Oy Vey! Jews in Pop Culture

In an environment where media and popular culture constantly dominate everyday life, it can sometimes feel a bit daunting. It can be a nice break to take a step back and analyze what is really going on every once in a while, and that’s why I did just that. Over the last seven weeks I’ve done some delving into myself to find out what it really means to be me, and how that person is portrayed in popular culture.

The first thing I did when starting out this project was pick out several different “identities” of myself, for example, I am a man, a dog-person, an athlete, and a Jew. For this project, I decided to pursue my Jewish identity and its representation.

Although there are many Jews relevant in pop culture, I decided to choose three specific examples. I’ve found that in the entertainment industry, Jewish people are often aware of their differences from the “norm,” and make use of self-deprecating humor to overcome the uncomfortableness that stems from that as a way to relate to the larger Jewish community as a whole.

The Hebrew Hammer

Link to the movie’s archived website

The Hebrew Hammer is a Comedy Central film released in 2003. It was released in American theatres on December 19th, the day before Hanukkah started that year.

In the film, the main character is the Hebrew Hammer, whose real name is name is Mordechai Jefferson Carver. His love interest is Esther Bloomenbergensteinenthal. The Bloomenbergensteinenthal family name is an obvious satire on Ashkenazic (Eastern European) Jewish names, which are usually difficult for Westerners to pronounce. Examples are Goldstein from Harold & Kumar, my family’s maiden name: Tulsky, or even Jon Stewart, who changed his name from Leibowitz due to people frequently mispronouncing it. Other than just the names, the character’s sport stereotypical Jewish garments, including Mordechai’s black broad-brimmed fedora, his kippah or yarmulke, and a large golden “Chai” necklace.

Another detail that seemed stimulating to me was his regular use of Yiddish and Hebrew words or phrases, as such:

The character’s overuse of these words, to the unknowing, may seem a bit much, but it is more than true. Whenever I have a conversation with my great-grandmother, Yiddish usually gets thrown around (mostly by her). She uses some of the same phrases as the characters in the movie, perhaps most commonly, schlep. A schlep is a long or uncomfortable journey or walk.

The main purpose of the film is as Samantha Baskind explains, “a film that pokes fun at Jewish stereotypes and easily/happily announces religious elements.” In her article, “The Fockerized Jew? Questioning Jewishness as Cool in American Popular Entertainment,” she explains further that “The point, though, is that to Jews the Hebrew Hammer, Ben Stiller’s multiple characters, and the public figures of Adam Sandler and Jon Stewart are cool. We want these Jews to be cool!” In this way, the characters are used to relate to the greater Jewish community as a whole.

Saturday Night Live – Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song”

Click to listen to the song

Sandler starts “The Chanukah Song,” by dedicating it to all the Jewish kids who, like him, feel or have felt excluded during the holiday season without a Christmas tree. In this way, the song uses self-humor to bring the Jewish community together. During the song, Sandler sings about a whole lot of different Jewish celebrities that Jewish kids can look up to and not feel so alone during the holidays. He starts by mentioning David Lee Roth, the vocalist of band Van Halen, and throughout the song he mentions various other entertainers and celebrities.

The first line of the song was incredibly appealing to me. When he explains the “struggles” of being a Jewish kid during the holidays, he is absolutely right. It reminds me of the beginning of The Hebrew Hammer, where the same premise is put in place. The film begins during the holidays and a young Mordechai is the only kid playing with a dreidel, and at the same time, all the other kids are busy with Christmas themed things. I can directly relate to that scenario, because I was the only Jewish kid in my small town while growing up.

