Originally posted on August 7, 2008
Today the leisure suit of the mid-to-late 1970s is rightly ridiculed. Many things were askew in those years of economic “malaise” and high interest rates. Most importantly for whites, the 1960s cultural revolution had settled into a prolonged assault on the cultural image of whites.
Needless to say, Hollywood was an enthusiastic participant in this assault. An interesting example is the movie Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase. Caddyshack is doubtless a trivial movie, but it has been heralded as one of the funniest movies of all time, and it continues to be shown endlessly in TV reruns.
Although the point is presumably lost on the vast majority of its audience, the real narrative of the movie is the Jew-as-outsider “comically” assaulting the WASP-as-insider. The setting of Caddyshack is apt, for the private country club represented one of the last bastions of WASP privilege.
Jewish resentment over WASP snobbery toward upwardly mobile Jews continues to rankle among Jews. For example, Jacob Heilbrunn emphasizes this resentment as a key motivator for the neocons who have been so influential in the current Bush administration. The early neocons attempted “to overturn the old order in America …. There were the fancy clubs, the legal and financial firms that saw Jews as interlopers who would soil their proud escutcheons and were to be kept at bay. Smarting with unsurpassed social resentment, the young Jews viewed themselves as liberators, proclaiming a new faith” (p. 28). The same could be said of Jews in Hollywood, doubtless including Harold Ramis, the director and a co-screenwriter of Caddyshack.
The tension in Caddyshack revolved around the way the uncouth Jew played by Rodney Dangerfield upset the elite country club’s leader, played by Ted Knight, creator of the Ted Baxter buffoon from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In Caddyshack, he reprised the role of a “vain, pompous, dim-witted” WASP. As Judge Smails, Knight was always an easy target. Read more