I have long enjoyed “Fiddler on the Roof,” and re-watching some of the video clips on Youtube has reminded just how much Reb Tevye amuses me. But more than just Reb Tevye as an uneducated, goofy, poor Jewish man, I was noticing the various expectations he has of what being rich entails, and how much these expectations contrast with the expectations of wealth today. Reb Tevye wants a tin roof, wood floors, and geese and chickens in his lawn. And he wants his wife to have a double chin–a sign that she has more than enough to eat. These days, eating enough to have a double chin is all too easy to do. Eating well enough to avoid the extra chin (regardless of the quantity) is what costs money.
But how realistic are Reb Tevye’s expectations and desires? People with more money certainly do have more clout in society, but I doubt many have a staircase to nowhere, just for show. This also made me wonder what “If I were a rich man” would like today, either about contemporary society or just produced in 2013 instead of the 1960s. Does it have the same resonance with a modern audience that it had half a century ago?