Jewish Mum of the Year: Yet another TV programme which supports stereotypes

I wrote a piece about the Channel 4 series for the Independent’s new Indy Voices site:

“I feel like we’ve been Gypsy Wedding-ed,” a friend complained on Facebook last night.

“Now I know what it’s like to come from Essex,” said another. My reaction to the first episode of Channel Four’s Jewish Mum of the Year competition? Not my community, again.

The show, essentially a contest in who can best conform to the worst stereotypes about Jewish women, comes hot on the heels of other Jewish-centric documentaries, including Paddy Wivell’s BBC Wonderland programme about the Orthodox community of Stamford Hill, A Hasidic Guide to Love, Marriage and Finding a Bride and the follow-up, Two Jews on a Cruise, and Strictly Kosher, ITV’s study of Manchester’s most colourful Jews.

Of course, other communities have also come in for scrutiny, from the “hilarious” nuptials of Irish Travellers to the activities of the youth of Essex, Liverpool and Newcastle. Life in a minority can be fertile ground for comedy writers, as the seven-series run of The Kumars at No. 42 shows.

When Channel Four advertised the second series of Gypsy Wedding with the tagline “Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier”, they came in for a fair amount of flack, and last week the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that it was irresponsible, offensive and reaffirmed negative stereotypes. The deputy chief executive of the charity that publishes the Travellers Times criticised the series for making the community “look totally feckless, not really to be taken seriously as an ethnic group”. “It just confirms prejudices,” said Jane Jackson.

In truth, I’m not sure taking a look at a minority group for entertainment is necessarily offensive, or in any way made with racist intent, but I do wonder what the point is.

Read the full version of this somment piece on the Independent website.

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