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Yentl in 400 Words or Less

March 26, 2012

I knew I was on to something when not one but two friends confessed:

“My mom dragged me to see Yentl when I was a kid.”

Funny, I thought you just said your mom dragged you to see Yentl when you were a kid.

Because my mom dragged me to see Yentl when I was a kid.  Or, quite possibly, my mom drugged me to see Yentl when I was a kid.

I was 7.

We lived in Small Town USA.  The only Jewish figures in our lives were Jesus and Bugs Bunny.  And yet there we were amid a mass pilgrimage to see Yentl.

Yentl was Barbra Streisand’s 1983 movie about a turn-of-the-century Polish woman who disguises herself as a man in order to become a Jewish scholar.

Did I mention it’s a musical?

“Papa, can you hear me?”

I have to assume these prevalent mother-daughter Yentl outings had everything to do with the fact that it still sucked to be a woman in 1983.

Oh, wait.  Does it still suck?  Nah.  It’s like a walk in the park now.

A park in Completebullshitland.

So, next to dressing in drag and running away to become a Jewish scholar, a 1983-woman’s best chance at fulfillment was to see a movie where a woman dresses in drag and runs away to become a Jewish scholar.

This meant repressed housewives everywhere (who’d have to wait years for Yentl on video — or for Oprah and the Lifetime channel) were forcing daughters to accompany them.

“Papa, can you save me?”  

This didn’t bode well for us.  We, as children, had to sit through the most uncomfortable gender-bending moments ever to appear in cinema.

Burdensome female anatomy.  Awkward love scenes.  “Gotcha” nudity.

Less Some Like it Hot.  More The Crying Game.  And set to music.

Thank god I wasn’t simultaneously wrestling with puberty at the time.

I got back at my mom, by the way.  A few weeks later I insisted she take me to Two of a Kind.

Less Grease 2.  More Gigli.  And set to slapstick.

The box office flop starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John pretty much guaranteed that those two actors would never work together again.  Or work again, period.  At least for another decade.

And it pretty much guaranteed our mother-daughter movie outings would never occur again either.  At least for another decade.

61 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2012 6:21 am

    Angie, you are such a hoot: A park in Completebullshitland.

    In 1983 I was a big Streisand fan. I have since recovered. And even I didn’t go to see Yentl!

    • March 27, 2012 2:47 pm

      I can’t recall if my mom was a Streisand fan. Maybe she was. Mostly she was just a fan of arty period movies. Which I guess I respect because that’s where I am now.

  2. March 26, 2012 6:22 am

    I loved Two of a Kind. John Travolta was an inventor! He invented edible sunglasses. And God was going to destroy the earth if Olivia didn’t want to eat those sunglasses. It was your classic edible-glasses-inventor-meets-bank-teller-and-has-angels-helping-but-devils-harming-to-save-planet-Earth story I liked it waayyyyyyyy better than Yentl. Yentl didn’t seem possible to me. A girl lurnin book stuff? Nah.

    • March 27, 2012 2:51 pm

      Well done, my friend. You have just summarized this plot line like a true B-movie master. In reference to the edible sunglasses, I distinctly remember the line where Olivia’s character says to John’s, “These taste like sh*t.” To which my mother dramatically rolled her eyes and let out an enormous disapproving sigh for the entire theater to hear.

  3. March 26, 2012 6:23 am

    I have to confess that I liked the movie Yentl at the time, but now I think I agree more with your review. I also have to confess that my family named our Pomeranian puppy Yentl. I don’t know what we were thinking. I was twelve at the time, so I refuse to take full responsibility.

    • March 27, 2012 2:55 pm

      You don’t have to confess, Amy! No need to confess! There’s really nothing wrong with Yentl. I bashed on it purely from the standpoint of a 7-year-old who should not have had to endure watching a woman strapping down her breasts. Although, little did I know, I was already watching exactly that on Punky Brewster. (Oh, poor, early-developing Soleil Moon Frye.)

