Beliefs Culture

‘Princesses’ embraces a stereotype and leaves some Jews uncomfortable

PRINCESSES: LONG ISLAND -Pictured: (l-r) Chanel Omari, Ashlee White, Casey Cohen, Joey Lauren. Photo by Giovanni Rufino/Bravo / courtesy NBC

(RNS) Meet Amanda, Casey, Ashlee, Chanel, Joey and Erica. They spend their time and their parents’ money shopping for designer labels, searching for rich husbands and lounging by the pool with a glass of wine in hand.

"Princesses: Long Island" Logo. Photo by Bravo/courtesy NBC

“Princesses: Long Island” logo. Photo by Bravo/courtesy NBC

They’re self-admitted “Jewish American Princesses,” and Bravo’s built a whole reality series, “Princesses: Long Island” around their exploits. The show follows six unmarried 20-something Jewish women living with their parents on New York’s Long Island. The first two episodes were titled “You Had Me at Shalom” and “Shabbocalypse Now.”

“Everybody has a stereotype of a Long Island Jewish girl,” cast member Ashlee White said on the show’s June 2 premiere. “People get so offended! I’m like, ‘Bring it.’ I’m Jewish, I’m American, and I’m a princess.”

And that’s where some Jews — and even some Long Islanders — have a problem.

“Most offensive to me is the further perpetuation of the old ‘Jewish American Princess’ stereotype,” said Reform Rabbi Marci Bellows of Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh, N.Y. It’s a form of self-hatred that always makes her cringe, she said.

“It is even worse when we showcase these stereotypes to people of other religions and cultures. Jewish women can be strong, independent, and wise — a fact missing from this terrible show.”

Bellows said a number of her female colleagues are upset at the show’s depiction of Jewish women as overly dependent, spoiled and concerned only with finding a rich husband.

“I think most of us just hope the show will have poor ratings and be canceled,” Bellows said.

It’s the latest installment in a string of religiously themed reality series like “Breaking Amish” and “Sister Wives.” The “docu-series,” as Bravo calls it, depicts extreme characters chosen for their ability to fill a stereotype.

PRINCESSES:  LONG ISLAND - Season 1 - Pictured: (l-r) Erica Gimbe, Chanel Omari, Amanda Bertoncini, Casey Cohen, Joey Lauren, Ashlee White. Photo by Alex Martinez/Bravo / courtesy NBC

Princesses: Long Island – Season 1 – Pictured: (l-r) Erica Gimbe, Chanel Omari, Amanda Bertoncini, Casey Cohen, Joey Lauren, Ashlee White. Photo by Alex Martinez/Bravo / courtesy NBC

Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, said the show is part of an emerging genre.

“You take a group of people and you deliberately cast and shoot and edit it so that it kind of fulfills the thesaurus of stereotypes that we’ve been hearing for a long time about those groups,” Thompson said.

Many Jews see the “princess” stereotype as derogatory; calling a young Jewish woman a “JAP” is not usually meant as a compliment.

Conservative Rabbi Leslie Schotz of Long Island’s Bay Shore Jewish Center said she thought about confronting the women on the show for their shameful behavior.

“I would love to have a counter-reality show to say what the truth really is,” Schotz said.

It’s not just Jews who are upset — some Long Islanders are, too, especially after White referred to the village of Freeport as “ghetto.” She has since apologized about her commments on her Bravo blog.

One Freeport woman created a petition, which has more than 500 supporters, urging Bravo to cancel the show. Similarly, a Facebook page with nearly 5,000 likes is pushing the public to boycott the show, and helped organize a public protest in Freeport last week.
PRINCESSES: LONG ISLAND -Pictured: (l-r) Chanel Omari, Ashlee White, Casey Cohen, Joey Lauren. Photo by Giovanni Rufino/Bravo / courtesy NBC

Princesses Long Island – Pictured: (l-r) Chanel Omari, Ashlee White, Casey Cohen, Joey Lauren. Photo by Giovanni Rufino/Bravo / courtesy NBC

“It’s hard for that to trump all the people who just keep watching,” Thompson said of the boycott. “Some of whom, by the way, watch it because they find a certain appeal in being outraged.”

Rep. Steve Israel, who represents a congressional district in central Long Island, is boycotting the show, and hopes others will join him. Israel, who’s Jewish, said the show fuels anti-Semitic stereotypes that “Jews have spent thousands of years trying to dispel,” mainly that they are materialistic and money-hungry.

