‘Gidget,’ John Hughes, and the Whitewashing of Jewishness in Pop Culture

Photo by Netflix

This whitewashing of Jewishness out of pop culture is an old, old story, and it isn’t specific to camp movies; it’s true of plenty of other Hollywood representations of American teens, too. The Czech Jew who wrote the novel that was the basis for Gidget (1959) was inspired by his own surfing daughter, Kathy Kohner, who went on to marry a scholar of Yiddish literature—but that didn’t make it into the sequels. One could even argue that a substantial element of John Hughes’ magic was to take places and performers that could be read as specifically Jewish—Skokie, Illinois, in Sixteen Candles, say, or Matthew Broderick, who not long before becoming Ferris Bueller played Eugene Morris Jerome in Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs—and render them approachably all-American, neither too WASPy nor Jewish per se.

Josh Lambert writing for Tablet Magazine about Wet Hot American Summer and its recent Netflix revival. According to Lambert, unwhitewashed Jewishness and its humor remain at the heart of both versions of Wet Hot American Summer.

Read the story