The song can further be used to illustrate Jewish humor and relating to other Jews by looking at Stephen Witfield’s article, “Voicing the True Meaning of Sandler’s ‘Chanukah Song.’” In the article, he draws a comparison between the already mentioned song and Peter, Paul and Mary’s 1983 song, “Light One Candle.” Witfield notes that Sandler’s song is much more upfront about his Judaism compared to the other band, and that “he did know how to touch a tender place in the heart of the American Jewish family, at a season of special vulnerability.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Click to watch the skit

Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, or as he is now known, Jon Stewart, uses the quirks and stereotypes of his Jewish heritage to connect with members of the audience that may have a shared heritage. Jon began the above skit by claiming that the show focuses too much on politics, and that he would rather take this time to perform some crafts. Once he began crafting with popsicle sticks, yarn, and glue, New York Senator Charles Schumer interrupts his show.

Senator Schumer walks into the show speaking with a stereotypical nagging “Jewish mother” voice. For example, when asked what he is doing there by Jon, he responds with, “What, that’s all the welcome I get? Not, ‘Hello, how are you three term Senator of the great state of New York?’” When Schumer explained that he was here to talk about their diner experience in New York, Jon says he’s surprisingly interested. Schumer responds with, “Of course you are, Jon! You’re Jewish!” After that, Charles Schumer presents a montage of Jon’s most memorable Jewish moments.

During the montage, Jon refers to his Judaism in every line for about two minutes. He says things like, “I’m a Jew, so I think a lot about illness.” Or, “I’m a Jew, so I can’t dunk.” Later, he is comparing Easter to Passover, referring to the beautiful Easter basket full of jelly beans and color, then pointing at the Passover Seder plate which includes dull-colored horseradish and a bone. In one scene, he looks Tyrese Gibson straight in the eye and says, “Don’t make me break out the Yiddish.” The scene is followed by many others which include him saying various Yiddish words.

When Senator Schumer proclaimed that Jon was Jewish and “a member of the tribe,” I felt a sudden sense of connection. This was much the same with The Hebrew Hammer and Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song.” With only thirteen million Jews in the world, we indeed feel like a tribe. What Senator Schumer was referring to was the tribe of Israel, or the Hebrew people.

By listening to two Jews relate to each other through our shared heritage, and shared quirks, I felt a great connection to Judaism and the Jewish people altogether. There is a sense of connection between these specific people and the Jewish community as a whole. Even if they aren’t religious, shared heritage and culture bond us together. After all, many people fail to understand that Judaism is more about the community than the religion.

Learning Moments

When I first began delving into my Jewish identity, I thought I would find many examples of Jewish men being portrayed as “Nice Jewish Boys.” While I found some examples surely, I didn’t find nearly enough evidence that it was mainstream at all. This was first countered by the Hebrew Hammer, who grew up to become a bad ass in his own right. Even if he portrays some NJB traits, he doesn’t entirely fit the role. This idea was seconded by Adam Sandler, who included the lines, “Oh this lovely, lovely Chanukah/ So drink your gin and tonicah\ and smoke your marijuanikah.” Clearly a nice Jewish boy wouldn’t advocate for those substances.

Another area in which my journey shed some light was near the end. Although during this whole blog post I have been explaining that Jewish entertainers poke fun at their own stereotypes and differences to relate to Jews, I failed to mention that not all Jews may find it funny. For example, Michael Rechtschaffen, a film critique, describes The Hebrew Hammer, as “a crass, sophomoric and, more to the point, offensively unfunny parody that sets out to remake Shaft and his blaxploitation ilk as a Jewish action hero.”

Works Cited

Baskind, S. “The Fockerized Jew? Questioning Jewishness as Cool in American Popular      Entertainment.” Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, vol. 25 no. 4,            2007, pp. 3-17. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/sho.2007.0099. 6 May 2017.

Rechtshaffen, Michael. “‘The Hebrew Hammer’.” Hollywood Reporter, 19 Dec. 2003, p.           20. Business Collection. 15 May 2017.

Sandler, Adam. The Chanukah song. Rec. 3 Dec. 1994. Adam Sandler, 1995. NBC. Web.       3 May 2017.

Stewart, Jon, prod. “The Daily Show.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central.       New York, New York, Television. 3 May 2017.

