Around the end of 2003, when I had just graduated from college and consequently had both a lot of feelings and a lot of time on my hands, I fell in with a raucous group of hard-drinking poets who congregated in a small assortment of old-fashioned bars in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Together they would discuss literature, make terrible decisions, and most of all, read their work. I was desperate to be a part of the group because it was the closest approximation I have yet encountered to the world of Frank O’Hara, Dylan Thomas, and the glory days of the Cedar Tavern, et al. Then they started, inevitably, to invite me to read my own poems at the events they’d organize. I found myself suddenly in desperate need of a body of work in an art form I had never studied, knew very little about, and frankly, had almost no aptitude for.
So, I turned to the Internet and invented a kind of Dada-esque poetry machine: I’d type a few random and usually unrelated words into a search engine (e.g., “oboe,” “unicorn,” “gallbladder”) and then try to construct a poem out of the various sentence fragments my search would turn up. (And, for what it’s worth, if you were to actually run a Google search for “oboe unicorn gallbladder” right now, you’d be able to rip prose like, “Unicorn hobby horse” and “The Amazing Liver And Gallbladder Flush”).
When I was tired of that, I would instead ask Google some expansive, metaphysical question on the nature of the universe, such as “Why do trees exist?” “Is there a God?” or “What should I order in for dinner tonight?” and manipulate the answers into something that might, God willing, sound profound or at least generate a laugh that wasn’t totally at my expense.
That’s why it was with considerable amusement when I read that apparently Google has been asked a similar question—“Who runs Hollywood?”—which, as luck would have it, produced by rote an ostensibly unequivocal answer: “The Jews.”
This, naturally, has many Jewish panties on many Jewish bottoms firmly in a wad. We are a people uniquely—and probably wisely enough—sensitive to any sort of stereotyping of this nature. (And by “nature,” I mean the kind that leads to inflammatory cartoons where someone wearing a yarmulke is also an octopus encircling the globe with his slimy, Hebraic space tentacles). Google has promised to scrub any and all algorithms that might lead to this offensive conclusion, but as a Jewish denizen of Hollywood, I have to wonder: Is this really the best course of action?
Hollywood, to put it bluntly, is more popular now than since—well, since Jews actually owned Hollywood.
Don’t believe me? The next time you’re at a dinner party, attempting to converse with people you have never met before and are never likely to see again, just try and see if you can talk about anything except movies and TV shows. I bet you a hundred million dollars (which I don’t have, so don’t bother trying to collect) that you can’t. The entertainment industry has permeated our consciousness to the degree that it is our consciousness. For the better part of a century, from the Production Code and the Hays Office, nobody seems to have had a problem with that. Hollywood is no longer synonymous with vice and sin and all that is un-American or what Middle America likes to define as such. Hell, you can’t find a freaking doctor in this town who doesn’t have a script in a drawer somewhere just waiting for the right producer to take a chance on an unknown kid. Why wouldn’t Jews want to take credit for that?
Because here’s the God’s honest truth: Hollywood may not be a Jewish industry, at least not in the sense of the matzo trade or the circumcision-industrial complex, but the fact remains that it is an industry with a disproportionate number of Jews who work in it. That’s not an ugly stereotype, it’s just a fact, just as many Broadway chorus boys are gay, and many hip-hop musicians are African-American. It just is. Rather than running from the fact that the American Jewish community has had a tremendous hand in what is arguably the greatest import and indeed the greatest accomplishment of their country, why don’t we just own it? Literally. After all, if Google says it’s true, who are we to argue?
The Jews invented Hollywood. Deal with it, Peoria. And let me know where I can pick up my check.