Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish?: Dubbing Stereotypes in The Nanny, The Simpsons, and The Sopranos
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- University of Texas Press
"Since when is Fran Drescher Jewish?" This was Chiara Francesca Ferrari's reaction when she learned that Drescher's character on the television sitcom The Nanny was meant to be a portrayal of a stereotypical Jewish-American princess. Ferrari had only seen the Italian version of the show, in which the protagonist was dubbed into an exotic, eccentric Italian-American nanny. Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish? explores this "ventriloquism" as not only a textual and cultural transfer between languages but also as an industrial practice that helps the media industry foster identification among varying audiences around the globe.
At the heart of this study is an in-depth exploration of three shows that moved from global to local, mapping stereotypes from both sides of the Atlantic in the process. Presented in Italy, for example, Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons is no longer a belligerent, alcoholic Scotsman but instead easily becomes a primitive figure from Sardinia. Ironically, The Sopranos—a show built around Italian-Americans—was carefully re-positioned by Italian TV executives, who erased the word "mafia" and all regional references to Sicily. The result of Ferrari's three case studies is evidence that "otherness" transcends translation, as the stereotypes produced by the American entertainment industry are simply replaced by other stereotypes in foreign markets. As American television studios continue to attempt to increase earnings by licensing their shows abroad, Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish? illuminates the significant issues of identity raised by this ever-growing marketplace, along with the intriguing messages that lie in the larger realm of audiovisual cultural exchange.