The Jewish glasses and all that Pepsi-Cola
Later, we'll discuss nickels and pickles
We saw a movie the other night in which a non-Jewish man was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse because he changed the style of his eyeglasses. One of the people watching the movie asked me how that could be so, which reminded me of Pepsi-Cola.
The movie was "Focus," based on a novel by Arthur Miller. The actor William H. Macy plays a nerdy little guy who gets a new pair of glasses with small, round lenses and thick dark rims.
The premise of the story, which takes place during World War II, is that the glasses make his boss and most of his neighbors think he's Jewish. Bigoted people start treating him the same as an actual Jew living just down the street
The story involves the fact the Macy character himself has always been kind of passively bigoted against Jews and now, to his astonishment, he is presumed to be one himself.
One of the people watching the movie asked me a logical question. She wanted to know what there was about those glasses that said "Jewish" not only to the characters in the movie but to Arthur Miller, who is himself a Jew.
I don't know for certain but I think I can guess. The urban neighborhoods of that time, especially on the East Coast, tended to be more ethnic in character, often reflecting styles from other countries recently brought here by immigrants.
Suffice it to say, the glasses on the character in that movie were similar to those you used to see in old pictures of people in Europe, perhaps in Jewish communities.
And in that era especially, once a fashion became popular among the members of an allegedly inferior group, the members of the alleged master race tended to shun that fashion themselves.
Shunning a product used by people on the wrong side of the cultural divide was what reminded me of Pepsi-Cola. I grew up in a culture where Pepsi was just another cola. But it was different in some parts of America.
Bear in mind, Coca Cola came in 6-ounce bottles during those years. Pepsi came in 12-ounce bottles. Both cost a nickel. Every kid in America knew the Pepsi jingle:
"Pepsi-Cola hits the spot,
"Twelve full ounces that's a lot.
"Twice as much for a nickel, too.
"Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.
"Nickel. Nickel. Nickel. Nickel."
Shortly after World War II, a neighbor returned one day from visiting a brother in Texas. Sill amazed, he told us something ugly that had happened:
He had ordered a Pepsi and his brother jumped all over him, telling him, "That's a nigger drink," implying that only an inferior person would be so excessive as to drink a 12-ounce cola.
Some of those fool Texans at that time gave up the bargain cola and let Coca-Cola rip them off at half as much for a nickel. And they called themselves the smart race.
Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Talk about putting yourself in a pickle.
Pickle. Pickle. Pickle. Pickle.