A Serious Man

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Date: Oct. 2011
From: Journal of Religion and Film(Vol. 15, Issue 2)
Publisher: University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of Philosophy and Religion
Document Type: Movie review
Length: 4,057 words
Lexile Measure: 1330L

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[1] In the Coen brothers' movie, A Serious Man, they once again present the age old question of theodicy, the paradox of a just and good God and the existence of evil and injustice in the world, challenging the apparently simplistic religious notion that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked. This time the issue is part of a Job like story that, like religion itself, asks more questions than it answers.

[2] And in the Coen brothers' style, they utilize highly exaggerated stereotypes and caricatures that mock, humiliate and incite the sensibilities of their viewers, who have come to understand that it is part of the price of admission.

The Stereotypes of Joel and Ethan Coen

[3] If you like the Coen Brothers' movies, you will probably like this one. If you don't, you probably won't. Of all their films this is the most identifiably Jewish, most potentially philosophical, and most troubling theologically. It is highly entertaining, but perhaps, at the expense of a number of individuals and ethnic groups. A disclaimer at the end of the credits reads: No Jews were harmed during the filming of this movie. And that is one of the main objections people raise about the film. Will the use of antisemitic images and attitudes have a negative effect?

[4] The debate is reminiscent of the great Archie Bunker brouhaha years ago when Norman Lear's All in The Family television show first appeared, creating an outrage over whether it was appropriate to depict such stereotypic images in mass communication. Some said that it would make bigots of people. As it turned out, the television show helped to raise consciousness about prejudice and inspired positive change in our culture.

[5] According to David Gunzerath, writing about the show for the Museum of Broadcast Communications, "All in the Family was not only one of the most successful sitcoms in history, it was also one of the most important and influential series ever to air, for it ushered in a new era in American television characterized by programs that did not shy away from addressing controversial or socially relevant subject matters ... To Archie, gains by the 'Spades,' 'Spics,' or 'Hebes' of America (as he referred to Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, respectively), came at his expense and that of other lower middle class whites ... All in the Family seemed to revel in breaking prime time's previously unbreakable taboos. Archie's frequent diatribes(were) laced with degrading racial and ethnic epithets, .. All in the Family's impact went beyond the world of television. The show became the focus of a heated national debate on whether the use of comedy was an appropriate means by which to combat prejudice and social inequality ..." (1)

[6] That debate is far from over. Contemporary culture's shifting boundaries about political correctness revives the discussion about blatant stereotypes, their purpose in satire, and their lasting influence and effect on bigotry and prejudice. The Coen brothers are renowned for the use of such images in most, if not all, of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A271665736