The Hebrew Hammer. By Jonathan Kesselman. Dir. Jonathan Kesselman. Prod. Lisa               Fragner. Perf. Adam Goldberg. Strand Releasing, 2003. Film. 2 May 2017.

Witfield, Stephen. “Voicing the True Meaning of Sandler’s ‘Chanukah Song’.” Jewish                 Advocate, Dec 07, 2012, pp. 18, Ethnic NewsWatch. 6 May 2017.

My Final Blog Post: Groups And Most Importantly, Racial Groups, Diving Deep Into My Own Stereotype.

I think about life and how we are each divided into little groups since the first day we take our first breath to the last day where we close our eyes and see nothing again. I believe a lot of people think about this too, but my question for you has to be, why are we put in these groups in the first place and how can we break free from them? Especially these racial groups that divide us so much and make us so “different” from one another. The one I want to use as my example throughout this essay is one that I have lived and had all my life, Hispanic and more specific, Guatelamateca, which is a word used to call people from the country of Guatemala. As I go throughout my examples I want everyone to think about the stereotypes that others have put upon you and to think about how popular culture makes you look in front of everyone and the reasons why they do that to everyone.

At first when I was younger, about seven years old I never thought I was very different, I had just moved from Guatemala, a country where I had been born and had lived and loved for 6 years to a country that was cold and rainy, and salty and I wasn’t too sure what everyone was saying. Then I learned and understood and figured out that really people did think I was different because of the way I talked and the way I acted. Throughout this term, I really was able to reflect on that as I studied the articles given to us to read and did my own research about my topic.

One of the first things that really helped me realize that stereotypes, like me being Hispanic, really are something that we do every day, with and without really thinking about it was growing up and having people say “what part of Mexico are you from” without really giving me a chance to say that I actually was from somewhere else. As I have looked at things during class I also noticed that even though I don’t mean to, sometimes I do the same thing. For example on of the things that we learned about was how to analyze and article/ an image without putting our opinion on it before giving it a chance. During this process I really had to check everything off as a list because I would start writing my own opinion of what I thought was right and wrong and try to say what I saw and what I felt but we weren’t supposed to do that so it took a lot of rewriting in order to try to get it without my opinion but just real analyzes showing me that stereotyping and looking at something and think about something else that you feel “relates” to it is something that comes naturally into our minds and we can’t or don’t always control it.

This lead me to consider how I was going to look at the topic of what I was researching and try to understand it not because I have gone through it but because I want to learn why the popular culture sees me and other Hispanics the way they do and don’t really give it a second thought. As I did my research I really took to heart the conversations I had with my family and friends as well as the recommendation from my Professor and my peers and the wonderful comments they made about their own stereotypes during our conversations online. As well as how the articles and subjects we read about helped me understand how to look at the points I choose. I think that with that combination it really lead me to understand that we can’t really truly break free from stereotypes but we can help them change for the better and lead them to be more of a positive interaction instead of and ignorant and negative way of thinking about people.

The first example I decided to analyze really was how people moved to the USA and why most people generalize that if you are Hispanic you must be from Mexico and the newest trend you must be from Guatemala. Something I learned long ago in one of my History classes when I was in High School that has stuck with me for a long time was that around the 1800’s the USA took over half of Mexico’s land which lead to the first Hispanics in the USA, making them USA Citizens because of the USA taking over something that wasn’t theirs to begin with, but really what can you do? that is what happens when there is a war. Things change and people learn to live but that is also how stereotypes begin, there is a change and that change brings questions and leads to assumptions. In this case, it leads to people seeing Mexicans as the only Hispanics that lived in the USA. Which leads me to analyze that this is where most people got their idea about everyone that is Hispanic must be from Mexico. Something that is most recent though is a new trend that has started putting one more culture into this assumption and that is people from Guatemala. Which just started because it is a growing population in the USA, but still very small and for the most part they are assumed to be Mexican anyway.

