Pop Culture Blind Spots: Yentl

Rosie O’Donnell caterwauling ‘Papa Can You Hear Me’ every time she talked about Barbra Streisand – that’s what I knew about Yentl before this Pop Culture Blind Spots live blog. Considering I grew up loving both musicals and movies set in yesteryear when everyone had long hair and longer dresses, I’m not sure why or how I missed it. Maybe it wasn’t on TV too much in the 90s?

From the shtetl to your computer, come experience the bad haircuts, zany pillow fights, and newsboy hats of Yentl:

  • The setting is Eastern Europe, 1904. First of all, really vague setting. Second, if this was supposed to be part of my Eastern European cultural training my mother failed spectacularly.
  • A peddler calls out “story books for women, sacred books for men” which was like the Barbie/Hot Wheels Happy Meal toys of the shtetl.

 

  • Anyway Yentl (which sounds like a person saying “gentle” with a marked accent, which is very fun) tries to buy the Hot Wheels books. The peddler is like “bitch, I think you know what your place is, and I’m sure it’s gossiping about how old you are at a fish-stall in the marketplace.” Yentl lies and says the books are for her dad. And the peddler buys it, which is TOTAL FORESHADOWING for how all the men in this movie are dummies who believe whatever you tell them.
  • I’ve never seen so many Eastern European noses outside of a family reunion and I feel so alive and whole, accepted and embraced.
  • My favorite Disney princess as a child was Belle, because she liked books. And this is an entire musical about a girl who just wants to read the books she wants and I never saw it?!

    Little town, it’s a quiet shtetl…

  • But to be fair, the books she want to read are like the rules to God and stuff. Yawwwwn.
  • Started watching this via sketchy Youtube copy, and 5 minutes in I decided that the chances were high enough that I was going to like it that I’d rent it on Amazon. Also it was almost unbearably fuzzy.
  • Yentl burns some gross fish while reading. JEWISH PRINCESS BELLE, everyone!
  • Her Papa is Jewish Crazy Old Maurice.

  • Babs wraps herself in a tallit and sings. This may be part of how I missed this one: the tunes aren’t exactly *catchy* in the singable/hummable sense.
  • Papa asks if Yentl wants a husband who will darn her socks and bear her children, which, (A) where do I sign up, and (B), foreshadowing? Maybe? Guys, I don’t really know what this movie is about except that Barbra will sing Papa Can You Hear Me and dress as a man at some point.
  • Barbs has such beautiful, fluffy hair or such a beautiful, fluffy wig. I can’t believe Papa died, though.
  • PLOT. TWIST. She cuts the beautiful fluffy hair into a kicky pageboy. Swear I didn’t know that was going to happen.
  • I wasn’t alive in 1983, but major studios were releasing movies starring a 40-year-old ‘unattractive’ woman who is dressed as a man most of the time, so maybe it was a little better than 2016 in some ways.
  • Again, the main thing I know about Yentl is Papa Can You Hear Me. I know it because Rosie O’Donnell always sang it on her show. It turns out the only words I knew were “Papa, can you hear me/ try to understand me.” Those also might have been the only words Rosie O’Donnell knew.

  • Actually, didn’t Rosie have a button that played “Barbra Can You Hear Me” whenever she talked about her? (I watched a lot of The Rosie O’Donnell Show as a child. Had the koosh slingshot, the Kids Are Punny book, the whole 9.)
  • Not sure what accent Babs is doing in that song, but it’s not “Eastern European.” She’s just pronouncing every word slightly weird.
  • Barbra’s new haircut does not look good. Not even a little good. It’s kind of flobee-esque.

    I mean, Christ.

  • Yentl sails across a small creek (?) wearing the hat from the Funky Hat interstitial from 2007 Disney Channel.
  • Because nobody in 1904 Eastern Europe had seen a woman in pants and a hat before, they don’t realize that Yentl is CLEARLY a woman in pants and a hat.
  • If they saw a man in black and white stripes, they’d probably think he was a zebra or a Hamburglar.
  • Or a guy in camouflage: “Ira, I swear a piece of Outside is MOVING.”

    GET IT TOGETHER, Eastern Europe, 1904.

  • Maybe if Yentl wants people to believe that she’s “Anshel” she shouldn’t giggle when she says that her name is Anshel.
  • Yentl meets Mandy Patinkin (Avigdor)’s bubbe and within seconds she’s like “oh. Anshel. LOL OK.” So maybe only the men in this movie are stupid.
  • Avigdor’s banter with Yentl is very… sexual? … for two young men who are platonically sharing a bed.
  • You know in The Portrait Of Dorian Gray, where he has that portrait that ages for him? I think that’s what Mandy Patinkin’s facial hair does. Underneath it he looks mostly the same, the only difference the beard went from chestnut to gray.

