Shtisel and Jane Austen

Shtisel and Jane Austen

How many of you have seen the film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Swap out “Greek” and insert “Argentine” and you would have a clear picture of my family. Every character reminded me of a relative; every embarrassing scenario was relatable and every corny saying sounded familiar. The movie had my family in stitches. We laughed, we cried, and we pointed fingers at each other, saying: That is so you! This movie, in fact, was one of three impactful works that played a part in my writing (the other two were I Remember Mama and Fiddler on the Roof). I aspired to accomplish something in that same vein and wrote my first book, With Love, The Argentina Family~ Memories of Tango and Kugel, Mate with Knishes.

Interestingly enough, I came across a blog post that spoke of the similarities in between Pride and Prejudice and Fiddler on the Roof. Both stories feature five daughters, three of which are married by the end of the piece.

Both showcase awkward scenes of rejected marriage proposals. The mother and father relationship in Fiddler shares similar characteristics with those in P & P.

Both stories have forbidden love and worries of losing one’s home. In short, this author spoke to my love of meshing the world of Period Dramas and Jewish Historical Fiction. In all fairness to the original post, I encourage you to take a peek at it here: https://dejareviewer.com/2016/02/02/fiddler-on-the-roofs-story-is-in-the-grand-tradition-of-pride-and-prejudice. Read it and tell me if you don’t agree. An Anglican woman in England and a Jewish man in Imperial Russia wrote two very different stories that are remarkably the same, and remarkably relatable to a wide and diverse audience.

Last week, I binged on the third season of Shtisel. Have you heard about it? It is a hit show on Netflix. I devoured the entire season in two days. No doubt, you’re wondering why I’m writing about a modern-day series that evolves around a Haredi family living in Israel. You’re rolling your eyes at this point thinking. You’re thinking: I signed up for a blog that is all things Austen—why is she writing about Shtisel-mania? Good question; but before I answer, I have a question for you…

How many Jane Austen variations are there in the Fan Fiction world? I couldn’t even begin to tell you, but I know this: Keep her storyline and exchange the Anglican family with a Hindu family, a Black family, a Jewish family; or even a family of Zombies, you still get an Austenesque novel. Austen’s work centered around her commentary about the human condition. She used humor and irony to make her point. She wrote about heartaches, financial concerns, and dysfunctional families. Her stories are still relevant to millions of people around the world who are not necessarily English, Anglican, or actually living in the Regency era. 😉

Shtisel has taken the world by storm and it has many people scratching their heads in wonder. How is it possible that in today’s society, where everything goes and everything is permissible, a story about an ultra-orthodox Jewish family is a Number One hit? They dress modestly. They have strict dietary restrictions. The roles for women and men are clearly defined. But, take away all the trappings, the clothes, the language, the seemingly archaic rules, and exchange them with any other culture or religion and you still get the very essence of the show. The humanity remains. The power of the emotions expressed and experienced by these characters are universal.

Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on. Those three or four families are the mind we knew intimately – the landed gentry, the upper classes, the lower classes, not only the industrial masses, but also the agricultural laborers.”

Jane Austen- in a letter to her niece

Jane Austen’s trademark was her knack for realism. She didn’t write about the Napoleonic Wars or earth-shattering catastrophes. She wrote about those “three or four families in a country village.” She wrote about the world around her, knowing that life’s every-day “little dramas” were sufficient fodder to get her point across. Her work has been inspirational and Shtisel is working the same magic. Its triumph is in sharing a common story, focusing on Universal Truths to which we all can relate. How could I not aspire to do the same?

9 Responses to Shtisel and Jane Austen

  1. I don’t have cable so… however, I do agree that Austen is transferrable to anywhere, anytime period, and any ethnic group. Well done in presenting that comparison. Blessings on all your hard work. Stay safe, and healthy.

  2. Great post and interesting insights. Thanks so much for showing me a different angle on P&P that rings so true!

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