      I hope your Pomeranian didn’t have to have to strap down her breasts.

  4. March 26, 2012 6:46 am

    Believe it or not, I have still never seen Yentl. I’ve seen snippets of it, but never the entire movie.

    • March 27, 2012 2:59 pm

      I think adult-me would enjoy Yentl today as I could sit through anything, even bad anything, that’s historically-based or set in another era. Well, I don’t know about the whole thing with 40-year-old Babs playing a 20-year-old woman. And I usually squirm through most musicals. So maybe not. But I can never watch Yentl again now anyway. No way. I would flashback all over the place.

  5. March 26, 2012 7:12 am

    Post perfection!

    • March 26, 2012 7:13 am

      (ahem…see what I did there? No? yeah. That’s right. Two word comment. Again.)

      p.s. I’ve never seen either movie.

      • March 27, 2012 3:02 pm

        Hey, who said anything about you having to limit your comments? Oh, well, it makes sense. “And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give” or something like that.

    • March 27, 2012 2:59 pm


  6. March 26, 2012 7:57 am

    You did it! You did it! Way to go Angie – you did it! You wrote a post in 400 words or less. Do you feel different? Inquiring minds want to know (or not).
    I liked Two of a Kind. Judge me. I don’t care. I stand behind my lack of taste.
    Yentl? Meh. Not so much. I saw it on cable – not the theater. I love Mandy Patinkin. (You killed my father. Prepare to die.)
    The comparison … Less Some Like it Hot more Crying Game, and set to music. Hahahahaha! So true!

    • March 27, 2012 3:05 pm

      I liked Two of a Kind when I was 7. Does that make you feel better? I haven’t seen it since.

      You just completely blew my mind, Lenore! Mandy Patinkin is the guy on Yentl? He’s so young and cute in that movie and I didn’t even recognize him with the bushy hair and beard! Wow. You are so my favorite pop culture wizard today.

  7. March 26, 2012 8:45 am

    I had only time for just ONE blog read this morning before trekking off the school to do my volunteer duties. One post (yours) was less than 400 words. Another (a chick from the way-up-northeast) came in over 800. Guess which one I read?

    (Sorry, Darla. I promise yours will get my brain cells’ attention as I feed my face this afternoon between gigs.)

    • March 26, 2012 1:42 pm

      Harumph! That’s okay, Shannon, I understand. Everybody Loves Angie. (Good TV show title right there.) I plan to hatch an evil plot tomorrow to write all of my future posts using only 10 words. By the way, speaking of titles…you’ve just given me a new tagline for my blog: Just another chick from the way-up-northeast. LOVE it!

      • March 26, 2012 6:06 pm

        And how DID you get your photo and tagline up there in your header photo? Brilliant! (I love the coffee cup face too.) I’m going back to read you post now. 10 words? Really? My interest is piqued.

        I’m still scratching my head over how Angie chiseled so deep a subject as cross-dressing, singing women into a less-than-400-word post. Baffling.

      • March 27, 2012 9:43 am

        It wasn’t easy, Shannon. I can barely upload a picture, let alone craft one with my face on it. I’ll tell you this: there was lots of swearing.

        How did Angie write about Yentl in 400 words? the girl is brilliant.

    • March 27, 2012 3:07 pm

      See? 400 is like bite-sized, isn’t it. You hardly notice you’re even reading it. You probably don’t even remember that you ever did. That’s the beauty of it. Um. I think.

      • March 27, 2012 3:23 pm

        Yes. 400 is a nice number. Provided there are no pictures (or pics at the end), I can read an entire post without ever scrolling. I should try one…

  8. March 26, 2012 9:13 am

    Never seen Yentl and after reading your post, you can bet I never will. Thank goodness I don’t have to drag my kids to movies with me these days. Hallelujah for the Redbox!

    I remember my mom and her friends talking about Silkwood a lot. I still want to see it and see what all the fuss was about. What did I miss?