Throughout the process of research, the another example that showed me how people view and feel about Hispanics was a new TV show called American Housewife. It is a show that talks about a regular American family today is the modern world. It is a show that has a lot of different stereotypes but the one I am addressing is how it shows Hispanics. Even though this show is mostly whites and one Asian and one black person, again with their own stereotypes, they show the Hispanics it is for a very brief moment and it is how they have put them in many shows. They are the cleaning ladies and they look chubby and dark and with strong accents that don’t always allow use to recognize what they are saying. In the episode I watched the boy that the “American housewife”   has named Oliver has a side business with this Hispanic maid and they are talking about how he owns her her money and he is acting like he is smarter than her and saying, look I know what I’m doing trust me, I’ll get us more money, this in itself is sexist and racist because he is a white, male, middles school kid, treating this older Hispanic woman like someone that doesn’t know or understand what money means. Well, that happens and she tells him to get her her money because she wants to go back to her country. So by the end of the episode he learns and understands that he needs to give her her money and he goes and says “so you can go back and see you family in Guatemala” putting a stereotype on her without really asking where she is from, and she looks at him and says “I’m from El Salvador”, Now I want you guys to look at this like you were someone foreign that moved into this country and what would you think if you saw this? I can tell you looking at the facts that it is obvious that the kid didn’t pay any attention to the person he is working with, and second, he doesn’t really care because to him she is just a worker. In the end, he even says whatever and thinks he has made this right by the mere fact that he gave her the money he owed her anyway. The show made it seem like that was the most important part and that Oliver learned and a valuable lesson but really looking and analyzing it further you see that the skip over the fact that he is still disrespectful to the older woman and doesn’t care that really she is a person that has more to her then every show is willing to show in their TV shows.

This leads me to my next example which is another comedy TV show called Last Man standing. This is a show about a Dad that has three daughters and a wife and he works as the publicist of and outdoor company. In this show, there is a lot of sexist and political and racial jokes and one of them, but what I want to analyze is something different. Mike, that is the dad’s name, and his wife Vanessa decide to hire a cleaning lady, and what race is she? She is Hispanic of course and again the way she physically looks is chubby, dark-skinned, dark hair, with a strong accent. Now the reason why I am very keen on mentioning how she looks and how the  other Hispanics looked on the TV show American housewife is because the way they

Blanca Serving Mike salted peanuts in Last Man Standing show Hispanic is very similar all the time. It doesn’t matter what country they are from or anything, to the people creating the shows, they always put a Hispanic as dark skinned, strong accent, dark hair and the only thing that varies is whether they are skinny or chubby based on the fact of what the show is about. For example In the TV Show Modern family the only Hispanic show there is Sofia Vergara who played a Mexican woman that married an older man that is rich. The way she looks is very important, she is always wearing very skin tight clothing that shows all her body and curves. Compared to the poor Hispanics shown in TV shows are shown as all the same basic facts they use expect that they are chubby. Something that I noticed while looking at all the facts was that really when it comes to everything that is Hispanic based they don’t really care about looking into it further than what is common on TV, even studies are more based on what people have seen then what people really know.

As I was looking at the library resources and everything on the web and around me was that the titles really said it all. When I looked up Hispanics, and more specifically Guatemala, everything was generalized. No matter how specific I was, I always ended up with the same thing, Mexicans, and Why poor Hispanics are obese, and why Hispanics do drugs and why Hispanics are addicted to alcohol it was never something good about Hispanic but instead it was always something negative about them and assumptions that because they group they studied was prone to that that all Hispanic must be the same.

