Many have been up and arms over our recent photo of Roseanne Barr as a “Nazi domestic goddess” in our Germany Issue, questioning how, as Jews, we could ever find any humor in such a subject. When I hear such sorrowful pleas, I want to cry from remorse, but I’m afraid the ensuing suds would cake the lenses of my glasses.
Yes, the story of this infamous satirist/Jewish grandmother pulling a tray of burnt “Jew cookies” out of an oven has been making its way around the Internet–stirring up all sorts of bizarre accusations towards her and completely ignoring the very particular context in which the image was created. So, for all of you coming to this website who haven’t yet seen the issue–or are unfamiliar with what we do in our magazine–allow me to explain.
Heeb is a satirical Jewish culture magazine that interrogates stereotypes and ideas (hopefully in creative ways) that many hold sacred in order to represent the complex and nuanced perspectives that many Jews have about their identities. When we depicted Sarah Silverman behind a hole in a sheet or Jonah Hill dressed as Moses holding two kegs as if they were tablets, we weren’t trying to be shocking–we were trying to communicate something truthful about contemporary Jewishness. Yes, that may sound impossibly high-fallutin, but it’s the truth and while we kind of don’t give a shit whether the magazine wreaks havoc on smug and sanctimonious visions of Jewish life, we do care when our intentions (or those of our collaborators) are distorted.
Virtually every pitch we received leading up to the publishing of our Germany Issue circled back to the Nazis and the Holocaust and almost all of them were humorous in nature. Naturally, our editors couldn’t help but wonder whether something new was happening in the culture— whether the taboo against joking about the Holocaust and the Nazis exerted as much power as it used to. Certainly Jews have been joking about the Holocaust since the Holocaust (I believe it was the Warsaw Ghetto where the Jewish inhabitants referred to Hitler regularly as “Horowitz”), but these jokes have largely been uttered in private or underground. In recent years, they have been ï¬nding themselves in the most public of conversations.
Seinfeld‘s “Soup Nazi” is as much a part of American culture (and Jewish culture, speciï¬cally) as Fiddler on the Roof, and Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s “Survivor” episode is about as controversial as a Christmas Day screening of Annie Hall. And the trend seems to only gather momentum.
Just this month, BrÃ¼no (at one point, America’s number one box office draw) introduced the concept of “bleaching one’s Auschwitz” and the climax of theThe Hangover (which has now grossed over $247 million) revolved around a stripper (played by Heather Graham) returning the ring of the grandmother of one of the leads (played by Ed Helms). “I didn’t know that they gave out rings in the Holocaust,” jokes the character played by Zach Galifianakis.
And what better way to capture this moment in popular culture than by having the original “domestic goddess” don the Fuhrer’s famous mustache? For better or worse, hasn’t the Holocaust itself been domesticated?