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Our Arrested Development

The Bluths, returning this weekend for a fourth season, are the Jewish world’s archetypal family

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Technically, just one of the characters in Arrested Development, the cult series embarking on its much-anticipated fourth season this weekend, is Jewish: the would be paterfamilias George Bluth Sr., who slaps on a yarmulke as soon as he ends up in prison, way back in the show’s early episodes. But look closer, and the Bluths—the whole lot of them—aren’t just Jewish, but classic archetypes of Jewish life. Each of them represents a sort we know too well, not only from our own families but also from the world at large. Here, then, is our field guide.

George Bluth Sr

George Bluth Sr.
Bernie Madoff
Bernie Madoff

Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert
. . .  is the grandpa you love, mock, admire, and despise. Careless, dashing, and felonious, he’s the guy we all want in charge until we realize he may have struck deals with Saddam Hussein, mistaking him for the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Signature quote: “My back is in knots. I haven’t had a massage since prison.”
G.O.B.

G.O.B.
Shmuley Boteach

Shmuley Boteach

David Mamet

David Mamet
. . .  is the brother you can’t believe you have. Like his magic illusions—never call them tricks—he’s impressive for the first five seconds, at which point you realize that his confidence is just a highly evolved form of madness. Signature quote: “If I can’t find a horny immigrant by then, I don’t deserve to stay here.”
Tobias Funke

Tobias Fünke
Thomas L. Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman
. . .  is the brother-in-law you can’t believe your sister married. Deeply committed to his ideas and his emotions, he fails to realize that they’re too idiosyncratic, and awkwardly put, to make much sense to those around him. Signature quote: “As a psychiatrist, I was a professional twice over—an analyst and a therapist. The world’s first ‘analrapist.’ ”
Buster

Buster
Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg
. . .  is that boy giving you creepy looks at Hebrew school. Fifty years ago, he’d been known as a nebbish. Free to pursue his worst tendencies, he’s to the spineless dweeb what Godzilla is to a newt. Signature quote: “These are my awards, Mother. From Army. The seal is for marksmanship, and the gorilla is for sand racing. Now if you’ll excuse me, they’re putting me in something called Hero Squad.”
Lindsay

Lindsay
Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni
. . .  is the girl in high school who didn’t realize she wasn’t as attractive as she’d imagined until it was much too late, at which point she was dependent on the kindness of strangers. Signature quote: “You know what? I’m going to throw on a skirt, take off my underwear, and make your Pop-pop proud!”
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Absolutely hilarious. Comparisons were too perfect.

Just a few nerd-thoughts:

1. I don’t know if it’s referenced directly, but I’m pretty sure the entire family is Jewish. There are a few scenes that seem to imply as much.

2. You should have totally included the mom. She really seems to me to embody an archetype of Jewish motherhood. You realize as the show goes on that she, in fact, controls everything in the business and family, as much as the father comes off as the leader. This is so classic, and has been shown in countless movies, most notably “Fiddler on the Roof”.

dizzyizzy says:

I can understand having fun with the characters of Arrested Development but to describe them as an archetypal Jewish family is appalling. Since when did Jewish intellectuals join the Jungians? Please brush up on antisemitic stereotypes: http://clarespark.com/2012/09/29/index-to-blogs-on-antisemitism/. (“blogs on antisemitism” including the paragraph that summarizes “the Jew” as the evil emblem of modernity). Bernie Madoff is not my uncle.

DoomsdayPicnic says:

Tablet article template: [Popular TV show/film] is totes Jewish because [spurious reasoning ensues.] Repeat until apathy sets in.

medar says:

No George Michael. disappoint

drorbenami says:

if a christian wrote this article he would be sued for being an antisemite….zipi livni is a whore ? liel liebowitz is the one who is sick !

drorbenami says:

if a christian wrote this article he would be sued for being an antisemite….zipi livni is a whore ? liel liebowitz is the one who is sick !

Avi says:

This is a really weak comparison that makes no sense. The Bluths may be schlemiels but they are basically WASPs. They’re blue bloods, not immigrants or outsiders.

John G. Maguire says:

I am just discovering the show on Netflix, and I love it. As a Catholic guy who was in love with one Jewish woman, then engaged to another, and then married to a third, before divorcing myself completely out of Jewish life, I’d say the intense co-dependency and endless manipulation of the Bluths reminds me of stuff I have seen in Jewish families from the New York and DC areas. It’s not the Catholic kind of weirdness that I know; it’s something different. The smothering co-dependency of the Bluths strikes me as funny but when I saw it for real in some of the Jewish families I was near, it was just unpleasant. Of course, deeply narcissistic people are truly yucky to be around and the closer they are to you, the worse it is. I know the Irish are not immune from insane narcissism–wish they were.

Mark OHIO says:

Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni? Most American Jews don’t even know who these people are. Try finding more relevant cultural touchstones for American Jews. Most people don’t walk around keeping up with Israeli politics.

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Our Arrested Development

The Bluths, returning this weekend for a fourth season, are the Jewish world’s archetypal family

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