The lead character (or the second lead, depends on who you ask) in the series JAG, Sarah MacKenzie (played by the excellent actress Catherine Bell), is fluent in many languages, including supposedly Hebrew.
In the recent episode "Straits of Malacca", when searching for
information on a captured pirate, one of the characters gets
information from a contact in Israel. But the information is in Hebrew.
He asks Mac how is her Hebrew, to which she answers "Not as good as my
Farsi" (The character, and the actress, speaks very fluent Farsi), but that she can
She then stands in front of a computer screen, and with a look of
concentration starts to translate the information contained in the
email about the pirate.
They showed the computer screen, and the email. And it wasn’t even close to the alleged content.
First of all, the text was reversed, in a LTR direction instead of the Hebrew RTL
one. So when I tried reading it, it took more more time than it took
her to "translate" it. She must be a very fast reader. To illustrate, try reading the following:
noitcerid gnorw eht ni si ecnetnes siht
Fun, right? Very legible.
Second, it wasn’t a personal dossier, it was a news bulletin, copied from the website of the Israeli government.
And it doesn’t talk about a pirate. It is an announcement that the
site of the Ministry of Health has opened a new on-line forum on
paediatric preventive medicine. The text on the bulletin, and in the
email shown on screen on the show, talks about childcare: vaccines,
nutrition, and so on.
I do have to hand it to her, Catherine Bell is a very good actress.
The translation scene looked very convincing. She made all the right
facial expressions and gestures of someone reading a text in a foreign
Of course, not being able to actually read what’s on the
screen, she probably didn’t find it harder than any other acting chore.
Someone who can read Hebrew would have had an hell of a time trying to avoid
bursting out in laughter.
And I really don’t get it. JAG has a huge amount of viewers, both in
the US and worldwide. They know some of them can actually read Hebrew.
They went to the effort of finding text in actual Hebrew letters, but
not of getting relevant text.
I’m not sure how they did it. Did they
just found someone, told him "Go find a text, any text, in Hebrew" and
he went and found something? Decided that the likeliest place is the
government’s website, and picked the first news link there?
episode was shot on Jan 4th (the date in the news bulletin, which is also
visible in the email message on the show), it could be. But it’s just
dumb. It’s too dangerous to show random real text. If you don’t care that the text is
totally unrelated, it’s safer to make a random jumble of letters.
But why have unrelated text? It seems very unlikely that they
couldn’t find anyone who can read and write Hebrew. Hebrew speaking
people are not that rare. How much would someone possibly charge to
write an actual page of text that looks like the beginning of a
personal dossier? Heck, they can turn to some fan of the show in
Israel, and have it done for the price of a name in the credits.
Hey, DPB : I’d do it myself if you need any Hebrew text for future episodes. No problems. Seriously.
If you don’t like me, I can find other people here who will.
Putting a not-relevant text, and letting a main character treat it
as something else, looks very ridiculous and unprofessional. I don’t
like to use words like pathetic, but, well, if it quacks like a duck…
And if the text was indeed picked without any screening (which must be
true, since why use it if you have someone capable of screening it?)
that’s just poor judgement. You might have gotten a text about
anything. That’s very very risky. For a new low-budget home indie film,
that would have been understandable. But for a very serious,
successful, and high-profile series?!