Moon Knights Star of David necklace was easy to miss. It was also a watershed moment for Marvel. – Forward

Posted By on April 18, 2022

Amid a blur of hieroglyphs, ankhs and sarcophagi, it was easy to miss a more subtle symbol glinting from Oscar Isaacs neck in last weeks installment of Moon Knight. Unless you happen to be Jewish and watching for signs of Jewish life.

In the final minutes of the episode, Isaacs Marc Spector wakes up in Egypt, booze bottle in hand, bare-chested and wearing a Magen David necklace, finally settling over a year of speculation as to whether the MCU would acknowledge the characters Yiddishkeit. It was a discreet, easy to miss gesture, much like the mezuzah on his apartment door earlier in the series. Somehow it still means the world to me.

For those who dont know, Moon Knight was born Marc Spector, the son of an Orthodox rabbi and renowned Kabbalist from Czechoslovakia. Apart from Magneto who is sometimes a Romani and sometimes a Jewish survivor of the Shoah Spector, who often favors the alias, and, later, dissociative identity, Steven Grant, has perhaps the most Jewish origin story in the mainstream Marvel canon. (Apologies to Sabra.) Hes Jew-ier still than Ben Grimm of Yancy Street and Kitty Pryde, a character better known for sporting a Star of David accessory.

Moon Knights Jewish makeup has waxed and waned for decades, with some comics happy to show him wearing a kippah as a child and sometimes as an adult. But if youve seen any of the show on Disney+, you can see how those roots might get lost in a forest of competing plot points. Moon Knight is also about quarreling Egyptian deities and mental illness, and the show changed the Spector considerably, making his persona of Steven Grant a cockney gift shopist and giving him a completely new romantic partner.

Its perhaps because of all these changes that the man who crafted Moon Knights Jewish backstory, a day school principal turned comic book writer named Alan Zelenetz, told me that he wouldnt be bothered if Moon Knights Jewishness didnt make the cut for the miniseries. And while I was inclined to agree with him, the fact that it did, even in a (so far) tiny way, is huge.

In the ever-bloating Marvel Cinematic Universe, representation is touted by executives, demanded by diverse fans and maligned by a toxic subset of very online nerdom. Missing for the first 14 years of this interconnected story was a visibly Jewish character. This despite the fact that the main architects of this constellation of superheroes were Jewish. The reasons were not so much deliberate as a matter of canon, with Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon making most of their main players gentile. (That and the fact that X-Men and The Fantastic Four, properties that boast the most noteworthy Jews, existed outside the MCU due to other studios owning the film rights.)

But, with Marvel doing better by Asian, Black and with the coming of Ms. Marvel South Asian and Muslim fans, Jews of all backgrounds might still feel left out of Marvels push for inclusive stories (a push that still bungles up gay content, by the way). Jews had to settle for a limited, Ashkenazi-coded crumb, like when Tony Starks dad referenced his fruit seller father and garment worker mother on Agent Carter.

Ive never been one to demand more Jewish content from the Disney corporation (OK, almost never) but now that Ive caught a glimpse, I realize I missed having it.

Spying Oscar Isaac with some Judaic jewelry thrilled me in a way Marvel properties havent been able to in years. I can only imagine how cool it was for Jews of color to see a Latinx actor flaunting a six-pointed star. And who wouldnt kvell knowing that while the nebbishy Steven Grant is bound up in neuroses and slapstick, his Jewish counterpart is a certified badass?

That Spector would still wear his Jewish bling while serving as the avatar of the Egyptian moon god seems complicated, but invites an interesting conversation about culture, faith and identity that the comics have dealt with to varying degrees of success. Director Mohamed Diab teased a Jewish conclusion to the series. I doubt it will be the meditation on Exodus some are hoping for, and frankly thats fine by me.

Right now Im happy for the glimmer of acknowledgment. Its a small token, but hints at bigger things to come.

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Moon Knights Star of David necklace was easy to miss. It was also a watershed moment for Marvel. - Forward

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