The other day, I finally gave in to the Internet's demands and watched Joss Whedon's Firefly series. Good call, Internet. I enjoyed it, but that has nothing to do with this article. Y'see, although the show takes place in a different galaxy 500 years in the future, one episode still features a minor Jewish character.
It got me thinking about the limited times I'd seen Jews in sci-fi shows. Even though racists will tell you that Jews control each and every decision made in the entertainment industry, it occurred to me that you don't see a lot of Jews in sci-fi, and when you do, it's usually not Han Solo stuff. (Yes, I know Harrison Ford is 1/4 Jewish, but I'm talking about the actual characters.) I mean, if I had full creative control over a science fiction project, I'd probably make the protagonist Jewish, name him Gladstone and give him chances to have lots of hot sex with neo-punk 20-something Goth girls.
But clearly I'm not calling the shots, because Jews in science fiction usually come off pretty badly. So I decided to examine five science fiction universes inhabited by either actual Jews or characters meant to represent Jews, and rank them from least to most favorable.
One interesting addendum before we get started. Know who else is really into this topic? Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. My research kept bringing up hate group forums. In one, a certain member expressed deep concern to find out that there were Jews in the later books of Frank Herbert's Dune series and asked if that meant all the books were riddled with propaganda. If you're sympathetic to those views, I'd be happy to give you the link, but be sure to ask your dad if he's done raping you before you check it out.
5 Star Wars: Jawas and Watto
I'm not the first or 800th person to draw this conclusion. Not that grotesque racial stereotypes are limited to Jews in the Lucas universe, but we do seem to have a special place. Don't get me wrong. Like all non-insane people, I still love A New Hope and hate Phantom Menace, but let's just say there's something to the way Lucas presents his merchants.
It started with A New Hope. There were certain tiny, unreliable, shifty salespeople in the sand he called Jawas.
Hello, hello, hello!
Now, I know some of you are saying, "Wait a second. So what if the Jawas share some undesirable traits that are consistent with the negative stereotypes of Jews? Gladstone, aren't you being the racist here by seeing greedy little creatures and instantly thinking 'Jews'?" That is a very fine point! And yes, that's entirely possible. All I have to say in response to that is um, well, he does call them Jawas. Seems less than accidental that they have a "J," "W" and "S" in one word like that. I tried longer than I care to mention to see if there any other such words in the English language. Aside from the obvious "jaws," the closest I came was "JelloWombats."
But hey, it's not like I was ready to call the JDL and stage a protest. I love the original movie and still have my original-issue Jawa action figure. But then Phantom Menace came out and ... ouch.
Enter Watto, who has walked off the pages of WWII Nazi propaganda and into the Star Wars universe. Here's a quiz: Which picture below portrays an immoral, greedy, big-nosed monster with a funny hat? Oh wait, they both do, but one was commissioned by the Nazi party and the other by a man hellbent on setting your childhood memories on fire.
4 Star Trek: Ferengi
I don't want to spend too much time on this, because people have been calling Ferengi "Space Jews" since their first appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Also, once again, these are fictional characters, not necessarily intended to be Jews. Having said that, there's virtually no difference between the Ferengi and Watto above. All the same greed and capitalism stereotypes are there. Oh also, for some reason, the Ferengi religion forbids autopsies (just like Judaism), and four of the most famous Ferengis are portrayed by Jewish actors. Anyway, if they are meant to be Jews, I still rank them a sliver less reprehensible than Watto, and they come in at number 4.
The Ferengi are also racially insensitive toward flying baby elephants.
It should also be mentioned that some argue that another Star Trek race, the Bajorans, are meant to represent Israelis and are fairly positively portrayed.