Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish? Dubbing Stereotypes in the Nanny, the Simpsons, and the Sopranos

Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish? Dubbing Stereotypes in the Nanny, the Simpsons, and the Sopranos

Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish? Dubbing Stereotypes in the Nanny, the Simpsons, and the Sopranos

Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish? Dubbing Stereotypes in the Nanny, the Simpsons, and the Sopranos


"Since when is Fran Drescher Jewish?" This was Chiara Francesca Ferrari's reaction when she learned that Drescher's character on the television sitcom The Nannywas meant to be a portrayal of a stereotypical Jewish-American princess. Ferrari had only seen the Italian version of the show, in which the protagonist was dubbed into an exotic, eccentric Italian-American nanny. Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish'explores this "ventriloquism" as not only a textual and cultural transfer between languages but also as an industrial practice that helps the media industry foster identification among varying audiences around the globe.

At the heart of this study is an in-depth exploration of three shows that moved from global to local, mapping stereotypes from both sides of the Atlantic in the process. Presented in Italy, for example, Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsonsis no longer a belligerent, alcoholic Scotsman but instead easily becomes a primitive figure from Sardinia. Ironically,The Sopranos--a show built around Italian-Americans--was carefully re-positioned by Italian TV executives, who erased the word "mafia" and all regional references to Sicily. The result of Ferrari's three case studies is evidence that "otherness" transcends translation, as the stereotypes produced by the American entertainment industry are simply replaced by other stereotypes in foreign markets. As American television studios continue to attempt to increase earnings by licensing their shows abroad,Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish'illuminates the significant issues of identity raised by this ever-growing marketplace, along with the intriguing messages that lie in the larger realm of audiovisual cultural exchange.


In this book, Chiara Ferrari introduces us to a critical form of cultural mediation that has largely been unnoticed in decades of debate about the flow and impact of U.S. television in the world. Originally, in the 1970s, scholars and policy makers focused on the large, unbalanced outflow of television programs from the USA to the rest of the world. Those programs were often assumed to have a substantial, direct impact, but researchers who looked at that had a hard time substantiating that assumption. Other researchers began to notice that many audiences began to prefer programming from within their own nations or cultures, seemingly lowering the threat posed by imported U.S. programming. Others began to notice that audiences were not only active in making choices but also in making meaning, interpreting U.S. programs in a way that changed their original meaning. Others noted that there was something of a counter-flow by other TV exporters like Japan, Mexico, and Brazil, whose programs competed with those of the United States.

What went unobserved for a long time was a more detailed examination of the process by which U.S. programs were not only imported into other countries but adapted and changed in the process. Here Dr. Ferrari makes a remarkably original contribution to these debates in international communication, global media studies, and cultural studies by showing in a detailed but clear and lucid way just how much the process of translation of U.S. programs into other languages and cultures changed them in ways that alter the terms of all the debates and research mentioned above. She shows just how much the process of both linguistic and cultural translation of a program like The Nanny into Italian for viewers there changed the content and meaning of the program.

In its Italian translation, the story of The Nanny is changed substan-

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