In Conclusion:

I was truly hoping that I would be proven wrong about stereotypes and especially the stereotypes about Hispanics and that my life had just been a confusion and really I was a one in a million at being thought of as a stereotype, but instead I was proven right that stereotypes are something we are born with, since the first breath you draw to the very last one.  Which leads me to really see that yes it is going to be hard to change these stereotype that I have been born into and most people are probably going to continue thinking that I am from Mexico and really I will live as a maid and not get too far with my life but hopefully as I go throughout the rest of my life I can show them that there is something more I can offer and that I am not just the newest trend of Hispanics, but that I am me and me is amazing at being different. If anything this research showed me how really Hispanics are all put under the same categories but I hope one day that changes and during a test I will be able to put Guatelmateca or when someone asked me where I’m from they don’t just jump to the conclusion that I must be from Mexico. I never thought that my research would lead me to a deeper understanding of who I am by showing me who people think I am but who I really I’m not and, I hope all of you have discovered who you are and take that with you as you go throughout the rest of you lives.

Work Cited:

S2 Episode 10, “The Help”, Last Man Standing, Jack Burditt, ABC. 2011

watch on ABC or online.

S1 Episode 11, “The Snow Storm”, American HouseWife, Sarah Dunn, ABC. 2016

watch on ABC or online

Modern Family, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, ABC. 2009

watch on ABC or online

Bergad, Laird W., and Herbert S. Klein. Hispanics in the United States: A demographic, social, and economic history, 1980-2005. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Acculturation and drug use disorders among Hispanics in the U.S.(Report), Journal of Psychiatric Research, Feb 2013, Vol.47(2), p.226(7)

Google and google scholar to see what came up in general for every time I typed in Hispanic, Guatemala, Latino, TV, Books, Studies, woman etc.

Life — It’s the Pits

Jamie Gibb
30 May 2014

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope” (Angelou, 2013).

In 2013 President Barack Obama stood his ground against breed-specific legislation, laws which target and outlaw specific breeds of dogs, though he had nothing to gain by making this declaration; he doesn’t own a Pit Bull (or Pit Bull mix) whom these law are strategically written for. He owns a “nice” house dog. Still, President Obama’s official statement was, “Research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources […] As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that’s a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners” (Greenwood, 2013). (Emphasis mine) But, perhaps he understood something more … something that few people do: separating dog owners from their community because their breed of dog is undesirable is equal to the segregation laws that were enacted when Jim Crow was around. Perhaps our president understood the “one-drop rule” was only a good benchmark for how American you were, and was never a good measurement for determining how much Black you had in you, or how much Pit your dog was, in order to enforce those restrictions. Perhaps it was something more, though; maybe he understood that owning a Pit Bull didn’t make people into criminals, though breed-specific legislation surely would. Regardless of how often popular culture and our media present Pit Bull owners as scary and deranged, Pit Bull owners are not criminals-in-the-making because of their dogs; Pit Bulls are loving, loyal, family dogs, not criminal manufacturers.

I was never called deviant, nor ever vilified, when I owned my Cocker Spaniel. In fact, it never occurred to me that I would be looked down on by anyone for my breed choice, except, perhaps, by those who thought spending $350 for a dog was incredibly poor judgement. But, I didn’t want a mutt from the shelter… You can’t trust those pound puppies—they’re in for a reason, you know.

The shelter gave me a choice that day; honestly, I don’t know what prompted me to go in. Maybe it was because my Cocker of 13 years had been gone for just over three, but I just wanted to see. Big, brown, almond-shaped eyes stared at me and I thought, “Oh, Lordy, who could say no to that?” Still, I wasn’t convinced; he was a mutt and there’s a lot of risk involved; those dogs usually come with some…baggage. “Take him home for the weekend, and if it doesn’t work out … bring him back,” they said. The promise of a “full refund” clinched the deal. I drove away thinking, “How much ‘damage’ could he have? He’s an 8-week-old ‘Black Lab Mix,’” as stated by all the papers I’d signed. I knew (though not from personal experience) that Labradors are sweet and tolerant to the ends of the ages. They are family dogs. Every media depiction shows how Labs go on family trips, camping, and to the beach; a Lab is what I needed. I had high expectations of personal community approval, with lots of “ooh’s and ahh’s”.

