Letterkenny is one of my all-time favorite shows. Debuting in 2016, it’s an ensemble comedy centering around four self-identified “hicks” living in northern Canada. It’s incredibly and immediately funny, as evidenced by the opening scene of the pilot episode going viral on YouTube, jump-starting the success of the show, which is now streaming on Hulu. The banter is unmatched and their use of Canadian slang is infectious. I’ll admit to integrating much of it into my own vocabulary, despite being American.
While they may start out less-than-progressive, many of the characters on Letterkenny have undergone a journey over the course of the show. My favorite character arc is that of Squirrely Dan, a once-cheeky stinker who, after enrolling in a gender studies course, becomes a vocal advocate for women’s rights. In another episode, the gang mercilessly beats down a group of white supremacists clutching tiki torches, set to classical music in a stroke of genius. It was one of the most cathartic moments in television I have ever experienced.
Then, Letterkenny broke my heart. In episode four of season nine, titled “Mitzvah,”, the show introduced its first canon Jewish character, a non-recurring hockey player named Avi Goldstein. Avi wears a yarmulke and a huge Star of David on a chain. This might be a little tacky but not unfounded; I’m sure we all have that uncle who loves his gold star or Chai drip. However, Avi “crushes mad bacon.” This is when my alarm bells started to go off. While it’s possible there are Jews out there who are observant enough to always wear a yarmulke but not keep kosher, it seemed to me a bit suspect. And then, as Avi’s character unfolds, it became clear that he is nothing but a misogynistic caricature.
Avi comes upon Riley and Jonesy, two hapless hockey players suffering from having “smashed every smash-able broad within 100 fiscal kilometers,” due to living in an isolated small town. Avi decides to introduce them to the Jewish dating app JSwipe as a “mitzvah.” He suggests they lie on their profiles, saying they’re looking to convert to Judaism. This is all in the interest, of course, of Jewish Girl Blowies.
When Avi uttered the phrase “Jewish Girl Blowies” I nearly fell out of my chair. There is so much to unpack in the moments that follow. Avi explains that Jewish girls are unlikely to have sex with you, playing into the tired stereotype that Jewish women are prudish. Before you ask — yes, he did have to explain that we don’t have sex through a sheet. However, Jewish Girl Blowies are easily attainable. Avi boasts of having received 200+ blowjobs from Jewish women. He explains that Jewish girls go to summer camp yearly where they practice their blowjobs for three months. “You could get really good at blowies on a program of that kind. You’d be Blowie Sevigny,” says Riley.
The contrasting stereotype that Jewish women are both prudish and promiscuous traces back to the concept of the Jewish American Princess (JAP). The JAP, obsessed with maintaining her status and habits as a shameless material consumer, uses sex as a means to an end; she entraps Jewish men to perpetuate access to wealth without earning it. Thus, her sexual advances are in the interest of manipulation rather than mutual pleasure. Her purported tendency towards blowjobs is derived from a lack of desire for sexual connection without reward (the promise of marriage). Thus, the stereotype asserts that Jewish women are sexual only in the interest of getting what they want. Their “talent” at blowjobs is developed as a husband-trap while sex is reserved for the husband that has been trapped, and only as a means of conception.
I know, pretty gross.
After the blowjob bit, Avi goes on to “explain Judaism” with the aid of a whiteboard. He remarks that Jews carry the responsibility of propagating the race — phrased as “smash to make new Jews” — but, I suppose, only after giving out a couple blowies to lying gentiles. After his presentation, he dubs Riley and Jonesy honorary Jews. I think we can all agree he had no right to do that, and on behalf of real Jews, we don’t claim them. We don’t claim Avi, either.
Avi’s respect for Jewish women is non-existent and contrary to his express values. His loyalty to other Jews seems to be overshadowed by his loyalty to two horny hockey players who, earlier in the episode, admit to having forgotten meeting him previously. He congratulates himself for his “mitzvah” of getting them laid.
Jacob Tierney, one of the writers and creators of the show, calls himself a “queer, half-Jewish guy from Montreal,” which for the record, is no excuse to propagate these gross stereotypes about Jews. The aggressive dehumanization of Jewish women in particular is shocking and disappointing. The episode’s reliance on these stereotypes is harmful at its worst, and lazy writing at its best.
In the end, Riley and Jonesy pass on Jewish Girl Blowies in the interest of seducing hot moms, which Avi applauds. After all the hyping up/degradation, Jewish girls don’t even get any dick. The underlying message seems to be that Jewish women are easy when they have to be, prudish by nature, and ultimately undesirable.
I left the episode shocked and exhausted. Letterkenny was once able to be progressive and funny in the same breath. Its treatment of Jews surprised me in contrast to its advocacy for other marginalized groups. As a Jewish woman, I felt betrayed and degraded by the show that I had come to love.