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The Jewish Jaffanator

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Nathan Abrams considers the Jewishness of a new flavour of Maryland Cookies.

I have just discovered Burton’s chocolate orange range of its Maryland Cookies brand. Named the ‘Jaffanator’, their tagline is, ‘I’ll be snack’.

To be fair, as I have written previously, despite the name, there is nothing Jewish about Jaffa oranges that take their name from the Jaffa varietal of orange, developed by Arab farmers in the mid-19th century, which was first produced in the city of Jaffa.

Nor is there, as far as I know – despite the similarity in name to the famous tailoring brand — any Jewishness in the Burton’s Biscuit Company that makes the cookies other than its acquisition of the Lyons brand of biscuits.

But James Cameron’s iconic sci-fi thriller The Terminator (1984) does have some Jewish resonance on the other hand. It is, says Brian E. Crim, one long ‘extended Holocaust metaphor’, that occurs in the future. One of the film’s most powerful images is a pile of skulls being crushed beneath the wheels of a huge vehicle.

In Cameron’s post-apocalyptic world, a network of intelligent machines has decided to eradicate humanity. The survivors live in ruins, ‘starving, hiding from HKs [Hunter Killer] . . . patrol machines produced in automated factories’. They are ‘rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal’. Some ‘were kept alive to work, loading bodies. The disposal units ran night and day.’ They are scanned with laser tattoos.

There are small pockets of resistance as well. Survivors ‘storm the metal wire of the camp.’ Cameron’s flashbacks depict underground ghettos, rats, endless piles of bones, and roving cyborgs sweeping ruined cities. Survivors are wracked by nightmares and flashbacks, startled by seemingly innocuous machines like rubbish trucks and radios.

Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese in the 1984 movie Terminator

Michael Biehn, who played Kyle Reese, a member of the resistance in the film recalled how:

In preparation for the film I’d read a book about the guys that held out in Warsaw during World War II. When they were killing all the Jews or taking them away and putting them on trains, there was a bunch of Jewish guys who were hiding in the rubble. And they fought the Germans against insurmountable odds, like 30 or 40 of them, some women, some children. That grittiness and that mentality — that there’s no time for love or tenderness or music or religion, there’s only time for survival. I said to myself, ‘This is where this guy came from. This is how he would feel.’

Its producer, Gale Anne Hurd, who had a Jewish father added:

Being of Jewish descent, of course I also read all those things. I don’t think we explicitly wanted to say that this future world was inspired by stories of living underground in Warsaw. But on the other hand, whatever I read as historical fact was going to influence our work by virtue of the verisimilitude of that experience and how profound it was. It’s that same kind of a violent harrowing experience.

The leader of the resistance is John Connor whose initials, like that of the film’s director, James Cameron, suggest Jesus Christ, who was also Jewish.

Returning to the cookies, the Jaffa Orange’s tough skin makes it an apt metaphor for the Terminator – a cybernetic organism — a robotic exoskeleton covered by organic matter. It harks back to the suggestion in the title of Stanley Kubrick’s film, A Clockwork Orange.

But, in the final analysis, it seems the Jaffanator cookies aren’t kosher.

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I teach film studies at Bangor University in north Wales where I live. I research, write and broadcast regularly (in Welsh and English) on transatlantic Jewish culture and history.
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