Chanel, Amanda, Joey and The Return of the Jewish American Princess

Going Forward Into the Past With 'Princesses: Long Island'

Where Are JAPs of Yesteryear? Chanel and Ashlee are among the titular princesses on Bravo’s reality show.
Bravo
Where Are JAPs of Yesteryear? Chanel and Ashlee are among the titular princesses on Bravo’s reality show.

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Published August 09, 2013, issue of August 16, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

They’re all too real — and far more unsettling than anything the 1970s and ’80s ever conjured up.

Back then, when the JAP stereotype of the self-absorbed, indulgent, mean-spirited, sexually withholding and empty-headed Jewish woman first came careening into the light of day, grabbing hold of the American Jewish imagination, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, journalists and writers had a field day trying to account for its appeal. Some attributed the origins of the Jewish American Princess to the growing affluence of the American Jewish community, claiming that it reflected a set of deep-seated anxieties about the consequences of upward mobility. Still others linked its origins to feminism. A rebuke rather than an affirmation of its principles, the stereotype offered a counter-narrative — a one-two-punch — to the story of those who determinedly sought to redress the imbalances of patriarchy. The JAP, after all, gives her heart to Daddy.

What bound together these disparate interpretations was the notion that the JAP stereotype and its real-life counterparts were historically contingent phenomena, destined to fade away along with the circumstances that birthed them.

Over the course of the past 30 to 40 years, much has changed. To catalog the ways in which America, and with it the American Jewish community of 2013, contrasts with America and the American Jewish community of the 1970s and ’80s would warrant its own column, perhaps even two. Suffice it to say that every arena of daily life, from the economy to ritual practice and knowledge, is now constituted so very differently that one might reasonably conclude that the JAP should be a creature of the past.

But no, she’s back, and with a vengeance. In fact, based on the evidence at hand, on the screen and in the blogosphere, it appears as if she might never have gone away in the first place. Say it ain’t so! Haven’t we learned anything over the years? What happened to independence, agency, introspection and selflessness, values born of feminism? Did we make a wrong turn somewhere along the line?

Yes, I know that “Princesses: Long Island” is only a television show and a far cry from Masterpiece Theatre at that. I am also well aware that the program is meant to be entertaining and that viewers are not supposed to parse its every phrase and visual detail as if it were the gospel truth. All the same, the enterprise, from start to finish, gives me pause. As one of the ‘’old Jewish proverbs” the show is so fond of invoking (and slightly amending) puts it, “A bird you may set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your mouth can never return.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.