Critics say Netflix series ‘The Umbrella Academy’ promotes anti-Semitic stereotype through Yiddish scene

An “Umbrella Academy” screening at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles, May 11, 2019. Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The Netflix superhero series “The Umbrella Academy” is being called out by critics who say it promotes anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The show, based on a comic book series of the same name, includes an underground society of lizard people who secretly control the world and their handler — who speaks Yiddish in at least one scene.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews published an open letter criticizing the show.

“The use of a Yiddish saying by the evil boss of an organization which controls the world’s timeline is clearly an antisemitic trope,” the group’s vice president Amanda Bowman told the Sun, a British tabloid, after the open letter was published. “Whether intentional or not, this makes for very uncomfortable viewing. Netflix should take action to remove the racism from this scene.”

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Jewish writer Katherine Locke told the Sun that she also believes the show, which co-stars Ellen Page promotes the “antisemitic conspiracy theory that there’s a secret cabal of Jews controlling or manipulating the world.”

“This scene played right into that. And I think the important part here is: some people will brush this scene off. A lot of people didn’t even see it … But there are two groups of people who will see it, and whom I believe are meant to see it: Jewish viewers, and antisemites. It felt like a dog whistle and a warning all in one,” she said.

The real-life modern conspiracy theory involving lizards who control the world is often associated with British writer David Icke, who draws from the anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”