 

  • Yentl’s thoughts sing This Is One Of Those Moments. The level of non-catchiness reminds me of when a Catholic priest is talk-singing and he tries to cram too many syllables into one line.
  • Yentl watches a lot of people talk with their hands. This is the school she wanted to go to really bad.
  • AMY IRVING IS IN THIS?! She’s the star of one of my favorite under-rated rom-coms, Crossing Delancey.

  • It’s sort of like a 1900s Jewish Strangers With Candy, where Barbra is very obviously in her 30s-40s (and female) but we just suspend disbelief.
  • Now Yentl’s thoughts are singing about her crush on Amy Irving (Hadass).
  • Yentl flirts with Avigdor in a meadow so maybe the crush was on him. Who knows.
  • There’s a skinny dipping scene and we almost see Mandy Patinkin’s Manhood Pa-tuchus (yep, just zoomed right past dad jokes and landed on a zayde joke)
  • The choreography is the same, so: mashup between this song where Babs is getting handsy in her nightgown and Mama Who Bore Me. OK?

  • Hadass’s Shitty Family calls off the Hadass/Avigdor Relationship and they want to set her up with Yentl now. This is more Three’s Company-style hijinks than I was expecting.
  • Amy Irving’s ruffled blouse and ren-faire hairdo are SUPER 1904-shtetl flirty. She’s making dinner for Yentl and it’s a total come-on. Like that’s just how you DID IT back then. It seems so easy. Just put on your ruffliest blouse and lean your boobs into a guy’s face while serving tea and you’d get a husband. (*Is that how you still do it and is that why I’m single, because I’ll try.)
  • Take one listen to Barbra screaming “nothing’s impossible!” at, like, F5 and tell me how anybody was supposed to think this was anything but a lady.
  • Now Yentl’s getting measured for her wedding suit which is bad because she’s female. In case you missed it, this is why lying doesn’t work. Although how sheltered is Hadass, because maybe Yentl can just kiss her in bed and be like “WELP THERE WE DID IT THAT’S THE WHOLE THING,” because that’s what I thought until I was 7 or 8.
  • If Anshel ISN’T a woman then Anshel is, like, an 11 year old boy and I don’t know why nobody in the village has vetted this.
  • Oh I love these wedding hijinks. Anshel is trying to get Hadass to say she doesn’t want to hook up. It’s like when you don’t want to go to a movie, but you don’t want to say it, so you’re just like “no, I mean if YOU don’t want to see it we won’t see it. I don’t care but if YOU want to do something different, we totally can. Up to you.”
  • Yentl and Hadass have a pillow fight. JUST SOME GALS AT A SLUMBER PARTY Y’ALL. Just gals bein’ pals.
  • Avigdor asks Yentl if Hadass “made sounds” and um is this how boys talk when we aren’t there? If a boy reads this please tell me.
  • Yentl’s thoughts sing about how she loves Avigdor, and Avigdor loves Hadass, and she’s married to Hadass but just for the pillow fights. Yentl. Look at your life. It’s a map full of dead ends, like one of those suburban gated communities. Your haircut is bad. You can read the talmud now but that’s, like, your only thing you’ve got going.
  • LOL forever at Hadass trying to seduce Yentl, an obvious 40-year-old woman. Instead, Yentl tucks her in then sings at a window.
  • I like how Yentl taught Hadass the talmud on the sly while they were fake married. I also like how Yentl finally figured out it’s time to get out of dodge.
  • The lyrics “she’s loving, she’s tender, she’s woman, so am I” probably weren’t meant to be funny? It kind of sounds like it would play over a crunchy 1970s school video about ‘becoming a woman.’
  • I want to see the scene before Yentl makes Avigdor take her to the city. “Pick me up in your cosiest two-person buggy and take me to the nearest metropolis so I can tell you a secret. Haha, no reason, just guy stuff.”
  • Yentl goes to America, which is probably the best solution after you’ve accidentally married a woman and fallen in love with a guy who thinks you’re a man. That’s the moment when, even in 1904, it’s time to cut your losses and move to Brooklyn. Now she’s got to grow out that haircut, though.
  • Yentl sings about finding her corner of the sky, but via a different song that’s way less catchy than Corner Of The Sky.
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