    • March 27, 2012 3:07 pm

      Silkwood was very disturbing! I saw that one as a kid too. Better check Redbox for that.

  9. March 26, 2012 9:44 am

    Yentl is one of my 20-year-old daughter’s favorite films. She and the 22-year-old pop it in the DVD player (yes, we own it) almost every time they’re home together. Why??? Beats me.

    John Travolta looks pretty darn good in that photo. Hubba hubba! I’ve never seen that movie, though, since he has such a lousy track record of following up movie gold with movie crap. My eyes were damaged like somebody threw acid in them by seeing “Staying Alive.”

    • March 27, 2012 3:19 pm

      Staying Alive was like somebody threw acid in your eyes! I love it! Well, not the acid in your eyes part. Interestingly enough, 1983 was not only the year he made Staying Alive but also the year he made Two of a Kind. What a great year of performances for John!

      Favorite John Travolta movie ever is 1980’s Urban Cowboy. I sometimes just stick it in the DVD player for comfortable background noise and then curl up on the couch in a fetal position.

  10. March 26, 2012 10:07 am

    I stopped trusting Mother after she took me to see Coma. I still have donor issues.

    • March 27, 2012 3:23 pm

      Never heard of it! So I looked it up and saw this written on the movie poster: “Imagine your life hangs by a thread. Imagine your body hangs by a wire. Imagine you’re not imagining.” You must be pretty emotionally damaged.

  11. Emily permalink
    March 26, 2012 10:46 am

    Wait, Bugs Bunny is Jewish? What? Anyway, that movie sounds really, really awful. Did you at least get some popcorn and candy out of the deal?

    • March 27, 2012 3:28 pm

      Mel Blanc (my hero) was Jewish so I always assumed Bugs was too.

      Maybe if I was lucky my mom bought me some Jujyfruits. Those were always so well suited at pulling out dental fillings.

  12. Pam permalink
    March 26, 2012 12:19 pm

    Funny! By the way…I think I can top Yentl. When I was a child, my mom took me to see Peyton Place. All I can say is “Oy”.

    • March 27, 2012 3:31 pm

      I never saw Peyton Place (phew) but I just now read its Wikipedia entry: “homicide, suicide, incest”. Wow is all I can say. I must’ve got off easy.

  13. March 26, 2012 1:05 pm

    Back then, I had a bit of a girl-crush on Barbra, so I enjoyed the movie a bit more than the reviews would lead you to believe. And I so desired a soft-lens camera to surround me too, so everyone would see me with that lovely glow. (and if you are doing the math…yes, I was 32 at the time, so shut up.)
    But anyway, I think at seven, my reaction might have been: *B*O*R*I*N*G*!

    • March 27, 2012 3:34 pm

      I recall my reaction was initially *B*O*R*I*N*G*. Until I got to the part where Barbra strapped down her breasts. Or the part where the men went skinny-dipping. Or the part where Barbra unstrapped her breasts. Then I was wishing for the boring to come back.

  14. March 26, 2012 2:43 pm

    I loved Yentl. But your review made me laugh anyway!

    • March 27, 2012 3:35 pm

      You know, I think I would like it too. Had I seen it now and not at age 7 while sitting next to my mother. Eek.

  15. March 26, 2012 4:58 pm

    I dodged that bullet pretty well; my mom could have dragged me to see Yentl, but being a year old at the time I could have easily just spit up and no one would have been the wiser about my true feelings about the movie. If only I could have been so stealthy when she dragged me to see Michael Buble in concert when I was eighteen. By then my regurgitation were pretty easy to decipher.

    As always, HI-larious post :)

    • March 27, 2012 3:38 pm

      Thanks, The Waiting (if you are still waiting…)! If I were you, I think I would’ve been spitting up sour milk all over Michael Buble. (Don’t tell my friends Mike and Sarah that I said that.)

