Okay guys, time for a true tale from San Diego Comic Con. If you don’t know, I go there every year for work. It’s a five-day whirlwind of assertive geekdom and nighttime galavanting. Sometimes you meet some pretty odd people.
For most of the event, I was on my feet demoing a particular game to passersby (passerbies?). At one point, I was approached by a young man of typically awkward carriage, who attempted to engage me in conversation.
“What’s the deal with that?” he abruptly asked, gesturing to the enormous recreation of the Duck Tales money vault behind me. It’s the one Scrooge used to swim around in, if you ever watched the show. A promotional photo op for the upcoming Duck Tales Remastered game, which, for the record, was not what I was demoing. I was just near it.
“Well, you know Duck Tales?” I asked.
“Oh, of course.”
“Yeah, it’s that. You can hop in there and get your photo taken.”
“Oh, so it’s just for pictures?”
He abruptly changed the subject, as people sometimes do when they’re awkward. 90% of social grace lies in easing that accelerator. “Scrooge McDuck is such a great character.”
“Yeah!” I said. “You know, they really nailed his facial expression in this game. He just looks so at peace, no matter what peril or misfortune befalls him. He’s in a zen place.”
This sprite has magic healing powers, I tell you.
“Well, he’s making money,” said the guy.
“He’s the ultimate Jew.”
At this spot I suppose a moment of silent contemplation is in order.
I can go ahead and confirm on record that I am not the ultimate Jew, though I am a Jew. And while I’d love to believe that the path to becoming one ironically lies in putting oneself in a zen place, I think he was playing to the notion that Jews are supposed to be money-obsessed. It was actually relatively late in life that I ever even caught wind of this stereotype (I may have been a legal adult by the time), but what bothers me isn’t that the nerd had a bad opinion of Jews; what bothers me is the unshakeable suspicion that he probably didn’t know what a Jew is.
To be fair, the notion of an ethno-religious group is perhaps a bit nebulous and undoubtedly foreign to many Americans and non-Americans. What I suspect is that this person didn’t really even know what a Jew was, and had only really heard of them in the context of the stereotype. If you’d asked him what a Jew was, he might have scratched his head and said, “Aren’t they those people everybody says are obsessed with money?” He may have also added something about complaining, bagels, or hating Jesus–not because he feels that way about Jews, but because that’s the only context in which they’ve ever come up for him. A surprisingly plausible scenario for a reclusive nerd of middle America. Or even San Diego.
I guess Jewishness kind of occupies a weird space. If it were some other character with some other trait, I wonder if he would have been just as comfortable saying “He’s the ultimate Asian” or “He’s the ultimate Italian” or “He’s the ultimate black guy.” Do these have varying degrees of acceptableness?
I didn’t take personal offense as though this individual were making a slight against Jews, but it bothered me that such stereotypes are so normalized that 1) he immediately thought of it, 2) he immediately thought to blurt it out, and 3) it didn’t even cross his mind that the kind of Jewish-looking guy he was talking to might be Jewish, or 4) that even if I was Jewish, this was somehow an okay thing to say. Is it because Jewish people are perceived as a denomination of white people (and he was one) and thus fair game for jabs? Is it because he thought of it as a positive stereotype?
My response was a tooth-gritting “That’s. . . not so cool, man.”
He blanched and mumbled, “Eh. . . whatever.”
This is a type of response typical of both embarrassed people and sociopaths. He probably meant to say “I’m sorry,” but he might have just not cared.
In a shocking coincidence, a coworker of mine later uncovered the following video footage of this very same guy, wreaking even further havoc with a representative from game peripheral (controllers, etc.) makers MadCatz (who were admittedly not being very diplomatic themselves).
Man! I suspect this guy has incited more than a few knuckle realignments in his time, but in the end I feel the most valuable lesson to take away from all of this is the one written on Scrooge’s face.
Just look at that punim. ❤ Be like the duck.
Besides, if ANYONE on Duck Tales is supposed to be a Jew, it’s obviously Duckberg. Lolllllljk that’s a place.