I have a lot of thoughts about the Nice Jewish Guys calendar, though they can probably be summed up neatly enough by the combination of two sounds: a short, sharp “ugh,” and a longer, more drawn-out “uhhh.” Still, each year I pin it up at my desk at work (it lists the Jewish holidays!), and try to get beyond the cringe-factor to enjoy some retaliatory male objectification. It usually takes about a month to get to that point, and by then I have to start all over.
It looks like I’m not the only one with mixed feelings about the calendar, which was created by TV producer Adam Cohen and is now made in partnership with Jewish online dating behemoth JDate. Duncan Pflaster, a New York-based playwright, took matters into his own hands, posting a Craigslist ad last month looking to cast potential pin-ups for a dueling 2015 “Naughty Jewish Boys” calendar. According to the New York Post, though, the nice guys’ lawyers didn’t take this too kindly, promptly sending a cease-and-desist letter to Pflaster, calling him out for the very naughty act of trademark infringement.
Pflaster, who is not Jewish himself, says on the Naughty Jewish Boys website that while he found Cohen’s enterprise “sweet and adorable,” he was “longing for a bit more spice.” His calendar promises a whole lot of Semitic spice, with 12 months-worth of shirtless men donning various ritual garb. “Some shoots will be holiday-themed, others will just be sexy Jewish men,” the website explains. An “extra-naughty” version will feature men “wearing just a yarmulke and a smile.”
I called my favorite intellectual property lawyer, whose pro-bono work I’m pretty sure includes fielding random calls from me and having to repeat phrases like “Naughty Jewish boys” in her office. She pointed out that while it is very much a trademark issue—the nice Jewish boys, naturally, trademarked their name—the cultural ubiquity and descriptiveness of the phrase may lessen their legal protection over it.
So will naughty or nice prevail? Will Howie Mandel’s son Alex reprise his pin-up role in the new calendar? Will we have to keep talking about these calendars? I have absolutely no idea.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.