Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

This week I was introduced (a little late) to Diesel’s “Be Stupid” ad campaign.  It’s really best seen, rather than described, so I would highly recommend watching this video and getting an idea of what the ads are all about.

Now, at first, the video seems to be encouraging people to follow their dreams, which is always nice, I suppose. But the video quickly devolves into a criticism of society’s “smart” people, who apparently don’t take risks, or have any good ideas (except, of course, for Diesel, the company that thought of the “Stupid” concept), and seem to just represent people interested in following a traditional career path rather than, you know, sticking their heads into mailboxes.

If you look at the actual ads in the campaign, you will soon discover that apparently “stupid” means, in fact, being oversexualized and usually naked. I’m not exactly sure where they got their definition of stupid from, but according to Merriam-Webster it means “given to unintelligent decisions or acts.” Now, while running around naked, or flashing a security camera certainly is an “unintelligent decision,” the ad campaign has taken stupid decisions and glorified them by making it appear that being stupid is equivalent to having friends who will be willing to have sex all the time and run around naked with you.

For this, two of the ads have been banned in Britain. One ad featured a woman flashing a security camera, while the other had a picture of a woman in a bikini taking a picture of her genitalia. The British Advertising Standards Authority said that the ads could encourage “anti-social or irresponsible” behavior and that the bikini one could cause “serious offense to many adults”, and banned the ads from public posters. Now, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that I believe the ads should be banned, but they certainly have caused quite the controversy.

One thing I find interesting is Diesel’s response to the complaints about the ads. According to the above article, the company responded to complaints about the bikini ad by saying that it “portrayed a very strong and unexpected image of femininity, aligning it with typically masculine themes.” Perhaps they’re referring to is the lion awkwardly lurking behind the girl taking a picture of herself as a “masculine theme,” but other than that, I can’t think of what is particularly masculine about the ad. The fact that she’s taking an inappropriate picture in the middle of daylight? That doesn’t seem masculine to me, just stupid–which, I guess, fits with the name. Just as Diesel has taken liberty with the meaning of “stupid” in an attempt to make it a symbol of counterculture and creativity, it also seems to have created its own gender paradigm in an attempt to prove that they are subverting it.


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The Other Mama Grizzlies

I’m assuming a lot of people have seen this: It’s a video that Sarah Palin created about “Mama Grizzlies” who are “banding together” and leading a new movement that is changing America. What exactly they are doing is not particularly clear, but these women are clearly very united and very passionate about helping to shape this country. Right. It’s a good thing that all the women who are passionate about changing the country—common- sense conservative women—are mothers, and that their motherhood has taught them how to rebuild a country.

Well, yesterday a video came out that serves as a kind of response to Palin’s, and I wanted to point it out: In addition to being witty and extremely funny, it also raises some serious issues: the fact that Sarah Palin does not support a woman’s right to choose, that she wants to cut unemployment benefits, and that she vehemently opposed healthcare reform.  The video is important because it is a reminder of just how many women Sarah Palin does not represent—that just because Palin is a woman and a mother does not mean that she has the support of all women or all mothers, or that she has any particular special knowledge about leading a country from being a woman or a mother. Or that she even has the best interest of women and mothers at heart. Although it is very strategic of Palin to emphasize that she and the candidates that she supports are women, and to paint it as if consequently all women should support her, there is more to a candidate than his or her gender: politicians should be elected based on their ideas and opinions, not their sex. If a woman candidate happens to be particularly interested in reproductive rights and education because she is a woman or a mother, then all the more reason to support her, but if she supports policies that would actually harm women (as a I believe she does) then her gender should play no role in the decision of choosing who to vote for.

Watch the video, share it with your friends, and then go out and vote for candidates in November—not because they are “Mama Grizzlies” but because they support policies that will benefit you, your family, and this country as a whole. Don’t be afraid that the grizzly bears will rise on their hind legs and come get you.

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My friend Becca, along with some of her Orthodox Jewish Day School friends/co-tichel cuties created a pretty intense fusion of Lady Gaga and traditional Orthodox concepts (the wearing of the tichel – garb for married women, preparing for Shabbat, and the waiting for the Messiah). This is not a likely combination so that’s probably why it has been getting so much attention in the blogosphere, both positive and negative.

I think this mixture of feedback is due to a general confusion of the purpose of the video. Three Orthodox Jewish high school students translating Jewish ritual into Gaga – is this a parody? Are they making fun of Orthodox Judaism? Or are they portraying their lives/futures through this witty medium?

