Interfaith Marriage on the Small Screen

The stereotypes of interfaith marriage have returned to television, albeit to Showtime on cable TV. Admittedly, Weeds is a peculiar series in which a young widow resorts to selling marijuana to support herself and her young children. And perhaps a mention of this series in the JOI blog gives it a dignity that it doesn’t deserve, but it does attract millions of viewers. And it has become part of the pop culture landscape of North America.

Following a rather long hiatus from the conclusion of its last season, lengthened by the Hollywood writer’s strike, two-thirds of the season premiere focused on the fact that the widowed woman (Nancy Botwin, played by Mary-Louise Parker), who plays the lead role in the series, is not Jewish (although her late husband Judah was). She is despised by her husband’s Jewish family, particularly her father-in-law (Len Botwin, played by Albert Brooks), who makes his debut during this episode.

The intermarriage jabs go back and forth for about 10 minutes and although they are laced with ironic humor (For example, Brooks refusing to acknowledge Parker by referring to her as not-Francie, the Jewish woman his son should have married and who eventually married a cantor), it is a painful reminder of how some families remain stuck in their attitudes toward children who have intermarried.

I find it fascinating that this becomes the focal point of the season debut for this series as the issues of interfaith marriage continue to take center stage on and off the screen. I guess if everyone got along it wouldn’t make for good television. But for the millions of people who live in the context of intermarriage, it just ain’t funny.

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