To Shiva or to Not Shiva

During the season finale of Indebted “Everyone Talks about the Shiva”, we see a newlywed couple who are also new homeowners that live with the husband’s parents. This is the opposite of the norm from children in their 30s who live with their parents as, instead, the parents live with their children. Debbie and Stew are the parents who unfortunately had mishandled their finances and turned up at their son’s door, broke. The younger generation of the Klein family is upper middle class with a beautiful house. The whole family is Jewish. In this episode, they enforce the trope that Jewish mothers act more authoritative around their family.

Debbie is the mom, and is portrayed as the loud character. From the beginning of the episode, we can see she is obviously in charge of the house, even though it is not hers. When she tells her son, Dave, that his uncle is coming to stay at the house last minute, Dave is shocked and angered that he just found out that his uncle Arty is coming over. He claims, “you need to tell me this stuff”, in which Debbie replies “I did… just now”. As we can see from very early on, she considers herself the decision maker in her son’s home, not realizing the effects her actions have on others. This leads to the stereotype that Jewish mothers are very controlling in their children’s lives, it seems as no matter how old their child is their mother will always administrate their lives. Non-Jewish children may react by criticizing Jewish moms like Debbie who seem to be all up in their kids’ business. Also, Non Jewish parents may react the opposite and feel shamed for not being as involved in their children’s lives as characters like Debbie.

Uncle Arty announces the death of a family member, since the Klein family is Jewish they sit Shiva. Debbie tells Rebecca, her daughter in law, “Since we’re living in your house, I thought it’s time for me to pass the torch to you.” Rebecca is very touched by this and it seems like a very big bonding moment for the two. Debbie even gives Rebbeca her famous Shiva shawl, but not the matching shoes Debbie says: “there are shoes to match but your feet are too big”. This gives the impression that even though Deb passed down the torch to throw the Shiva, she’s not ready to let go of it all. Metaphorically, she’s not allowing Rebecca to put herself in Deb’s shoes as the hostess. Debbie is still holding onto her job of organizing the observation of Shiva even though she passed it down. Debbie also is very upset when her son is opposed to hosting Shiva. They seem to come to an agreement when Debbie says “Dave if you don’t want to throw the Shiva, don’t. You’ll do the next one. Because it’ll be mine because you will kill me if you don’t take back the torch”. After some bickering back and forth that Debbie turns to screaming, Dave and Rebbeca take the torch of hosting. Debbie does not handle this disagreement very well and even talks in an extreme way by bringing up death. Debbie claims that her son will kill her because he doesn’t want to throw the Shiva seems a bit overdramatic. It’s very hard for Debbie to change the traditions. This can show the audience that Jewish mothers cherish traditions and are overdramatic to any form of change.

It is very clear to Debbie that the specific traditions of Shiva must be passed down. She gives Rebecca and Dave her silver tea service, the family china, and the chafing dishes. When Rebecca respectfully declines and claims she has her own china, Debbie does not back down, until she makes Rebecca feel inferior for not having the right hosting equipment. Also, when Rebecca tries to change up the menu to kugel empanadas, Debbie responds in disgust with “kugel empanadas? Rebecca, a woman is dead.” Stew, Debbie’s husband, reminds Debbie of her first Shiva and how his mother was judging her decisions “You had to make it (the Shiva) your own and there’s a tradition of bucking traditions”. Also, Stew adds “Relax let Rebecca do her thing” “I can’t relax Stewie I’m not happy”, is Debbie’s response. One aspect I found interesting throughout the show was the switch in gender roles of Stew and Debbie. Even though Debbie had encountered Stew’s Jewish mother who criticized Debbie when she hosted her first Shiva all those years ago, Stew was always the one who tried to calm Debbie down and let their children make their own choices for their first Shiva. This is a cultural transmission that the women are the more caring and understanding gender. It portrays Jewish women as the more rigid gender.

In conclusion, Indebted does not show a quality piece of media. Firstly, the episode focuses on one set family with not a lot of outside characters, during a family religious event, there is not a lot of diversity between family members. Second, the show was obviously made for entertainment purposes solely. It’s a great show to have on in the background or for when you need a break during the day. Third, it portrays Jewish mothers as very present in their children’s lives.This can cause non-Jewish parents to feel inferior for not supervising their children more. Furthermore, if non-Jewish parents start acting like Jewish mothers, Debbie in particular, this could cause their children to start resenting their parents. As we can see in the episode when Dave gets so excited that his parents are moving out he starts screaming and cussing during the Shiva. Another example of this stereotype was in the show Friends; Ross and Monica’s mother was always criticizing Monica but praised her son. While being a Jewish mother is not an offensive trop, it’s definitely one to take notice of in these shows. It is important to make it known that the media portrays that Jewish mothers have good intentions for their children, but it seems like they always care about their own agenda more.