  16. March 26, 2012 6:11 pm

    I have actually never seen “Yentl” all the way through. I only recently saw “Funny Girl” in it’s entirety. My mother had Streisand albums on tape, but I was not compelled to endure her cinematic efforts in my childhood. Should I be thankful or feel left out?

    • March 27, 2012 3:40 pm

      Funny Girl was a quality flick. Though I was about 12 when I saw it so my sense of “quality” was probably a little off.

      Nope, you definitely shouldn’t feel left out. You should feel lucky.

  17. Amy S. permalink
    March 26, 2012 7:53 pm

    Yes! So yicky and embarrassing when you are 10. I think my mom just wanted to hear babs sing, but uh, we got a lot more than she bargained for.

    • March 27, 2012 3:41 pm

      Ha! Thank you, Amy, for weighing in here since you were one of the friends I was referring to, whose mom also jumped on the mother-daughter pilgrimage to Yentl.

  18. March 26, 2012 8:45 pm

    Ohhhhhhh so that’s what it is. I’m glad I’ve never seen it. Curiously, I too had a traumatic event induced by a parent in 1983 and coincidentally (honest) I wrote about it today too LOL

    • March 27, 2012 3:44 pm

      Curiously, 1983 was a banner year for parental humiliation. And bad Travolta movies.

  19. March 26, 2012 9:39 pm

    ok, SAME story. my lil bro and I saw Yentl cuz it’s my mom’s fave movie. And both of us would go around the house singing “papaaaaaa….watch meeeee…….FLLYYYYYYYYYY!!!” and it was amazing.

  20. John-Paul permalink
    March 27, 2012 3:17 am

    I really want to see this movie. I really, really do. The premise just sounds so awesome. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they pitched this idea.

    • March 27, 2012 3:47 pm

      It couldn’t have been much worse than when they pitched Harry and the Hendersons. “So after they find the Sasquatch, he moves in and becomes part of their family…” Brilliant!

  21. March 27, 2012 10:45 am

    i have not seen any of these movies, but my mom tried really hard to get me to like Time Bandits.

    • March 27, 2012 3:53 pm

      This post has inspired for me so many Google movie searches (Time Bandits, Coma, Peyton Place). So Time Bandits is apparently when: “A young boy accidently joins a band of dwarves as they jump from time-period to time-period looking for treasure to steal.”

      Simple Life, I think your forced mother-daughter movie outing takes the cake.

  22. March 27, 2012 4:09 pm

    One more comment – my mother didn’t take me to the movies – she SENT me to the movies. (at every opportunity)

  23. March 27, 2012 4:33 pm

    You mean you don’t see a “getting rid of me” motive in that?

    • March 27, 2012 4:44 pm

      Yes, course I do! I admire your mom as I have yet to get the guts to do this with my kids. The whole get outside, it’s a nice day and I don’t want to see you until dinner time thing.

  24. March 28, 2012 1:56 pm

    Ooops. I forgot to comment on this.
    Yes, what a premise. I was really looking forward to Barbara dressed up like a boy. Thank you for not hating Jewish people.

    • March 29, 2012 2:19 pm

      What about a 40-year-old Barbra playing a 20-year-old woman playing a 20-year-old boy? I like that part.

      I nearly forgot about the Jewish elements of this movie. I was distracted by how much women’s lives have sucked over the years. This cuts across cultures, religions, races. Considering how universal female repression is, maybe we can bottle this nonsense to help solve world peace? I know, I’m a dreamer.

      • March 29, 2012 3:08 pm

        Oh yeah. All those unbelievable things. That’s what makes the movie so un-great. Ever notice how the award-winning movies of yesteryear generally suck later on?
        Oops, this is a nostalgia blog.

  25. April 3, 2012 4:30 pm

    Being a Catholic child growing up in the South I was not familiar with anything Jewish. I thought it was a comedy because the name was so funny. I was in for a quite a surprise.

    • April 6, 2012 5:38 pm

      Yes, I know the very surprises you speak of, Emily. I know them all too well. Thanks for your comment and thanks for subscribing to my blog!

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