The Schmooze

An Erotic Keira Knightley Movie About Post-WWII Germany? Uh Oh.

If two people are hot and white enough, can we get past the fact that one of them is a Nazi-bystander and just enjoy watching them have sex?

Yes! A trailer for the movie “The Aftermath” emphatically answers.

Based on the book of the same title by Rhidian Brook, “The Aftermath” follows the true story of Brook’s grandfather in Hamburg, Germany in the fallout of the Second World War. A British colonel is given a requisitioned Hamburg mansion to use as a home base while he works to set the fire bombed city to rights. Soft of heart — Hamburg was known as the “Hiroshima” of Germany; bombing had left bodies bleeding in the streets — he allows the German mansion owner and the owner’s daughter to stay and cohabitate with him and his wife and son.

This is where Brook’s novel and movie (he penned the script, for director Ridley Scott) differ from history. In this story, Rachael (Keira Knightley,) the Colonel’s wife, and German mansion-dweller Herr Lubert, (Alexander Skarsgård,) simply have too much sexual chemistry to be kept back by marriage vows or cultural allegiance or, say, whether or not one of them might be a war criminal. They seduce each other, falling into bed faster than you can say, “Hey, what did you do to retain an enormous mansion full of servants during Hitler’s war?”

Knightley’s character lost a child in the German bombing, while Alexander Skarsgård, her gauntly beautiful opposite, lost his wife to British bombings. But the important thing is that neither of them are Jews or blacks or queers or Roma, and neither has a disability, so they can still get nasty and stay pure.

Are people really so different? The book and movie ask. Is good really that different than bad? Can’t we all just get along, even members of the opposite sides of a war, so long as we are cream-colored and smooth?

Brooks’ book rarely mentions Jews , camps, or victims of genocide, and all mentions of such un-lovely topics come from the mouth of an alcoholic thief, who is “exotic [and] unEnglish-looking.” What are the 55,000 people who died at Neuengamme , the concentration camp just outside Hamburg, compared to the perfect facial symmetry of Alexander Skarsgård?

There’s no doubt that a movie that looks at the humanity of Germans trying to recover from World War II could be a worthy effort. But probably not one that aims to be, as Bustle called “The Aftermath,” “The sexiest movie of the year.”

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story " An Erotic Movie About A Post-WWII Germany? Yuck. " was written by Jenny Singer.

The Schmooze

Is God A Black Woman Or A White Man? TV Can’t Decide.

A Jew dies and goes to heaven. Standing at the pearly gates, she sees…wait — is that Maya Rudolph? Or Steve Buscemi? Or can she not see anyone at all?

An uncanny theological dialogue has quietly broken out in the splashiest of places — network television — where three different shows, all by Jewish creators, portray God. One is a multiracial black, Jewish woman. One is a white, Italian man. And one God cannot be seen.

These days, God is all around, if you just turn on your TV.

Paging Michael Shur, Simon Rich, and Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien, the creators, respectively, of “The Good Place,” “Miracle Workers,” and “God Friended Me”: Are you guys okay? Is there anything you want to talk about? Can we put you in touch with a rabbi, or lend you a copy of Martin Buber?

In the meantime, let’s meet these Gods:

Judge Gen, “The Good Place,” NBC:


The irreverent-yet-reverent smash hit of moral philosophy and fart jokes, “The Good Place” features a fitting “God” character — Judge Gen (it’s short for Hydrogen, since that’s the only thing that existed when she was born.) She likes burritos, doesn’t know anything about Earth, and does her best to be fair. She’s played by beloved comedian Maya Rudolph, an actress who is black and an Ashkenazi Jew. Rudolph’s God is funny and weird and not-necessarily-moral, and not necessarily God.

God, “Miracle Workers,” TBS:


Similarly to “The Good Place,” Jewish wunderkind Simon Rich’s new show attempts a kind of parable in which we realize that life after death is just like life. So perhaps it’s fitting that God is, as he has so often been fashioned, an old white dude. Played by Steve Buscemi, the “God” of “Miracle Workers” looks more or less like the mental heuristic white Americans tend to hold fast to when we imagine a humanoid God. Either that or that’s just a really generous over-thinking of this issue and producers cast a white man as God because they thought that would be most believable for viewers. Rich’s God (the new TBS show is based off his novel; Rich is also the executive producer) is a scummy depressive who watches TV in a bathrobe. Like Judge Gen, he is kind of bad at his job, and is played by a beloved character actor.

God, “God Friended Me,” CBS:


“God Friended Me” has a Christian-seeming ethos — discussions of blind faith, shots of light slanting through windows, and, more to the point, a preacher’s kid protagonist whose atheism is challenged when he receives a Facebook friend request from “God.” But both of the show’s creators, Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien, grew up Jewish. Wynbrandt and Lilien were drawn to the idea of Facebook, arguing that “social media is a really interesting metaphor for religion in that way because it started off as a great way for all of us to stay connected. And now it’s become this divisive tool.” It’s also an interesting way to stay in touch but invisible — the “God” of their show is not corporeal. Their God is also the least endearing.

So who is God? Or, short of answering that rather tricky question, who is God when realized most movingly and insightfully on our TV screens? In 2019, there are three drastically different visions of omnipotence on prime time. But one thing remains steadfast: the vision-havers — Schur, Rich, Wynbrandt, and Lilien — are all men.

Some things, I guess, are just eternal.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story " Is God A Black Woman Or White Man? TV Can’t Decide. " was written by Jenny Singer.

