Role Models & Heroes: Mel Brooks (2012)

By June 23, 2012November 15th, 2018Bnei Mitzvah, Heroes & Role Models

The following essay about Mel Brooks was written by Samantha Ross, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; an example of this last component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.

June 6, 2012

My definition of a Hero is someone who does a good deed in the moment. A one-time brave act that ends with positive results. My definition of a Role Model is someone who does many acts over a long period of time for a cause. A Trailblazer is someone who starts along a new path, and maybe starts a tradition by going off the usual course of action, and what is seen as okay. A trailblazer can be both a hero and a role model. A trailblazer can do one courageous act and go off the usual paths people take, and a trailblazer can do many acts that are off the usual standards, and gain a reputation. Mel Brooks is a role model of mine because he is a trailblazer. His movies did not follow the guidelines of usual movies, and he went in his own direction with them.

I look up to Mel Brooks for his great humor and his amazing ability to turn the most depressing situations, into something that can be laughed about. Mel Brooks was born in Brooklyn in 1926 under the name Melvin Kaminsky. After a year of university Brooks was drafted into the army.

After the war, Brooks worked in nightclubs playing piano and drums. He changed his name from Melvin Kaminsky to Mel Brooks because he was being confused with a trumpet player named Max Kaminsky. When the usual comedian at the nightclub was sick, Brooks took over and started working as the comedian.

I originally heard of Mel Brooks from his television series Get Smart. I used to watch Get Smart so much and now I’ve seen all of the episodes. I still go back and watch some episodes again. My love of spies, gunfights, mysteries and of course humor makes Get Smart a perfect television show for my taste. When my parents tell me I’m in danger of not finishing my homework because I’m watching Get smart, I reply, “and loving it!”

Brooks is a very good example of a trailblazer. In his movies he did many things that were not usually accepted by society. For example, he repeatedly used the N-word in his movie Blazing Saddles. He did not however use the N-word to try to be racist.

He used the N-word to make fun of racist people, and to show the irony of racism. In his movies he celebrates gays, instead of shunning them. In addition, he includes a lot of bathroom humor including a scene where people are passing gas. This was unheard of and nobody had even thought of putting it in a movie before.

Brooks uses his humor in his movies to convey many messages. In his movie Blazing Saddles Brooks made the cowboys who were being really terrible and racist towards the African-Americans seem idiotic. He did this by making them dance around like chickens, and do other silly things. Brooks also manages to squeeze in as much Yiddish and Jewish culture as possible. In Blazing Saddles, Brooks plays the part of a Yiddish speaking Native American. In his movie Space Balls, there is a planet called Druidia where all the people are Drewish, and In Robin Hood: Men in Tights Brooks plays the part of a Rabi who performs circumcisions at a special offer, half off. In Blazing Saddles Brooks mixes together minorities, for example the Yiddish speaking Native-American.
In addition to mixing the minorities, he also makes the minorities heroes, for example the African-American Sheriff. In almost all his movies and in his television show Get Smart he makes the women the wiser ones, and the ones who make all of the plans and come up with all of the great ideas that the men then carry out. The way he makes the minorities be the stronger and the smarter people, shows the viewers how silly society is for making it seem that so many people are inferior. In addition, Brooks takes historical happenings for example the Spanish Inquisition and makes you laugh at them. Brooks turned the Spanish Inquisition into a musical where Torquemada was trying to convert the Jews by torturing them showing them prostitute nuns. While this was happening, Torquemada was singing. Mel Brooks took something that was offensive and made it humorous.

When the film Blazing Saddles was going through it’s final stages of being produced, Brooks met with a man from the studio who had seen his movie to make the final verdict of what should stay and what should be left out in the movie.

This man did not know that in Brooks’s contract Brooks got the final say in what happened. This man told him to get rid of the N-word, the prostitute and the people fake punching the horses. He obviously did not seem to understand the irony that Brooks was trying to show. After the man left the room, Brooks crumpled up the piece of paper that had all of the things that according to the man he should cut, and put it in the rubbish bin. This was a very courageous thing for Mel Brooks to do because he did not yet have a solid reputation; he was at risk of being rejected. This was only his third movie, and he was taking a huge risk by not heeding the words of this man, and his movie was a hit. I value this because sometimes it is good to go by the way you think and not listen to those who are pulling you down. What he did was very courageous, and courage should always be valued.

Mel Brooks looked at the world; made fun of its problems and used its absurd inhabitants to make a laugh. He confronted serious issues and showed the rest of us the silly ways things are currently done.

When a dark matter from the past is unspoken due to the terror it brought, it is easier to accept and confront when you’re in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. It goes to show that no matter how terrible the past or the present is, there is still a way to make everyone aware of the world’s troubles: make fun of them.