Short thoughts on the short film The Pity Card
Director - Bob Odenkirk
I would file Odenkirk's 12 minute film, playing at the Sundance Festival, next to the 'survivor' episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the 'tolerance museum' episode of South Park and Sarah Silverman's 'Jesus is Magic' as a prime example of the new format of 'post-holocaust' comedy -comedy that pokes fun of the sanctity of holocaust memory.
The film speaks to a particular post-holocaust museum/holocaust education paradox: The American Jew desires to be associated with the holocaust in order to recieve the empathy of other Americans - but also wants to be detached from the holocaust in order to be seen as 'normal.'
In Odenkirk's short film, he deploys the stereotypical hollywood couple - the nebischy Jewish kid trying to impress the dumb blond. (think Jazz Singer 1927) But instead of acting cool (i.e. Black) to get the girl, here the protaganist stumbles into a situation in which he realizes that pity - in this case his grandparents survivor status - can help him get the girl. After telling his all-American white boy sidekick about taking her to the holocaust museum on a first date, he sees her at a party. All is well when the young couple are in private, but when she begins to tell a group of friends at the party about how much she is learning about the holocaust and says 'isn't that right Simon?" he inadvertantly says "I don't fuc*ing care about the holocaust! Let's just turn on the music and have a drink and get drunk...." And thus, he loses the girl. In the end, he wins the true prize, friendship with the sidekick, who is, of course, trying to figure out what his pity card is - a difficult task for many a Southern White boy.
The film, which is well acted and shot, is funny. I laughed from beginning to end. But on reflection, I have to say that the depiction of the third generation of survivors is not convincing. When I think of my friends whose grandparents are survivors, what I've seen is not a diminshing of the emotional impact of the Shoah - but the exact opposite. Many survivors kept their anguish, rage, and despair bottled up in order to survive. Children of survivors are left deeply scarred - and the rates of depression and suicide are alarming. Their children, sadly, are impacted - often in ways that they only come to terms with in early adulthood. Perhaps the protaganist in The Pity Card is simply immature and clueless - and maybe he did not have a close relationship to the parent who was a child of survivors. But as much as I enjoyed this short filck, and laughed at the central premise of a guy who 'almost used the holocaust to get laid' I found it to be dishonest. Some people may be 'over' the holocaust - but those who were raised by children of survivors are rarely among them.