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The Schmooze

Who Is Ansel Elgort And Does He Deserve Our Love?

Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with Ansel Elgort while simultaneously wanting to destroy him.

How did this happen to me?

Meet Ansel Elgort, the 23 year-old star of Edgar Wright’s summer car-chase spectacular “Baby Driver”. He is an actor, singer, and dancer. He is a composer and an electronic music DJ and a basketball enthusiast. He has a Jewish pedigree that includes both a refugee story on his father’s side and, on his mother’s side, an outrageously heroic woman who outsmarted the nazis (more on this in a moment.)

Who is this person, and should he be allowed to seduce us?

A headline splashed across the Style section of a recent Sunday Times asks, “Is There Anything Ansel Elgort Can’t Do?” A think-piece in The Ringer considers, “Is Ansel Elgort Good?” And Ellie Shechet of Jezebel announced, “Ansel Elgort Is My Nemesis.”

So which is it, and most importantly: Is he good for the Jews?

Even skimming the growing library of Elgort-literature reveals a man who aspires to be a prince among Jews. Ansel has staked his claim as a tender lover, a confident sportsman, and the inheritor of a legacy of high-art and heroism.

But following the breadcrumb trail of Ansel & shtetl, we must ask ourselves: Do we really need another Jewish man who loves electronic dance music, harbors wildly unrealistic dreams about his success as a basketball player, and thinks his commitment to monogamy makes him special?

Ansel’s appeal can be best understood by tracing the feelings of one of his fans: me.

Ansel’s true ascent to world domination began when teenagers flocked to see him in the emotionally NC-17 “The Fault In Our Stars”, in which viewers were treated to two hours of Ansel’s slow death from cancer, with a pit-stop at the Anne Frank house.

Even watching a 20 year-old play a dying 17 year-old did not excite my ardor. Young Elgort was safe from me for a time.

Just two months before that, Ansel uncomfortably played his cancer-lover’s brother in the dystopian movie “Divergent”. This high-production apocalyptic incest-threat failed to endear me to him, even when he repeated the feat in the movie’s two sequels.

But last week, when social obligation compelled me to sit through the entirety of “Baby Driver”, I saw something new. You’ll like “Baby Driver” if your idea of great cinema is a movie that is half high-speed car chases and half Ansel Elgort doing karaoke. I went in determined to enjoy all the well-reviewed aspects of the movie—the soundtrack, Jon Hamm’s haircut, car shininess, etc—but I was careful to shield my heart from The Gort. No tragic back-storied, baby-faced, monosyllabic pseudo-intellectuals for me, thanks—I already did my time at liberal arts school.

And then a wretched thing happened.

He got me.

Without wishing to be I had become impregnated by Ansel Elgort. Emotionally.

Just as Britney Spears forced dad-aged men to confront their desire for school-aged girls in the 90s, Ansel Elgort is forcing me to ask myself why I want a soulful looking turtleneck-wearer to be my child bride.

Image by getty images

With Ansel Elgort, there is good news and there is bad news. Let’s take a look at both:

Bad News: He speaks like a t-ball player after a whirlwind game The offspring of a Holocaust hero should be exempted from grammar nazism, but the fact is that Ansel Elgort has gone out of his way in the press to prove that he doesn’t care for verbal precision, doing so mostly by speaking in a way that suggests he is concussed. Tending to play fast and loose with tense consistency and sentence construction, he is given to comments like, “It becomes a meme to hate somebody,” which he beguilingly said to Billboard about the Chainsmokers, or this quote that he gave GQ:

What’s interesting to me is the fact that creatively I can do anything now and people will pay attention, and if I suck, hopefully they will stop paying attention very quickly, but if I’m good, then I have my foot in the door, and people have paid attention, and I did a good job, and people are like, ’Oh, wow!’ That’s sweet!