My first experience with our neighborhood’s non-approval, and media-centric “land-shark” mentality happened exactly two hours after bringing this puppy home. It was pretty clear that while he might have some other breeds in him, a Labrador mix
Imageis not what he was. I would never, never, never have rescued a Pit Bull. They’re aggressive—and, according to “everybody” who knows “anything” about these dogs, they will snap, just like rubber bands. One day everything is great and the next … Pitzilla! I had seen plenty of these news stories, too. “Maybe not right this moment,” they said… In their minds this puppy had already become some heinous creature of the night, and I, for adopting him, was taking my children’s lives, their friends’ lives, and even my neighbors’ lives into my own hands. I should, “Choose wisely,” they said, and it was suggested that *every* one of these types of dogs should be put down… to save us all — of course.

I support the idea of making the world a better place, but the assumptions and presumptions underpinning the idea that “we” need to “euthanize” an entire breed of dog in order to preserve and protect ourselves from these beasts of prey, just didn’t add up; there were plenty of negative news reports surrounding Pit Bulls and the low-life neighborhoods they were trained in, but those were nurturing stories, right? We live in a nice neighborhood; we’re nowhere close to Skid Row. Still, our neighborhood issues began that day with “us’s” versus “them’s”— sides were taken and lines were drawn; everyone knows “them’s” never come out of the deal quite as good as “us’s” so it’s best be on the “right side” early. Taking the Bull(dog) by the horns, I decided to find out
if what the media reported was true: Are Pit Bull’s little walking time-bombs? Should I take him back, or keep him crated and watch my children vigilantly? More though, will I become a criminal meth-dealer because of my very close proximity to a Pit Bull? I Googled the term, “Why + Terrible + Pit Bull.” 

—I should tell you now, before I go into much more detail, that I am a lady with a dragon tattoo and according to our media’s definition, tattoos and piercings are a part of what defines me as a Pit Bull owner— But that aside, I quickly discovered why I was “endangering” my neighbors.

The first article I found, Scared of Pit Bulls? You’d Better Be!, written by Brian C. Anderson in the spring of 1999, stated my problem clearly: “Bred for violence, these dogs can wreck a neighborhood’s quality of life as surely as prostitutes or drug dealers” (Anderson, 1999). (Emphasis mine) —Honestly, I was impressed, but this little puppy didn’t look all that powerful— Anderson continued his first paragraph about how he has personally watched drug dealers and gang members training these dogs into vicious beasts in the park across from his house. Though he tried to present both sides of the story, citing and quoting Robin Kovary, a dog breeder and Pit Bull lover, he used her quotes to further his own agenda. Kovary stated, according to Anderson, “Once the word got out […] to youths who wanted a tough dog to show off with, the breed passed into less than responsible hands—kids who wanted the dogs to be as aggressive as they could be” (Anderson, 1999). The main takeaway from his article was “criminals own these dogs” or more, “if you want to be a criminal you’ll get this dog.” Pit Bulls weren’t owned by responsible pet owners anywhere in the article. But my neighbors knew me, they knew I was responsible — why then was I suddenly the pariah of our ’hood? I returned to Google with a new search term: “Pit Bull + Family Dog”.

