Bad for the Jews

Scott Sherman

St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books

BARBRA STREISAND
The Multitalented Artist Whose Album Is in Your Mom’s Car CD Player Right Now
 

THE MOST GIFTED PERFORMER IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE
•  Winner of 2 Oscars, 8 Grammys, 4 Emmys, a Tony, an AFI Award, a Golden Globe, an NEA Award, a DGA Award, a Kennedy Center Honors, and a Peabody Award. And she deserves every damn one.
•  Has sold over 140 million records. Sadly, that means at least 5.6 billion people are still deprived of owning an album by Ms. Streisand.
•  Recording Industry Association of America’s top-selling female artist, as if it could be anybody else.
•  The only singer to have a number-one album in 5 straight decades, and yet the woman doesn’t look a day over … let’s say forty-two.
•  Established the Streisand Foundation to fund a wide range of social, civil, and environmental programs. If she were a Catholic, she’d already be Saint Barbra.
BUT NOBODY’S THAT GIFTED
•  Convinces fans to shell out thousands of dollars for farewell tours, then proceeds to do a comeback tour. What, you think we’re made of money?
•  Mere presence convinces every untalented Jew to believe they can become a star.
•  Too much with the politicking! Who elected you?
•  All those hiatuses. You know some of us have to work for a living.
•  The nails. Can we please get those under control, Barbra?
She stands proud, the gilded streaks in her hair framing every angle of her ageless Jewish countenance. With the faintest warble, her legions of fans snap to attention, their rivers of happy tears symbols of allegiance unmatched since horsehair-crested helmets graced Trojan warriors’ heads. She is the Jewish generalissima, the Queen of Princesses, the Babs. Barbra Streisand is bad for us because she is, regrettably, too good. Her talent and drive have inspired two, perhaps even three whole generations of latter-day Jewish divas … and they’re all annoying. Today, you can see them on shows like American Idol and Glee, but mostly you find them residing in your home and sharing your last name.
Granted, none of these off-brand and amateur Streisands have risen to any level of Babs-like commercial appeal, but that fact is what makes her even worse. Instead of professional hacks who quickly fade once they fail to become successful, those imitating Ms. Streisand’s shtick can’t be turned off or tuned out. They’re unavoidable and they never go away because, much to our chagrin, they live with us. They are our sisters, our aunts, our mothers, and, yes, sometimes our sons. Think of all the siblings who had to go to school unwashed because a sister’s watery, shower-based rendition of “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” took forever to complete. Consider the living rooms monopolized by re-creations of choreography from Hello, Dolly! Dare to add up the hours of your life lost to mandatory repeat viewings of The Prince of Tides.
Anybody who thinks it’s wonderful that so many Jewish girls aspire to be the next Barbra Streisand hasn’t spent any time with them. The endless pinched singing, the recitation of monologues from A Star Is Born, and the rambling fantasizing about how they will first star on Broadway before making the transition to film all ring in your ears for days. What those who live in a home with a Streisandette wouldn’t give to go back in time and convince the entertainer to follow her mother’s advice and become a typist. The cause of all the parroting, in part, is because Ms. Streisand’s Judaism is beyond contestation. In most cases, it is the repression of a star’s roots that makes them so infuriating to Jews, but Ms. Streisand is one of the few celebrities who you wish would tone down the yiddishkeyt and just sing. It’s the fusion of outward Jewishness and artistic ability that leads to countless Streisand numbers at Hebrew school talent shows and makes so many of us believe we could follow her path to fame. “Hey, I’m already halfway there as a Jew, and I won’t even have to get a nose job in order to be a star!” Unfortunately, what is never mentioned at temple, and never will be, is that genuinely artistically gifted people are one of the only groups who number fewer than the Jews.
Faulting Ms. Streisand for the horde of copycats who continually follow her is a bit like faulting the first Homo sapien for every sin committed by subsequent humans, and that’s more of a Christian thing. All she did was share her abilities with the world. She never demanded fans to emulate her atrociously. On the other hand, the songstress has a nasty habit of stoking the flames of her fandom with an endless string of farewell tours, comeback tours, more farewell tours, and more comeback tours. Every time Ms. Streisand changes her mind about whether or not she feels like working, a supernova of cosmic exhilaration blasts forth from her star and spreads over the children of Israel. Enrapt Jews race to their phones and computers, their credit cards practically entering themselves into a ticket order form. As the months before the tour kickoff turn to weeks and the weeks turn to days, middle-aged Jews prepare with ritualistic precision to meet Babs. Concert T-shirts are pulled from dressers and children are ordered to play “The Way We Were” on piano. The Jewish world stops spinning on its axis as we do whatever Ms. Streisand commands until she finally once more goes dormant to spend more time barbecuing with the Clintons and kissing James Brolin.

 
Copyright © 2011 by Scott Sherman