Those hoping the show gets canceled may be in luck; ratings for the June 16 episode dropped by 100,000 from the previous week, down to 780,000 viewers at its 9 p.m. time slot, according to Nielsen TV Ratings. A rerun of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” meanwhile, brought in more than 2 million.

NBCUniversal, which owns the Bravo network, declined to comment, as did the Anti-Defamation League, which typically keeps a close eye on negative portrayals of Jews in the media.

Thompson said the show shouldn’t be seen as a window into Jewish-American life, even if viewers might glean bits and pieces of it from the show.

“What gets privileged and what gets emphasized is certainly not representative of some general set of characteristics about this population,” he said.

About the author

Corrie Mitchell


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  • Of course, it’s been fine to stereotype Catholics for decades through the images of the Italian mafia by often portraying characters cast against religious symbols and the hideous “Jersey Shore.” After all, the majority of Italians are Catholic.
    Certainly, the Mormons have had a good sense of humor with the Broadway show that they have been subjected to.

    What is the big deal about this show; any intelligent person knows that there are SOME Jews like this, and certainly not all. Take a look at the Orthodox Jews–could they be more opposite.

    I would like to see a show satirizing Islamics, but no one will dare.

  • Leo, I remember when the JAP meme had some currency 35 year ago. It was clear that someone was trying to make a buck off of it, and it was clearly offensive even to this Catholic.

    As for the Mafia, no one is going to accuse Patrick O’Connor of being a made man simply because he is Catholic. I agree that Italian-Americans have labored under undue suspicion, but being Catholic wasn’t the cause of it.

    As for the “Book of Mormon” show, I think many Mormons are unhappy with it. Perhaps many are willing to grin and bear it, but consider the Catholic reaction to the play “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You.” Many Catholics were willing to put up with the satire, but many were offended at the same time.

    As for Muslims, why would you want to watch a play or musical satirizing any religion which is not your own? Is there any noble motive, let alone charitable feeling, which would justify such a thing?

    The “Princesses” show is as wrong, as was the show “Sr. Mary Ignatius,” as is the show “The Book of Mormon.” As in-group humor, they may work. But when taken to the general public, who do not share in the experiences of the characters, then these shows become problematic.

  • Boycotts work:
    The Show & creators & actors.
    The Network
    The Parent Network
    The Sponsors of the above
    Other shows by the above
    Much programming is offensive, so this goes for the gamut of shows. There’s no product you can’t do without; no brand that is better than all the rest.

  • I am an Episcopalian woman,a mother,a grandmother and what I find totally offensive about this show is the blatant disregard of these young women when it comes to their reputations and the reputations of their families. It has nothing to do about the religious beliefs but it has everything to do with the way they actually conduct themselves in public and this on national t.v. no less. I would love to tell these young women to tone down their drinking and their other habits as they are definitely making fools of themselves and also their families. Ms Ashley seems to have the world at her feet, her parents are lovely and they fret over her,but Ms Ashley has to realize that she is now 30 and not a teenager and should not behave like one. You young women are an embarrassment to yourselves. Remember, your reputation is like a finely guarded jewel. Once it gets taken it is gone forever.
    This has NOTHING to do with religious beliefs. I mean, after all, that Jersey Shore show and those drunken “kids” brought Gov Mr Christie to a nearly apoplectic state and they were of Italian descent,and in all probability, Roman Catholic. There is a time and place for everything,including drinking and drinking to access,and this show makes you appear as future AA members.
    Sorry,ladies,but I sure am glad that none of you is my daughter.

  • Shahs of Iran seems more dignified than Princesses. Princesses is just short for JAP. This stereotype is destructive and undermining. Shahs of Iran in a way breaks the stereotype that all who practice Islam do so in only one way. Shahs of Iran shows that this segment of the population can be just as selfish and arrogant as the rest of us in the lowest possible common denominator. A positive aspect of Shahs of Iran is that Jews, Muslims and Christians get along. Princesses is a very very very very cheap shot at Jewish women. It undermines Jewish women for profit. This is unacceptable.

  • This show is an embarrassment for young working students like myself who just want to go ahead in life and not be a burden for my parents shame on bravo an on this girls specially Ashlee, I am 21 years going to colleague and working two jobs. To support myself and my education.