I was pleasantly surprised to find there are family Pit Bulls—famous family dogs, in fact—and the families were not blacklisted, nor criminals! Theodore Roosevelt owned a Pit Bull, while in the White House, named Pete; coincidentally, The Little Rascal’s named their four-legged Pittie Petey; “Sallie” is an immortalized Pit Bull standing guard over a Civil War monument in Pennsylvania; and the U.S. Navy’s loyal mascot was a Pit Bull named Sergeant Stubby. Helen Keller also had a Pit Bull named Stubby and I wondered if it was named after the Navy dog? — Regardless, none of these people were even remotely involved in criminal activity. Comedian Jamie Foxx vowed to find Barack Obama, and his family, a Pit Bull when they were trying to choose a new best friend (Moira, 2008), and he never once considered the criminal potential, I’d bet. Still, Moira, from the Dream Dogs Art site stated succinctly the problem with Pit Bulls as family pets, drawing upon a secondary negative reference I hadn’t considered, politics. “Ummm, yeah…there is no way Michelle is going to get a Pitbull for her two little girls. […] And NOBODY wants the whole Sarah Palin/Pitbull/lipstick/pig meme bubbling back up in the media again” (Moira, 2008). Yeah, the Palin thing. Nobody wants someone who owns a Pit Bull to become as tenacious as a Pit Bull, and that was a very real possibility since Pit Bulls seem to have this mind-altering ability about them. One moment you’re a law-abiding citizen, the next you find yourself wearing red lipstick or heading up a notorious criminal ring.

Maybe to mock “Moira”, I threw on some loud makeup, grabbed my puppy, and headed for the bookstore. I picked up the book Pit Bull Placebo, written in 2007 by Karen Delise; it was exactly the book I needed to read. In fact, it was the book a lot of people should have been reading. While the media portends that you likely to have a criminal lurking inside because you knowingly own a Pit Bull, Delise debunked that myth in pretty short order stating that a lot of times little people with big egos want to appear larger than life by owning one of the world’s scariest dogs, but Pit Bulls are not any scarier than other dogs; it’s a popular media ruse (Delise, 2007).

ImageThere is a media driven problem of both owner and dog stereotypes, which in turn become self-fulfilling prophesies. This cartoon, “Beware of Dog” (Epic Snaps, n.d.), is the epitome of both cliches — the Pit Bull, with the spike collar, versus the ego-heavy, brawny- scary owners, or the “Jerks with Masculinity Issues”. The cartoon drives home Delise’s point: these stereotypes of both dogs and owners are wrong, in spite of the notoriety surrounding them both (Delise, 2007).
It can be tricky to navigate through the muddy waters created by the publicity-peddled terrible owners, still, I had to trust Delise, correlation does not equal causation — drug dealers choose these dogs because of their reputation, not because that’s who these dogs make someone into. I would not be starting my own meth-lab, prostitution group, or dogfighting ring simply because I had this dog. And, Cesar Milan agreed.

Cesar Milan, known around the world as The Dog Whisperer, has his own pack of 25 dogs–his favorite is his Pit Bull, Junior (Milan, n.d.). In an article on his website, Milan tells how Pit Bull’s got the “bad rap”, blaming the problem squarely on the two-leggers; we blame the dogs for being bad, and making us bad, but really we are to blame in both cases (Milan, n.d.). Milan, working with the “Homeboy’s” in California, helped their ex-gang members with their dogs’ behavior problems. Though the media would paint all gangsters as Pit Bull owners, they are not. Some, actually, own terrible little dogs. Watching big tough guys owning little, fluffy, ornery dogs makes me laugh. They just don’t seem to …match. There’s that media stereotype for you again; it’s hard to break.

Bucking tradition, media portrayals, and popular culture’s stereotypes even further is Pit Bulls and Parolees (Drachkovitch 2009-2014). This popular show is filled with the people who don’t match with the dogs who should, by all rights and in many cases, hate humans. Tia, the “shelter-mom/rescuer”, sporting a shirt which reads “Racism Is The Pits”, has a full-plate juggling the media’s portrayal of these dogs, which makes them less than adoptable to regular families (like mine), and the full-house of Pit Bulls she currently has (Drachkovitch 2009-2014). She, like the Homeboy’s of California, believes in second chances for both people and for Pitties. She has the unenviable job of trying to break criminal-adopter stereotypes; she adopts to “normal looking” people, though her family has all the tattoos—the hard exterior shells—you’d expect to find in the owners of this infamous breed. She lives her life trying to teach people not to fear the Pittie, or their tattooed owners, making guest appearances across the country on her “‘P’ Word” tour… and working with a lot of Pit Bulls. I couldn’t have been more surprised to learn that according to temperament testing, Pit Bull’s rank right behind Labrador’s, though certainly our culture wouldn’t tell you that. I began to wonder, “If they’re wrong about what a Pit Bull is, are they also wrong about the humans who own them?”Image They are.

