While Darryl and I were relaxing late on Saturday 7th October, we put an older DVD in our ‘makeshift garage office cinema’. In the garage, I have an older Sony laptop that takes DVDs, so I use it to view DVDs I have kept. Ironically, It was the movie ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’. I say ironically because as we were watching this film, which we had watched easily 10 years before, something horrific was playing out in Israel.
According to the news reports - The real ‘Israeli and Palestinian’ war was on again! The cruel, cold, violent attack on innocent people at a music festival on the border of the Gaza Strip, Hamas terrorists randomly going into homes and murdering babies, women, men, and older people. Horrific! Unacceptable!
If you are not familiar with the fictional story of Zohan, briefly it’s the story of a superhuman Israeli counter-terrorist commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream of becoming a hairstylist in the United States while contending with a crooked businessman, a superhuman terrorist arch-rival, and the grudge of a certain taxi driver.
This film has a satirical perspective on Middle Eastern Immigrants which include Israeli Americans and Palestinian Americans. If you are not going to watch the movie, that’s fine, but the following summary will help you to understand why it was so ironic that we were watching this on Saturday 7th October.
“Zohan fakes his own death and subsequently smuggles himself onto a plane to New York City. To disguise his true identity, he cuts his long hair and adopts the alias “Scrappy Coco” after two dogs (Scrappy and Coco) whom he shared the flight with. Phantom’s supposed success in killing Zohan garners him much fame across the Arab world, leading him to open the “Phantom Muchentuchen” restaurant chain.
After arriving in the United States, Zohan immediately seeks out a job at the local Paul Mitchell salon but becomes a laughing stock after inadvertently humiliating himself in front of the stylists. He then tries to find employment at other salons but is consistently turned down due to his lack of experience. Later, Zohan witnesses a traffic collision involving two motorists and a cyclist named Michael. One of the motorists starts bullying Michael and yells anti-Arab slurs at Zohan, who promptly beats him up. Michael, a young Jewish American, subsequently befriends the homeless Zohan and takes him in at his apartment, where he lives with his mother Gail. After Zohan moves in, he and Gail begin to have sex on a regular basis, much to Michael’s disapproval.
At a disco, Zohan encounters a fellow Israeli immigrant named Oori, who runs a shady electronics shop. He recognizes Zohan as Israel’s famous superhuman soldier and vows to keep his true identity a secret before bringing him to an area in Lower Manhattan that is predominantly populated by other Middle Eastern immigrants, including Israeli Americans and Palestinian Americans. At Oori’s suggestion, Zohan attempts to secure a job at the struggling salon of a Palestinian woman named Dalia. Due in part to his lack of experience, she only allows Zohan to sweep the salon’s floors, informing him that he will not receive any pay due to her salon facing severe financial difficulties. When a stylist named Nadira unexpectedly quits, one of the customers asks Zohan to cut her hair. He accepts and gives the customer an unusually intimate but exceptional haircut, finishing the job by having sex with her in the bathroom. Zohan’s reputation as a sexually charged stylist spreads rapidly among the deprived elderly women of Lower Manhattan, causing Dalia’s business to prosper. Through Zohan’s efforts, Dalia is able to manage her rent payments in full, upsetting a corporate businessman named Grant Walbridge, who has been trying to buy out all of the local tenants on the block so that he can build a massive mall with a rollercoaster.
Eventually, Zohan is identified by a Palestinian-American taxi driver named Salim, who recognizes his face while he is dropping off his passengers in front of Dalia’s salon. Salim bears a grudge against Zohan due to a past incident between the two that ended with Zohan stealing Salim’s beloved pet goat in retaliation for being spit on during a confrontation. Shortly afterward, Salim meets with his friends Hamdi and Nasi and convinces them to help him kill Zohan. After unsuccessfully attempting to get in touch with Hezbollah, Salim contacts Phantom, who is living lavishly in Amman, Jordan. He threatens to publicly disclose the truth about Zohan being alive, but Phantom makes a deal with him and prepares to come to the United States to find Zohan himself.
Meanwhile, Zohan has fallen in love with Dalia. He expresses his feelings and comes clean to her, as well as to Michael and Gail, about his true identity. After Dalia rejects Zohan due to his history of service with the Israeli military, he understands and decides to quit working at her salon, hoping to keep her safe from any inter-ethnic strife. He later confronts Phantom in a championship Hacky Sack game sponsored by Walbridge. However, the confrontation is cut short as Zohan departs after he is suddenly informed of the Middle Eastern neighborhood being attacked by unknown assailants.
As their businesses burn, Zohan calms the Israelis and the Palestinians, as both sides are blaming each other for the violence. Is this not Art imitating life?
As they all gradually discuss their issues, Zohan makes peace with Salim. When Phantom appears, he confronts Zohan, who refuses to fight after having been deeply inspired by Dalia’s pacifism. Dalia then discloses that she is Phantom’s sister, and convinces her brother to cooperate with Zohan against the arsonists, who are revealed to be a group of white supremacists led by a certain James T. O’Scanlon on Walbridge’s payroll. Walbridge hired the group to instigate an inter-ethnic riot in the Middle Eastern neighborhood in order to facilitate the building of his new mall on top of the damaged buildings. As he works with Zohan to save the block, Phantom admits that he always wanted to be a shoe salesman rather than a terrorist. Although the racist arsonists are defeated and Walbridge is arrested by the police, the overexcited Phantom accidentally destroys all of the remaining shops on the block with his superhuman screams.”
It’s the ending that really gets me, as in Adam Sandler’s Fantasy script the Israelis and Palestinians are now working together. Check out the video.
The block is rebuilt and transformed into a collectively-owned mall. The mall becomes home to Phantom’s new shoe store as well as Oori’s relocated electronics shop. Salim starts a goat-riding business after Zohan returns his pet goat to him, and Michael becomes a hairdresser. Zohan and Dalia, having now married, open a beauty salon together.
Zohan’s parents visit Israel and approve of his new job and lifestyle before his father requests that he cut his hair, which Zohan happily does.
This would be an ‘acceptable‘ ending, for what is now in Israel an UNACCEPTABLE, tragic situation. The rest of the world could collectively say ‘Unacceptable‘, and not support either side in their violence, instead commit to peace.
Author’s note, I do not condone violence and will never support the aggravation and attacks from any side. You can not solve a problem with the same energy or anger in which it was created!