Day 19: Check me out on Filmsuck as we tear into the new Netflix hit “Unorthodox”

If this show was made in the 1990s, when American consumerist liberalism still seemed to hold some promise, maybe it would’a worked better. Now it’s like getting a whiff of a stagnant, dying culture.

Went on Filmsuck to talk about Unorthodox, the new critically acclaimed Netflix docudrama about a woman who escapes the Satmars, a Hasidic sect in New York, and starts a new and hip life among a diverse group of cool kids in Berlin.

Evgenia, Eileen, and I tear into the show in all sorts of ways. But I think we all agree that one of its central problem is that it’s a total liberal fantasy completely out of tune with our current cultural and political moment.

It’s true, Hasidic communities are regressive and rightwing in all sorts of ways — and I’ve written about before. But if the expansion of Chabad (a different Hasidic sect based in New York that I’m familiar with) is any indication, these socially conservative and restrictive sects are actually more appealing to secular American Jews today more than ever. Why? Because for many people, today’s liberal consumerist culture is bankrupt and lacks any real meaning and human connection and a purpose in life — something that these more traditional and conservative religious movements provide. The proof? Chabad is growing and thriving, while more liberal and assimilationist strains of Judaism like the Reform Movement, which is what I was exposed to as a Soviet immigrant kid in San Francisco, are basically dying.

If Unorthodox was made in the 1990s, when American consumerist liberalism still seemed to hold promise, maybe it would have worked better. But now? It’s like getting a whiff of a stagnant, dying culture.

Listen to the episode here…and subscribe to Filmsuck!

—Yasha Levine


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