…the press has been all abuzz over the lawsuit recently slapped on John Travolta by a masseur claiming the star attempted to coerce him into unwanted sexual acts during a session at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Two steps forward, one step back. That’s progress, I guess.
Of all the tabloid press coverage on Massage-gate, there are two details that, er, popped up at me. One is the employment of positively J.K. Rowling-esque adjectives regarding the area in question: “solid eight inches … springy” making it sound like Hollywood’s second-most famous Scientologist purchased his, ahem, wand straight from Mr. Ollivander’s. (It chooses the wizard, you know.) The second is the still-unnamed masseur’s assertion of how Travolta explained how he learned to Stop Worrying and Love Transactional Same-Sex Liaisons: By accepting that Hollywood is controlled by “homosexual Jewish men” who expect sexual favors in return for career-related ones.
It may surprise you (although probably not) to hear that I have no quarrel with the airing of the trope that Jews are prominent, even dominant, in the movie industry. The reason for this is that it’s true, and saying it aloud no more makes John Travolta a Jew-hater than asserting that there are a lot of, say, African-American hip-hop artists makes one a racist. It’s not anti-Semitic to make a statement of fact; it’s anti-Semitic to imply that there’s something wrong with it. The real question raised by this statement is the linking of “homosexual,” a descriptor that is relevant to the particulars of the accusation at hand, with “Jewish,” which is not. What, indeed, does one thing have to do with the other? And what does the almost unconscious linking of the two—whether by Travolta or merely by the recollection or fabrication of his anonymous plaintiff—tell us about the nature of prejudice itself?