Renee at The Sisterhood questions, “Well, it may be kosher, but it’s not so innocent. The sexual overtones — not to mention some of the lyrics — in this video caused me to be pretty sure that this is all a satire. … Right?”

The confusion is understandable, but these girls deserve a chance to explain their project for themselves. So, I asked Becca for the story behind Tichel Cuties and here are her answers:

Why did you and your friends create this music video? What is its purpose?

My friends and I were suffering from the boredom that comes along with being second-semester seniors (at least two of us were, the other girl is a sophomore), and we decided that we would turn our love for Lady Gaga into a project. We already had the line “ra ra roll the challah,” but I can’t quite remember where the line came from. Once we had that first line, the project just took off.

What message are you trying to convey?

Our main point was to have some fun with traditional Jewish concepts – like tichels (hair coverings) and mashiach (the Jewish redemption). To be honest, the video is a bit of a spoof – poking some fun at the Jewish world – but it is all in good fun.

What are the contradictions present in the project?

Well, firstly, none of us are married, yet we are wearing hair coverings, which is required of married Jewish women. Also, as many angry youtube watchers pointed out, we are breaking the Jewish law of Kol Isha, which says that a man cannot hear the voice of a woman. Although many people keep this law to different degrees, many men would be opposed to girls singing in a video. This was funny because in our religiously themed video, we were breaking laws, according to some.

What does this say about Orthodoxy? Young Orthodox Jewish women?

I think that the reactions of some ultra-orthodox Jews show the negative side of Orthodoxy–that sometimes with extreme religiousness comes a lack of ability to accept others. The fact that many orthodox people openly disliked our videos reveals their closed-mindedness. It’s very upsetting to hear that people accuse us of breaking laws, when they are breaking the most important law: Loving your neighbor as you love yourself. This is why we consider ourselves to be modern-orthodox–we are not afraid to have fun with old cultures and to blend them with fads in popular culture.

What reactions do you hope people will have?

I hope that people can get some laughs from the video. Of course, I find it quite exciting when people get angry about the video and call us “indecent,” but it would be nice to have a generally positive reaction.

Because I heard it from the source, but also because I’m a fan of subversive ways to express Judaism for women, I’m a fan of this video. And who’s calling these young Jewish women “indecent?” I think that what they’re doing – triggering a reaction from people whose cultures are often seen as outdated using contemporary culture is pretty genius to me.

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I’ve seen articles on this all around the blogging world, so I thought we should touch on it here (even though to me it partly just seems kind of funny.)

Basically, there’s a clash going on between the “hipsters” of Williamsburg, New York, and the Satmars, a group of Hasids who have been living there for more than 50 years. It’s been going on since Williamsburg became cool in the nineties, but in 2007, when a bike lane was built on the main road and women began riding on it while wearing, well, biking clothing, it was exacerbated. Then, a year later, the Hasids got the city to get rid of part of the bike lane, and some hipsters decided to repaint it, and the two sides have been even angrier at each other ever since (What a surprise)

To me, at least, the story doesn’t seem particularly exciting or out of the ordinary, when you consider that an extremely traditional group is being forced to mix with an extremely modern one, and vice versa, and that they are also in an owner/renter relationship. The Hasids own around 1/3 of the real estate in some of one of the North Williamsburg neighborhoods, and when money is involved, tensions always get worse.

But I guess to someone who is not used to hearing about ultra-Orthodox people in Israel throwing stones at other Jews for driving on Shabbat, the idea of people trying to get rid of a bike lane because women will ride on it and expose themselves seems absolutely foreign and absurd. And while I personally do believe that women should be allowed to wear what they want in public areas, I’m also very aware that it is a reality that in some areas they cannot. I know that as long as the Satmars have power (people want the Satmar vote, as they usually vote as a group, and votes=power), they’ll usually be able to get what they want. It happens in Israel, and so sure enough, it’s also happening in New York.

This is not to be entirely dismissive of the issue, as it is something that is affecting an entire community. However, I’m not really sure what should be done—how can you force a powerful, wealthy group of people who have already established lives in Williamsburg to go along with the new generation of hipsters? It’s not realistic to expect them to just go along with changes, because they don’t believe that they have to, and they most probably don’t, thanks to their vote.

So, I guess, it will be a story of time. With time, either enough newcomers will fill up Williamsburg that the Satmars will move elsewhere or, or as the article linked above touches upon, some of the Satmar population will split and move towards modernizing themselves.

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Stuff Jewish Young Adults Like #13: Writing About Themselves

It speaks for itself.

(Although these posts are also intended to elicit responses)

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