Critics Say Scene in Netflix Series ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Promotes Anti-Semitic Stereotype

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An “Umbrella Academy” screening at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles on May 11, 2019. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix, via JTA.org)

By Marcy Oster

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.”

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.”

Update, 08/7/2020: The co-creator of the “The Umbrella Academy” pushed back against criticism that the show features anti-Semitic stereotype.

“The accusation of anti-Semitism in ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is hurtful and, more importantly, factually incorrect,” Steve Blackman said in a statement. “I wrote these episodes, created the character, and am myself Jewish. While I understand audiences sometimes receive things in a different way than creators intend, The Handler was not created as an anti-Semitic character.

“The Handler speaks every language, including Swedish, Mandarin, Yiddish, and English as we saw this season, and The Commission is not an evil organization; they do not control finances, governments, or the media. The only thing they control – and more importantly, protect – is the timeline of our fictional Umbrella Academy universe.”

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