Hanukkah-themed holiday specials are few and far between, so we take what we can get.
The early-aughts drama “The O.C.” had a “Chrismukkah” episode, “Meet the Fockers” sequel “Little Fockers” gives Jews a holiday nod and Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights” has become a staple.
Now, YouTubers are getting in on the action.
Tana Mongeau — known for her bogus marriage to fellow viral star Jake Paul, her recent links to Noah Cyrus and her on-and-off open relationship with Bella Thorne, the Disney star-turned-manic pixie porn director — is Hanukkah’s latest observant.
A holiday special in her MTV series, “No Filter: Tana Turns 21,” was released on YouTube Monday. It features the blonde bunking in the suburbs with her manager, Jordan Worona, who works out of Mongeau’s pool house on the show, to celebrate Hanukkah with his family in Albany.
Titled “Will Tana Spend Xmas Alone?”, the video currently has about a quarter of a million views, but with any luck none of those tuning in will look to it for Talmudic wisdom or for it to hold any number of candles to Hanukkah specials past.
A 140-character explanation of the Jewish holiday given by the social media manager’s father isn’t a total bungle. In 20 seconds Worona gets to the Hanukkah miracle of light and even slips in a mention of the Assyrian capture of Jerusalem. This after Mongeau, who claims to have never seen a menorah IRL, asks if she’s allowed to eat gelt.
Reflecting on her crappy upbringing while clad in matching tie-dye hoodies from her merch line, the 21-year-old Mongeau and Worona have a heart-to-heart in his childhood bedroom at the end of the 24-minute episode. Muses Mongeau, “The valuable lesson is that holidays are about love, and that’s what I have to try and channel.” Well, sort of.
A thesaurus can get you from holidays to love, but it will take only slightly more brain power to extract meaningful lessons for 2019 from Hanukkah: a story of resisting seductive trends in favor of obligation, sacrifice and rebuilding a nation.
And it can be done on-screen: “A Rugrats Chanukah” is the most beloved mainstream version in its animated Maccabean glory. The Disney Channel original “Full-Court Miracle” also delivers an impressive yet modern rendition of the Hanukkah story, in which a backup generator stands in for a menorah running on empty during a championship basketball game.
Even comedian Tiffany Haddish, whose latest Netflix special is called “Black Mitzvah” and riffs on her newfound Jewish identity, puts money where mouth is: She studied under Sarah Silverman’s rabbi sister for her real-life bat mitzvah upon the show’s release and appears serious about her faith.
What these shows have in common is a solid attempt to make Judaism vital and relatable. What’s missing from “Tana Turns 21” is a chance for viewers to learn about the Jewish tradition and ancient story of redemption. Instead, all that is a backdrop for an influencer’s own jingle-time woes.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in developmental psychology to see what MTV is getting at throughout Mongeau’s weekend visit: Quick cuts of framed bar mitzvah photos, the Woronas’ well-appointed home and a wheaten terrier only serve to highlight Mongeau’s apparent lack of structure in her own childhood.
To be fair, Netflix, Nickelodeon and Disney are distinct from MTV, which brought us such cultural-cringe fests as the “Jersey Shore,” “Buckwild” and “Floribama Shore.” Still, the YouTube generation deserves a bit more than Mongeau talking in commandments to her PR rep on the phone at a Hanukkah dinner.