewish women are portrayed as unlettered - stupid really - superficial, and prejudiced.
The film's protagonist, played by Jesse Eisenberg (given the Irish name, James Brennan, to stand in for presumably Catholic writer-director Mattola), finds an intellectual soul mate and Jewish best friend at the amusement park (Joel Schiffman, played by Martin Starr), where they both have dead-end jobs unbefitting their intellects and educations.
Both are seen to be slumming in this environment, where they encounter a brutish employer, a philandering repairman, and bullies who beat them up and chase them. In one subplot, Jesse's friend from youth works at the same park, and he regularly punches James in the scrotum, urinates publicly, drunkenly vomits, ogles James' dates, and generally acts the Neanderthal.
Best friend Joel hooks up with a woman during one drunken evening, but when he tries to further the relationship (by presenting her with his favorite Gogol novel, which she ignores), she reveals her Catholic family won't permit them to date. On a date with Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), who is likewise explicitly identified as being Catholic, James quickly sees that he has to suppress his intellectual yearnings and accept her trivial thoughts in order to make out with her.
Another female character is the running mate of the park's manager (the aforementioned brutish employer), whose stupid non-sequiturs and malapropisms are a recurring source of humor in the film.
James' true love, his intellectual equal, is working at the park on a summer break from NYU (just as James is treading water before going to grad school). And - unlike the dumb Shiksas - she is Jewish.
Em Lewin is played by Kristen Stewart (the film relishes religious reversals, just as actors Eisenberg and Levieva are turned Catholic). Em is a troubled girl. Her father met her deceased mother's replacement - who represents the stereotypical Jewish parvenu and social climber - at Temple. Who wouldn't go crazy under those circumstances?
If these stereotypes of Shiksas were reversed, and leading lady Em was ridiculed, there would be an uproar among New York critics and audiences. Instead, the movie was a Critics' Pick in the Times, where A.O. Scott noted it's "sweetness and intelligence." How far we have come?
Disclosure: I have two Shiksa daughters, who I don't recognize in the film's caricatures of non-Jewish women.