Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Gleeful Reference to Niel Diamond

Watched Glee last night. One of the characters said something that really set me off, which is upsetting because they've done a surprisingly good job at not doing that so far in a show that tackles many sensitive issues. The token Jew kid referred to Neil Diamond as a "Musical Jewish Icon." Now -- I can be sensitive to religion sometimes, but everyone's been asked the question by someone, "Are you a Christian American or an American Christian?" In other words, which is more important to you, nationality or religion. The second word (in this case the noun) is the more important word, the one that you are, while the first word describes how you are who you are (i.e. a Christian American is an American person who happens to practice Christianity).

In a similar vein, to think of Neil Diamond as a "Musical Jewish Icon" is to think of him as a Jewish person who happens to write music. Neil Diamond may very well have valued himself as a Jew before musician, but what is more important here is that when the world thinks of Neil Diamond they don't sit around and talk about how he made great latkes last Chanuka, they remember Sweet Caroline and the many other contributions he has made to music. He's a Musical Icon, not a Jewish Icon. Its really that simple. In a television program that is intended to mimic your average [musical!] high school, to refer to Neil Diamond's identity as a Jew before referring to him as a worldly musician shows a lack of respect for his talents/image and an eyebrow-raisingly high amount of attention on his religion. It's downright bigoted. And don't kid yourself, we all know it's these small acts of bigotry that people pick up on and dupilicate.


  1. Thank you--I haven't watched Glee yet (I want to because everyone tells me it's great but I just seem to keep missing it). Had I been watching, though, I might have missed this or laughed without thinking about the larger implications you raise here. I don't think anyone should be defined by their religion--or, in the case of some of us, our lack of it.

  2. You failed to mention the context in which the line was placed. It was an awkward line intended to be just that--an AWKWARD adolescent attempt by a rather screwed-up high schooler trying to impress a girl. The guy only raised the religious point cause he wants to get in this girls pants and to do so he needs to counter the reasons she rejected him the night before. I can't believe you're reading into the choice of phrase a bigoted reference to Neil Diamond's religious identity. The screenwriter was trying to make the kid talk like teenagers do and succeeded. That's it.

  3. Anonymous, I think you missed the point of my post. The awkward, adolescent-given phrase "musical jewish icon" had exactly the same creative effect on the audience as the line "jewish musical icon" would have had. Puck was trying to woo over Rachel by singing a song to her written by a jewish musician. If he had described Neil Diamond accurately he would have made exactly the same point to her and the audience. The phrasing of the description was irrelevant to the story, but DOES have an effect on the millions of viewers that watch the show. As I said in my post, by highlighting Neil Diamond's religion, both Puck and the writers are defining a musical icon by his religion instead of his music, which in my opinion is a disrespectful thing to do. Thanks for your thoughts anonymous, I hope we get to chat some more.