We watched a PBS mystery last night, one of the Jericho series, starring the non-Jewish (as far as we know) Robert Lindsay. But suddenly, in the middle of the unfolding plot, a colleague in the police department, who’s out to get Inspector Jericho, challenges him by calling him a “Yid.”
There’s silence and tension. The Jericho character would clearly like to retaliate, but the other guy – named Christie; a coincidence? – is bigger. Our hero brushes past him, telling his partner, who had wanted to intervene, to let it go.
I have no idea why the creators of the series made Jericho Jewish. Perhaps they are Jewish themselves (I haven’t had time to track them down). Perhaps they thought his Jewishness added vulnerability, decency, empathy to an otherwise ordinary policeman.
The word Yid – or Jude, or just plain Jew – is often used as a slur, with layers of foul meanings accrued from anti-Semitic centuries. It was an unpleasant reminder on an escapist TV show – but I guess it gave the character depth.