Oscar-Winning Film Contains Antisemitic Trope. Was it Deliberate?

Everything Everywhere All at Once has dominated this year’s Oscars, winning seven awards including best picture “in a major night for Asian and Asian American representation.”

Looking at the trailer, it looks like a fun romp:

But it is apparently not great for Jewish representation:

Everything Everywhere All At Once has debuted in the US to rip-roaring success – and deservedly so. The film, co-written and directed by the artistic duo known as Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), explores the tenuous relationship between a young queer woman Joy (Stephanie Hsu) and her mother Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) via a multiverse-hopping visual extravaganza that manages to tug on heartstrings while also being thrillingly entertaining.

Yet no film can escape critique – after all, that is literally our job. And with the breakneck news cycle of Twitter, it’s hard to escape the feeling that often mountains are made out of molehills.

But sometimes molehills are mountains – which in its own way was what Daniels were exploring through their film. As Kwan put it: “We wanted to firmly root the world in this space of microaggressions.” Minor Everything Everywhere All At Once spoilers follow.

One such microaggression is when Evelyn refers to a woman visiting the laundromat as ‘Big Nose’. The problem? Big Nose is Jewish. She’s not just Jewish (like your writer here), but every conceivable Jewish American Princess stereotype, played with hilarious aplomb by Jenny Slate.

Kwan said: “It was meant to be a world in which everyone was mean to each other, but not intentionally. There’s fat-shaming, there’s sexism, there’s racism, there’s just a lot of just microaggressions that come up from the fact that when you live a busy life and you’re so distracted, you just can’t see each other – you don’t see humans, you’re not afforded that time. By the end, when [Evelyn] has the power to see people fully you can really see [her] transformation.”

On the face of it, Big Nose is one of those microaggressions that fill Everything Everywhere All At Once, but unlike the others, it isn’t explored, rectified, or given context – it isn’t part of Evelyn’s transformation. This leads us to wonder if it was ever meant to be.

“I’m glad you’ve asked this question,” Scheinert says, and Kwan and Scheinert confirmed that Slate’s character was meant to have her own moment in the ’empathy fight’ as Kwan calls it.

“It was one of the disappointing things of having a movie that was bloated – we had to cut things. A couple of characters had to go and Jenny’s was one of them.”

According to the directors, the antisemitic trope was all a big accident:

Given the scene had to be cut, the microaggression of ‘big nose’ exists without any other context or growth, unlike the other examples. Kwan says: “One of the weird blind spots that happened was that in Chinese culture, everyone who is white is called ‘Big Nose’. It’s nothing to do with the Jewish people, which now we’re realising, ‘Oh, f**k’. This is like that weird alchemy that happened when we didn’t – we had gotten in a blind spot.”

“In China whenever a white person comes in, it’s something they might say. It’s simultaneously because for some reason China – like [other] Asian cultures – fetishise the big nose, they want a big nose and it’s also kind of mean-spirited. It’s a very strange, negging thing that we do.”

Now, Kwan says, they’re realising the problem: “Of course, the Jewish community could totally interpret it like that.”

“Understandably,” Scheinert says.

“Yeah, understandably. I was like, I don’t blame them for being – if they are – offended.” Kwan goes further, unprompted: “But now we’re realising: oh, the biggest offence of that whole thing is the fact that we just never gave her a proper name in the credits, right?”

Slate’s character is in fact listed as Big Nose in the credits. “It’s something we’re actually going to be changing for the digital release.”

“We’re not proud of that name,” Scheinert interjects.

“Yeah. Exactly. Firstly, it was like it was a shorthand because – out of our laziness. That’s what she was called in the movie, let’s call her that. But now we can see how dehumanising it is.

“It’s not lost on us the irony of the fact that a movie in which we’re exploring the fact that when things are too complicated and too messy, you miss each other, and hurt each other. And in this movie, in which we were holding [ourselves to a higher standard], we’re trying to do too much. We missed certain blind spots.”

Apparently, while this may sound farfetched, the “big nose” thing in Chinese culture is actually a thing.

Looking beautiful is interpreted, very frequently, as looking Western. This already has happened to some extent in Hong Kong and Japan, where the eyelid operations have been common for decades, but it is new and troubling to many in China.

The features that people seek from surgery – folded eyelids and rounder eyes, a more prominent nose or chin, larger breasts – are to some extent Western. Some Chinese still sneer at Westerners as ”big noses,” but others are willing to pay more than a month’s salary to get a larger nose.

The actress who plays the character has rejected the idea that the character had been ill-intentioned, and revealed that the directors had sent her an email when the controversy first surfaced.

Having said that, this is one hell of a blind spot. But I find it hard to believe that the directors would have done it deliberately, especially given that many of their peers in Hollywood are Jewish. Heck, director Daniel Scheinert might be Jewish himself.

Even if we give the directors the benefit of the doubt, why did someone else not point out how this was problematic before the movie was released? Are people truly this ‘color blind’ or just less concerned when it comes to perpetuating negative images of Jews?


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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