Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Infomercials for the Frum World

I was watching TV last night when this commercial came on:

It’s as ad for what’s essentially two frying pans hinged together so that you can flip pancakes or eggs by flipping the whole pan over. It’s actually not a bad idea. But, in true infomercial style, it first shows a bunch of incompetent people poking at their eggs with spatulas and making a mess of their pancakes and splattering batter all over the pan and the stove. It’s supposed to provide a contrast with how easy their product makes it to flip a pancake, but just left me wondering who these people were who had such trouble doing something as simple as making pancakes. You find this sort of thing in every infomercial.

It occurred to me that there’s another place you find these sorts of characters: people who you’d never meet in the real world, people who behave in inexplicable and moronic ways in order to be contrasted with something superior in the second half of the story. We run into these characters all the times in the divrie torah floating around the frum world which contrast “us” with “them.” In these divrei torah we hear about “the goyim,” valueless, immoral people who sleep with a different person every night and indulge every whim. These people are then contrasted with the righteous, upstanding, holy people of the frum world, and we are shown how torah umitzvos makes us so much better than everyone else.

The immoral people described in the divrei torah do exist, just like there really are people so incompetent that they’d make a huge mess trying to make a pancake. But they are a tiny, tiny, tiny minority.

So why do these characters exist in infomercials and divrei torah? Because both are trying to sell us something. The infomercial is trying to sell us a product. The dvar torah is trying to sell us a lifestyle.

Caveat emptor


  1. Although I hear it from time to time, I don't hear the constant contrast between the evil non-frum world and the holy frum world. It's more like "yes, there are many ways to make pancakes, but the pancakes are intrinsically different and less special unless you make them the proper way".

  2. Lololololol. Just like the people that mekareved me. Now that I think about it, an infomercial is the perfect analogy.

  3. What a great point. I recall sitting in on lectures in which big name speakers in the orthodox world poked fun at "the goyim" and "the reform" for their actions. At the time, I overlooked these statements, despite twinges of anger which dissipated fairly quickly as they spoke. I think you nailed it, G*3. There is definitely a habit of pointing out the worst in others in order to make themselves look better, especially to potential recruits.