So Alex Pappademas runs down (in a couple senses of the phrase) Tim Burton’s oeuvre on Grantland, and he includes a very interesting footnote in the Batman Returns paragraph:
[D]espite [the Penguin’s] being played by an Italian-American actor, [he] read onscreen like such a nightmare Shylock that two Columbia law students wrote a crazy-yet-convincing New York Times op-ed accusing Burton of anti-Semitism. “He is a Jew, down to his hooked nose, pale face and lust for herring … The Penguin sails the sewers in a giant rubber duck, a parody of the ‘Schwa der Scheide’ from Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin.’”
What a delightful subtextual reading! As ever with these kinds of alternate readings, Burton’s intent is irrelevant. The authors dredged his subconscious and found “greater destruction, a kind of Armageddon instigated by the orphan-Satan-Moses himself”. Inherently valid!
But who were these Columbia law students? Check the byline: Daniel Cooper… and Rebecca Roiphe. Sister to Katie, perhaps? Looks like: here is a New York Times engagement announcement for a Rebecca Roiphe, who would have been around 21 at the time of the op-ed. Her parents are Anne and Herman, listed as the parents of Katie, “Becky,” and Emily Carter in this article from POZ. (Emily has dropped the “Roiphe” from her name).
So: almost probably Katie Roiphe’s sister co-wrote an op-ed outlining how Tim Burton’s Batman Returns is problematic for turning “one faith against the other”.