Rage against the machine.

So, finally completed ‘The Umbrella Academy’ 2nd series stream on Netflix, just in time to await Amazon Prime’s counter-fire in the superhero form of ‘The Boys’ landing soon with its own season two. I give the former a five out of six stars, and hopefully expect to hand the latter full marks.

Both of these play with the standard tropes of the superhero genre as seen in the Marvel/DC universes. They are also both kind of violent and sweary, although ‘The Boys’ turns the attitude up to Ten and adds a ‘capes as part of celebrity culture’ vibe to the whole outing.

I see that ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is now coming under fire from social media users accusing it of being ‘anti-Semitic’ after the main big bad who seizes control of The Commission, an evil Cruella De Vil-type character, The Handler, was heard dropping a Yiddish phrase – and if she’s Jewish, it’s, therefore, mainlining the conspiracy theory that Jews control the world. 

Umbrellas out?
Umbrellas out?

I must admit, I didn’t actually notice this while watching – I vaguely remember some foreign-sounding idioms being swapped, but thought it was just the usual characters saying a few words in German/French/Russian, whatever, to sound smart – as in many a James Bond flick, and, heck, even Dora the Explorer (Bueno!).

Series creator Steve Blackman, who is himself Jewish and wrote the script, responded saying, ‘‘While I understand audiences sometimes receive things in a different way than creators intend, The Handler was not created as an anti-Semitic character. The Handler speaks every language, including Swedish, Mandarin, Yiddish, and English, as we saw this season, and The Commission is not an evil organisation; they do not control finances, governments, or the media. The only thing they control – and more importantly, protect – is the timeline of our fictional Umbrella Academy universe.”

Incidentally, one of my children has a best friend called Dora, and whenever she comes up in conversation, I always manage to drop in a totally superfluous Spanish word at the end of the English conversation, just like Dora does herself in the cartoon series. 

If you want to come after me on Twitter decrying this, I can only (a) point to my Spanish family and (b) highlight I can seriously do with the publicity to sell more books and boost my flagging career, please.

Mucho gusto.


I am an author of various fantasy, science fiction, crime and other genre books from Gollancz, Hachette and HarperCollins. Some day I hope to grow up and be an astronaut. Exploring Mars would be nice.

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