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By analyzing how millennial Jewish stars market themselves onscreen, Jonathan Branfman trailblazes new insights about Jewishness and antisemitism, about race and gender more broadly, and about how stars symbolize national politics. He unveils these insights through case studies on six leading millennial Jewish stars: the biracial rap superstar Drake, comedic rapper Lil Dicky, TV comedy duo Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, “man-baby” film star Seth Rogen, and chiseled film star Zac Efron. Mining all types of media—from films to Tweets, reddit threads, YouTube webisodes, and Congressional hearings—each case study opens new dialogues between Jewish studies, gender studies, media studies, and critical race studies. 

Speaker Bio: 

Jonathan Branfman researches how Jewish performers embody race, gender, and sexuality in U.S. popular media, including digital media like YouTube. His work invites Jewish, feminist, queer, critical race, and media studies to grasp how historical antisemitism shapes present-day U.S. visual culture, and how Jewish stars harness this stigma to enter America's core cultural debates. For instance, the Black Jewish rap superstar Drake must reconcile clashing stigmas of Jewish emasculation and Black hypermasculinity. And although Drake presents many different masculinities, all his personae embody U.S. disputes about hip hop itself as an oft-vilified Black art form. Drake is one of six stars analyzed in Jonathan's book, Millennial Jewish Stardom: Masculinity, Racial Minstrelsy, & Queer Glamor, forthcoming in 2024 from New York University Press. Jonathan’s second book project, Jews & News Satire: Embodying Candor in the Age of Fake News, focuses on Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, and Sacha Baron Cohen. Jonathan's research has also appeared in Television & New Media, the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, and the Journal of Homosexuality. To advance intersectional feminist theories of antisemitism, he has also analyzed "Jewish-Progressive Conflict" in the journal Frontiers. To share feminist and queer education beyond academia, Jonathan has likewise published an intersectional LGBTQ children's book, You Be You! The Kid's Guide to Gender, Sexuality & Family. This guide has now been translated into 25 languages, including Yiddish and Hebrew. Jonathan also looks forward to offering the popular course, Passing: Hidden Identities Onscreen, in spring 2025. By analyzing films like Gentleman's Agreement, School Ties, Maid in Manhattan, and White Chicks, students explore how Jewishness, Blackness, Latinidad, womanhood, and queerness all interact in American cinema. 

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