Hot on the wings of Rio, I have just finished watching (only for the second time) Bee Movie (2007). If there is an animated film that uses a Kafka-esque insect metaphor for the Jewish condition then this is it.
Bee Movie stars Jerry Seinfeld as Barry B. Benson, a bee who dreams of life beyond the hive. Of course, Barry is Jewish, not least because he is voiced by Seinfeld. But Barry Benson is also a very Jewish name — one of those names that only Jewish parents give their kids thinking that it’s what gentiles call their boys without realizing that it is only the Jews who do so. Think of presidential candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater. As the sage Lenny Bruce put it, “‘Barry?’ ‘Barry!’ Are you kidding me with that? Mogen Dovid. Barry! Where is there one goy with the name of Barry? It’s the most Jewishjewishjewish…” Benson also suggests son of Ben, invoking the Hebrew tribe of Benjamin and surely, in no coincidence, Barry’s father is voiced by Jewish director Barry Levinson (which demonstrates my previous point).
Barry has recently graduated from college, invoking Benjamin Braddock of The Graduate. At least one sequence, showing Barry reclining in a swimming pool of honey into which he dives, pays homage to this film. While not explicitly Jewish, Benjamin is played by Dustin Hoffman so we can claim it.
Other clues hint at Barry’s Jewishness. He is nagged by his overbearing parents into joining the family business — honey production. Everyone in the hive is related — they’re all cousins — suggesting a limited gene pool (as he puts it, “It’s a close community”) from which Barry is expected to find an eligible marriage partner. It is considered unconscionable for him to marry out, that is to someone not Bee-ish.
Of course, the hive is located in Central Park, New York City.
Barry is thus a city-slicking, wise-cracking bee who is defined by his brains/Yiddische Kopf. For example, he represents himself in court, thus adept at a stereotypically Jewish profession (ultimately he sets up an “Insects-at-Law” practice). Furthermore, he is a somewhat puny bee, which is emphasized when he flies with the much more athletic “Pollen Jocks” (those bees designated to collect nectar and pollinate). Naturally, his enemy is Ken, an athletic, tennis-playing WASP (see what I did there?) goyische type. In fact, for Barry, or any bee, to marry a wasp is beyond the pale, as indicated by the following exchange:
Well, I met someone.
You did? Was she Bee-ish?
– A wasp?! Your parents will kill you!
– No, no, no, not a wasp.
Barry uncovers a massive conspiracy in which bees are forcibly relocated to fake hives with fake walls which are, it is revealed, “work camps” in which the bees are enslaved and gassed in order to produce honey for human retail and consumption.
Barry sues the human race. In court (invoking Kafka’s The Trial?), he asks:
Is this what nature intended for us? To be forcibly addicted to smoke machines and man-made wooden slat work camps? Living out our lives as honey slaves to the white man?
Like a bee Marx or Moses, Barry leads his people to freedom, to a land of (milk and) honey which is solely owned by the bees for their own benefit, although this turns out not to be such a blessing.
Ultimately, in an echo of Gregor Samsa, Barry is a bee who yearns to be more human. In direct contravention of The (Bee) Law, he speaks to humans and is in love with one called Vanessa Bloome who’s surname suggests she may also be Jewish.
And if you think I’m reading too much into this film, then read this: http://www.dailyraider.com/index.php?id=3284.