Week 9: Gentleman’s Agreement

A Gentleman’s Agreement took place in 1947 and portrayed the life of Phillip Green, a reporter living in New York with his son and mother.  Green is a journalist in a newspaper that is considered to be liberal.  He is given the assignment of writing on anti-semitism and at first he is hesitant and did not want to take the assignment, however, after his son asks him what it mean to be Jewish he decided to report on the story.  I found the interaction interesting because Green did not want to explain anti semitism when his son asked him what it was and he was relieved when his grandmother told him to go to school so he did not have to explain it to him.  When he finally found his angle for the story I found it slightly problematic because it made me think of the one “token friend” that some people have to justify they aren’t racist, the way he kept saying “Dave is a great friend” and “How does Dave feel?” while he is acknowledging that Dave is Jewish and is discriminated against it still made me feel uneasy about the situation.  

Another thing I found interesting was the discussion between Green and his secretary over the use of derogatory language interesting because no one at that time was really having the conversation of words that were used as racial slurs. Including who could use the terms and who couldn’t because it is a discussion we still have to have today: when Ms. Wales justified herself by saying she only used it to define a type, it is a justification that people still use today when using racial slurs.

3 thoughts on “Week 9: Gentleman’s Agreement

  1. I think I walked away with a totally different take on this movie than you and I am uneasy about the challenge you propose of reference to Dave being compared to as a token friend. To have a “token friend” implies a need to force in an only-surface display of diversity to the larger society. The term token it itself is materialistic, for show, and the small piece of metal only has value because we socially construct giving it value it doesn’t necessarily deserve!
    At the beginning, I am sure the constant references to Dave were a little confusing as to their significance, but I feel like if you critically evaluated Dave’s position in the movie carefully, at least in my experience, Dave was the exact opposite of a token friend! In society today, I know our recruitment of “token friends” are getting a “black friend that acts white,” so it’s shown they’re black, but our friends don’t truly consider them as so. Much different, Dave is so highly praised in this section of the movie you are referring to because he is a Jewish friend that acts Jewish, deeper than below the surface, and fights for that value to be acknowledged as deserved and respected. Dave was the inspiration for Phil to take a deeper dive into the integrated life of a Jewish individual in our society to put forth the value of their experiences, repression, emotions, coping behaviors, and opinions to validate true value in their position beyond what is stereotyped and ostracized on the surface by members like Cathy’s family. If the question of “how does Dave feel” really made you feel uneasy, I’m afraid you missed the context that this question was crucial to experience then share sympathized, first hand understanding of the experiences and goals of the marginalized. This powerful line should have instead instilled a sense of empowered excitement for you I’d think, and it contributed publicized understanding, representing the minority group facing prejudice as such a crucial anti-Semitism era in America.

  2. I also think that the conversations between Phil and his secretary Mrs. Wales were rather unexpected. I did not think a Jewish person would look down other Jewish individuals, associating them with preconceived notions such as being loud or annoying. I was even more surprised to learn that Mrs. Wales called herself names like “k*ke,” believing these words held little to no meaning. How can a person who has suffered persecution herself because of her religion use these words with such disregard for their effect on others? How can she look down on Jewish people in different classes? This is quite ironic in my opinion.

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