Tia advocates for Pit Bull owners, against breed-specific legislation, for second chance homes for Pit Bulls through her television program, and against social bias. Working with her to end stereotype biases are the second chance parolees; the group you’d think would own these dogs. Tia makes it her job to hire those she can, helping break not only dog, but people discriminations (Drachkovitch 2009-2014). Not surprisingly, after watching this show filmed in the city of second chances, New Orleans, I believed I had the bravery, wisdom, and strength to be a good second chance owner. 

To be a Pit Bull owner I must bravely fight against the idea that only criminals want these family dogs and that by owning one I am dragging the criminal element into the neighborhood. I must also understand that people are frightened by what they don’t know. Scared people are defensive; I must have the wisdom to know the difference between bad laws and bad people. And, Pit Bull owners must be “better” than every other dog owner—we must exhibit the antithesis of everything the media portrays us as, all the while standing to make people understand that racism, however it looks, is wrong; Pit owners are decent human beings, not gang members or drug dealers, regardless of how many tattoos, piercings, or Pits we might have.

Character enables you to face yourself in the mirror and like who you see; I am taking a page from my dog’s book and loyally standing strong in the face of adversity, still loving people no matter what they’ve put me through. I encourage others to follow my lead and stop bowing to peer pressure, blindly accepting bans on specific breeds of dogs because it’s the easy thing to do, especially when these bans hurt not only dogs, but the communities of families who love them — even more since these bans are about a misperception and misrepresentation of who the people are who own the dogs—law abiding citizens—and not because the dogs themselves create hostile neighborhoods. I hope, should you read nothing Imagebut this paragraph, this is what you take away: My neighbors were wrong: Pit Bull’s do not make people into criminals; nothing could be further from the truth. Loving a Pit Bull just might, however, make you into a better human being

—I know mine did.

Image

                (Bode through the years)

References

Anderson, B. (1999). Scared of pit bulls? You’d better be!. Retrieved from http://www.city-journal.org/html/9_2_scared_of_pit.html

Angelou, M. (2013). No fences. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/MayaAngelou/posts/10151418853254796

Epic Snaps. (n.d.). Beware of dog. Retrieved from http://epicsnaps.com/77222/Beware-
of-dog

Delise, K. (2007). The pit bull placebo: The media, myths and politics of canine aggression. United States: Anubis Publishing.

Drachkovitch, R. (Executive producer). (2009-2014). Pit bulls and parolees [Television series]. Agua Dulce, CA: 44 Blue Productions. 

Fox news. (2013, February 6). Pit bulls wrongly blamed for dog attacks. Retrieved from http://fox2now.com/2013/02/06/fox-files-pit-bulls-wrongly-blamed-for-dog-attacks

Greenwood, A. (2013, August 20). Obama comes out against dog breed-specific legislation, joins the fight for Pit Bulls. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/obama-breed-specific-legislation_n_3785911.html

Milan, C. (n.d.). How did pit bulls get a bad rap? Retrieved from http://www.cesarsway.com/dogbehavior/basics/How-Did-Pit-Bulls-Get-a-Bad-Rap

Milan, C. (n.d.). Who is Cesar Millan? Retrieved from http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-whisperer-tv/aboutcesar

Moira. (2008). Dream dogs art. Retrieved from http://dreamdogsart.typepad.com/the_
obamas_dog_2008/12/jamie-foxx-pick-pitbull-for-obamas.html

Scheller, A. (2013). Why it’s ridiculous people still think pit bulls are inherently mean (infographic). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/pit-bulls-_n_4151562.html?1382625997&ncid=edlinkushpmg00000008