Good News: His grandmother was a true hero Elgort’s paternal grandfather was a Russian-Jewish refugee who fled to New York City, but his maternal grandmother, Aase-Grethe Holby was not a Jew. She was already working as a member of the Norwegian resistance in the 1940s when she aided her Jewish brother-in-law in his escape from occupied Norway. According to her family, she then passed herself off as a young mother and smuggled Norwegian-Jewish children to safety in Sweden. She continued working for the exiled German government as an undercover member of the resistance until she was arrested and deported to a Norwegian concentration camp in 1943. She was later released with the intent of being followed for information, but escaped into Sweden where she continued working for the Norwegian embassy until the end of the war. She turned down a job at the UN because she wanted to marry and stay at home with her children. She worked with charitable and justice organizations for the rest of her life, including Planned Parenthood, and died at 91. If Edgar Wright’s next movie is not a biopic about Aase-Grethe, it will be a waste.

Good News: He made an EDM song that samples “Fiddler On The Roof”
His 2015 song “To Life” is good to listen to if you want to replicate that feeling you get in a nightmare about being chased right before you wake up. What matters is that the song, which came out under the name of Elgort’s alter-ego, “Ansolo”, samples from the song “L’chaim” from “Fiddler on the Roof” and features an image of a b’kippah’d boy being bounced on a chair. A few times the harrowing feeling of panic subsides momentarily for a gruff voice to shout, “l’chaim!” I chalk this one up as a major success of the diaspora.

Bad News: He has an ego problem

Sometimes I think, wait, am I a little bit cocky? But I’ve worked really hard. I’ve never taken time off from being an actor. This is the kind of career I’d be so happy to do until I die. I always joke to myself that I want to have a postmortem Academy Award nomination.

Many, many of Ansel’s quotes are a variation on this unfortunate theme.

Good News: He may be the reincarnation of President John F. Kennedy Of the 7 billion-odd humans toodling around on this planet, only Ansel Elgort was picked to play JFK in an upcoming movie about the President’s heroism during World War II. To clarify, this means that Elgort was not only selected to play one of the most charismatic figures in human history, but specifically to play him during the physical peak of his life. Producer Basil Iwankyk said of the casting, “Not only is he a tremendous actor, he embodies the charisma, athleticism and looks of a young JFK.” This is the best review a person can get. The fact that Netanyahu has not yet issued an official statement on this topic is likely to go down in history as one of the biggest mysteries of his administration.

Bad News: He has this weird thing about basketball Ansel Elgort is irritatingly obsessed with measuring his own worth by how good he is at basketball. Before the NBA all-star game in 2015, Shechet notes, he said, “I want to dunk in the game. I want people to know I can do it.” He could not do it, and he lost the game. He made a video about it. This was all too much.

Good News: He has a legitimately great voice

While watching this video, the egg inside of me that was emotionally fertilized by Ansel Elgort while I watched “Baby Driver” split into two separate embryos and now I am having twins. I just hope they inherit their father’s skin, which looks like it would feel like a baby bunny. (Start video at 7:58)

Bad News: He has the weird conception that women should be stalwart, constantly sweating, successful ballerinas slash maids Most of Ansel’s gems on this topic are from an uproariously tone-deaf interview he did with Elle in 2015.

If you can find a girl who you can go to an EDM concert with, have a conversation with, who will sit on the couch and watch you play GTA for three hours—and then you go to bed and have amazing sex? That should be your girlfriend.

When Sony comes out with a robot who can do all of these things without complaint, that robot SHOULD be Ansel Elgort’s girlfriend!

My mom was a dancer. I love when a girl is like, “I can’t hang out. I have to go to class.” And I go pick her up and she’s all sweaty in a leotard with her hair in a bun. That’s the hottest thing ever.

This comment gives me a migraine but the important thing is that I am often sweaty and I have the capability of putting my hair in a bun, so I am well on my way to pleasing Ansel.

LaGuardia [high school] is a wonderful, wonderful place. If you’re like me and you love dancers, you just have to walk up to the eighth floor and you can get one.

A girl: just get one!

Good News: He cares about stuff In a recent interview, Elgort told Variety that he doesn’t think social services should be cut. “People need that stuff,” he said. “That’s what makes us a good country.” Asked about the current political situation he said, “Hopefully this is a big eye-opener and we’ll be able to not allow this to happen again. At the same time, it seems as though we had a bunch of eye-openers and people never learned. I’m a little lost.”


The verdict: Ansel Elgort is good for the Jews, but bad for my heart.

Ansel Elgort, you are a glorious, irritating mystery, and we are glad to have you.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny.


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