The Schmooze

Bernie Sanders Is Running For President, And Twitter Is Exploding.

The difference between Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and his 2020 campaign?

“This time, we’re gonna win,” he told CBS on Tuesday morning, shortly after announcing his bid for candidacy .

What won’t be any different?

The onslaught of online takes about Sanders, particularly on Twitter.

Seeking the 2016 Democratic nomination, Sanders was defeated by Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, but the lasting success of his grassroots campaign that pushed aggressively for Medicare For All, tuition-free college, and a universal minimum wage — now most 2020 Democratic candidates are campaigning on similar promises .

If Sanders wins the presidency, he will be the oldest person ever to be inaugurated president, surpassing the current holder of that distinction, Donald Trump, by nine years. He will also be the first Jewish person to be president. And he will certainly be the first president whose celebrity doppelgänger is Larry David.

Let’s see what the internet has to say about all this. We’ve rounded up the best tweets about Bernie Sanders’ latest presidential run, skimming Jewish takes, thoughtful criticism, and fandom off a pile of bonkers partisanship.

Special consideration was given to tweets that made excellent use of GIFs.

Impressive early donor stats:


Bernie, the polarizer:

Tweets that refer to Sanders as “Bernard:”

Hot Bernadette Peters takes:

Strong GIF-usage:

Double standard tweets:

Tweets that involved the parents:

Cosplay tweets:

A meta-tweet about articles like this one:

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny ****

This story " The Best Bernie 2020 Tweets " was written by Jenny Singer.

The Schmooze

Stephen Colbert Compares Trump Declaring National Emergency To A Bar Mitzvah Boy

What’s the difference between Donald Trump and a bar mitzvah boy?

A bar mitzvah boy has studied, worked hard, and is finally mature enough to be treated as a man.

Ba-dum tssss.

On Monday night on “The Late Show,” the ever-affable Stephen Colbert gave the comic treatment to President Trump’s declaration of national emergency. Breaking down the President’s Friday Rose Garden announcement, which was rather full of tangents about Syria, chairs, the Nobel Prize, and Anne Coulter, Colbert said, “After five minutes of clumsy crisis foreplay, he ambled up to the idea of an emergency.”

Explaining his decision to declare a national emergency, Trump said, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

This, Colbert pointed out, is akin to calling an ambulance to take you to the movies when Uber wait times are too long.

Here is a segment of Trump’s vision of the future, as he explained it in the Rose Garden:

“We will have a national emergency! And we will then be sued! And they will sue us in the 9th circuit! Even though it shouldn’t be there! And we will possibly get a bad ruling! And then we’ll get another bad ruling! And then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court! And hopefully we’ll get a fair shake! And win in the Supreme Court! Just like the ban!”

“A little sing-song! Don’t you think!” Colbert said, mimicking the President’s tone. “I can’t tell if he was answering a question or reading his Torah portion.”

The crowd roared, and Jon Batiste, the “Late Show” bandleader, cried out “Jacob Hirschman! Jacob Hirschman!”

It’s not the most incisive critique, when you consider the goldmine of potential bar mitzvah-related comedy. But Colbert is halfway to the truth — Trump sounds a little like a Torah reader, but he sounds almost exactly like a person saying the Haftarah blessing.

Take a listen (through 5:54):

And now, listen to this:

We’ll give Trump this Jewish cultural moment — he’s spot on.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story " Stephen Colbert Compares Trump To A Bar Mitzvah Boy " was written by Jenny Singer.

The Schmooze

Is It Better To Be First Woman President, Or Date Seth Rogen? New Romcom Investigates.

Can women have it all? It’s a silly question, of course, nobody can really have everything.

Can women have as much as men?

No, a new movie by Seth Rogen answers that other, more to-the-point question. Women can either have mammoth career success, changing history and the world, or they can have a stirring sexual and emotional connection with Seth Rogen. There is simply no in-between.

This is the crisis that stalks the lives of American women ages 13-to-death, as new comedy “Long Shot” suggests. And it’s totally unfair, because some women are hot enough to be sexually compelling presidents and acceptable love interests to Seth Rogen. Nobody should have to choose between these things!

In “Long Shot,” which will be released this year through Lionsgate, the US Secretary of State (played by Charlize Theron) has the endorsement of the sitting president for her candidacy, but when she reconnects with Fred (played by Seth Rogen), once a little boy for whom she babysat, she begins to see stars in the flaps of his grimy hoodie. Will she chase her dreams of power, or power down and smoke a few jays with Rogen, who other characters make clear is disgusting. (His full name is Fred Flarsky and people think he’s “too much,” so we know he’s a disgusting Jew.)

Leader of the free world, or girlfriend of a yucky Jew whose diapers you used to change? It’s a tale as old as “third child or corner office.”

Okay, okay, “Long Shot” is just a silly movie with a silly premise, and Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron are never not charming. Maybe we’re misreading things! But it’s hard, just before a presidential year when a historic number of women seek candidacy, to pretend to be amused or interested in trading currency to watch this dilemma unfold on screen.

Rogen has spoken a lot about wanting his work to create opportunities for women’s voices and stories in an authentic way. This — in which love and career are incompatible binaries, in which there only seem to be two female characters, in which the female protagonist is conventionally perfect and the man is charmingly schlubby — probably ain’t it.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story " Would You Rather Be President Or Date Seth Rogen? " was written by Jenny Singer.