May 20, 2010 | 10:22 am
Posted by Adam Wills
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which jumped into the fray after “South Park’s” creators were threatened for once again poking fun at Muhammad, is slamming a Comedy Central series created by Jews for daring to joke about Jews and Israel.
The ADL fired off a letter to Comedy Central over a video game and clips tied to “The Drawn Together Movie,” which the channel released one month ago on DVD, and says that both “play into and encourage offensive anti-Semitic and anti-Israel stereotypes.”
The game in the “Drawn Together” section of the Web site, based on an animated series that previously ran on Comedy Central, features a character called Jew Producer, and a robot called “the Intelligent Smart Robot Animation Eraser Lady” (I.S.R.A.E.L.), which murders children and wreaks destruction.
In a letter sent earlier in the week to Comedy Central’s Executive Vice President Tony Fox, Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL, said: “We agree with complaints that this video game and other video clips and trailers featuring the “Jew Producer” character play into and encourage offensive anti-Semitic and anti-Israel stereotypes. While that may not have been the intent, the fact that your site caters to and potentially influences such a wide audience, including children and young adults, is especially troubling to us.”
The section should also include clear labeling, or be placed behind an age-verification wall, and mature-content warnings should be consistently provided, the letter said.
“Given these concerns, we believe that the appropriate response would be to immediately remove these videos and the game from your site or—at the very least—to put the clips from the show behind a wall so that young children will no longer have access to them,” the letter concluded.
ADL’s offices were closed for Shavuot today, and Foxman could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this week someone contacted The Journal asking us to investigate “why the [Comedy Central] website is carrying such game on its site” as well as “what else to they have planned for Jews and Israel on their website.”
First, the Jewish creators of “Drawn Together,” Matt Silverstein and Dave Jesser (a former yeshiva student), like to be offensive on a variety of levels. They pride themselves on it.
GeekHeeb interviewed Silverstein last month, just prior to the release of “The Drawn Together Movie,” and he said the film’s Jewish- and Israel-oriented gags—including the robot I.S.R.A.E.L.—have nothing to do with politics or hate against Jews or Israel.
“I think Dave [Jesser] did it a little bit to piss off his dad. That’s what all comedy is. You either want to piss off your parents or get their love. This particular joke [the robot I.S.R.A.E.L.] was to piss off his dad. It did crack us up, but there’s no political message. That’s actually the message of the movie: we’re not trying to make a point, we’re just trying our best to be funny … with mixed results, but we are trying,” he said.
As far as the Jew Producer is concerned, the character debuted in the finale of “Drawn Together’s” first season—back in December 2004. Five years ago! The ADL is just getting around to being offended about this?! (Personally, I find the character hilarious, and there’s a great Shabbat gag centered around him in the film.)
“The Drawn Together Movie” can be gross, overtly sexual and profoundly disturbing. The film’s Jewish/Israel humor can be uncomfortable at times to stalwart supporters of the Jewish state, but the jokes are no worse than Jewish/Israeli ones featured in “Family Guy” or “South Park.”
Those who actually bother to watch the “Drawn Together” film—rather than just looking at the clips online and playing the video game—will understand that I.S.R.A.E.L. isn’t murdering children as much as it is erasing cartoon characters (thus: Intelligent Smart Robot ANIMATION ERASER Lady). The film is animated, and the “Drawn Together” characters are all fully aware that they are, in fact, animated. (Heck, PETA didn’t even bother firing off a letter to Comedy Central about the opening scene, in which the “Drawn Together” cast stomps kittens!)
I.S.R.A.E.L. is a personification the creators use to lampoon the Jewish state in the movie, but it’s not actually Israel; it’s an animated robot with a persecution complex.
While I haven’t played the video game to the end (my bosses would not look kindly on my using company time that way), there’s nothing overtly anti-Semitic or anti-Israel in its content. A robot fires its eraser missiles at cartoon people – none of whom look vaguely Palestinian – and various animals use defecation as a means of attack. That’s it. The beginning of the game features a clip from the film that introduces you to the I.S.R.A.E.L. character, and taken out of context it’s easy to see how a few people who haven’t watched the film might be offended, but in a knee-jerk way.
On the issue of Comedy Central putting up an age-appropriate warning on its Web site ... its go-to audience is in the 18-34 male demographic. Comedy Central does not feature shows aimed at children. Its live programming includes shows like “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” “The Sarah Silverman Program” and stand-up performances by raunchy comedians. On the animated front, the channel has “South Park” and “Ugly Americans” (a GeekHeeb fav), neither of which are intended for children.
Americans have a blind spot when it comes to animation, equating it with “cartoons” and figuring it must be intended for kids. Those of us who watch anime from Japan and programs on Cartoon Network’s late-night Adult Swim know that there is a side of animation intended only for adults. “Drawn Together” is one of those programs, and the rating it carries on the DVD packaging as well as on its broadcast episodes reflect that.
It’s up to parents to monitor what their children:
• watch on television
• record on the family DVR/VCR
• add to the Netflix queue
• read, play and watch online
• play on video game systems
Because if parents aren’t monitoring what their children watch/play/read, what good is putting the game and clips behind an age-verification wall? Does the ADL honestly think that would serve as a deterrent for computer-literate teens and pre-teens? Consider that clips from the film and the television show are widely available on YouTube and similar sites.
Monitoring what your kids are exposed to is critical. My wife and I have taken to previewing episodes of “The Big Bang Theory,” our 14-year-old son’s favorite show, because the sexual content is on the upswing. He’s frustrated when he has to skip an episode, but he can go back when he’s old enough and watch the ones he missed. Similarly, if your kids are begging to watch “Drawn Together” or play the game, that’s a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation about what is and is not appropriate in your home.
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