Wednesday, September 27th | 12 Tishri 5784

July 20, 2023 2:52 pm

Controversial HBO Show Featured Horrible Jewish Stereotypes

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avatar by Denise Tamir


An image of the poster from “The Idol” on HBO.

HBO’s “The Idol” received massive media attention for its use of sex, misogyny, and its almost pornographic content, but its negative treatment of Jews went largely unnoticed.

After reading the reviews and publicity about “The Idol,” I was surprised that almost no one mentioned the rampant use of antisemitic Jewish stereotypes.

“The Idol” is an HBO mini-series starring Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn, an up-and-coming pop star, and Able “The Weeknd” Tesfaye as Tedros, a Svengali-like cult leader who grooms a band of misfit artists using sex and near-torture to draw out their inner talent.

After Jocelyn has a breakdown during the recording of a music video, she falls prey to Tedros, who seems to musically inspire her through sex and abuse. His “family” of artists soon moves in and takes over Jocelyn’s home. Some scenes are just too difficult to watch.

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What I found more disturbing, however, was the antisemitic stereotypes used to portray the music industry’s characters. Here’s the breakdown:

Chaim, played by Hank Azaria, is Jocelyn’s agent. He speaks in an unidentifiable accent (Russian? Israeli?), carries a gun, and is not shy to brandish it when necessary. Tasked with getting Tedros out of Jocelyn’s life, Chaim threatens him, has him arrested, tries to buy him off, and finally, feeds the press damaging information about Tedros’ past, ultimately destroying him.

Nikki Katz is a manipulative record producer who ruthlessly exploits her artists. She drops Jocelyn from a music video and gives the song to Jocelyn’s lead dancer, only to drop the dancer later when Jocelyn seems ready to go back on tour. In a finale scene, in which Jocelyn and the Family are “auditioning” their new material in a manner more appropriate for a strip club, she simulates sex acts with one of the Black artists.

Andrew Finkelstein is a corporate agent of Live Nation, tasked with organizing Jocelyn’s tour. He jokes about his Jewish neurosis and IBS. In the above referenced finale scene, despite pointing to his wedding ring and claiming to care for Jocelyn “as a parent figure,” he enjoys two lap dances (one from Jocelyn herself), then crudely comments that he wished he had brought a change of shorts.

Talia Hirsch, reporter for Vanity Fair, happily becomes the tool through which the others destroy Tedros by publishing an article about his criminal past as a pimp.

There is one non-Jewish character in the music industry crew — Chaim’s Black partner, Destiny — who is the wise moral conscience of the series. Though she never partakes in the debauchery, she is allowed into the inner circle. In the end, her credibility transforms Tedros from villain to victim when she gives him a pass because, “we all gotta do what we gotta do to survive.”

Additionally, on the show’s IMBDb page — the only two characters listed with a last name are Nikki Katz and Andrew Finkelstein; two names that are almost exclusively associated with Jews. On HBO’s own site, Finkelstein is the only character listed with a last name.

The Jewish characters embody all of the classic antisemitic tropes: greedy, lustful, perverted, violent, ruthless, exploitive, and controlling the media. A final scene in the show seems taken right out of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” As if to punctuate the Jewishness of this conspiratorial cabal, they congratulate each other in their “secret language” using the Hebrew phrase “Tov Me’od” (very good) as they gloat over destroying a Black man’s life.

Kanye West claimed that the music industry, as well as sports and Hollywood, are run by greedy Jews who exploit talent, control the media, and destroy Black artists. Apparently, HBO agrees.

Denise Tamir, Esq. is an attorney and mediator in South Florida with nearly 30 years of experience as a Jewish community professional and lay leader specializing in combating antisemitism through education. 

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