New article in the Forward on Unorthodox

New article in the Forward on Unorthodox

If you’ve been reading any of my past posts, it should come as no surprise that I found more than a few inaccuracies in the new Netflix series Unorthodox. The Forward published some of my musings; feel free to read the article here.

Generally, various costume and ritual errors aside, I argue that audiences can handle realistic depictions of people, Hasidic or otherwise. Allow characters to be human, to express emotions, to have both good and bad within them. But from my own life experience, portraying anything different from yourself negatively helps no one.

  • Donna Dambrot
    Posted at 13:45h, 31 March Reply

    Your review seems uneven. You describe how life is not correctly portrayed, yet reinforce the bases upon which the show is based. It is confusing. Are you saying the author upon whose book the series was born is ingenuous?

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 14:06h, 31 March Reply

      “yet reinforce the bases upon which the show is based.”

      I don’t understand what you are trying to say.

      The show is only very, very loosely based on the book. The book is a different story. It was controversial for different reasons. I unpacked her story here.

  • Zeno Lee
    Posted at 09:15h, 07 April Reply

    I tried watching the first episode. The characters didn’t feel right nor natural. How can a woman secluded all her life in an isolated community be so savvy and be able to fly to Berlin by herself and ingratiate herself in a cosmopolitan group of musicians with such ease? How can a group of friends just accept a random stranger to their group? There was no “connection” other than a coffee shop. It felt so unnatural I don’t believe I can go on with the series. I came right to this blog after I saw the first episode. For me it wasn’t about the authenticity of portraying the community that bothered me. I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief at some obvious shortcomings in portraying normal human interactions, let alone the improbability of a Hasidic woman navigating the outside world with such ease.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 09:25h, 07 April Reply

      Hi Zeno! And of course you are right! The show’s biggest flaws are in the absurd plot holes. I know that if I watched a show like this about another culture, even without any information about the culture, I’d be like “whaaaaaaa?” And yet, people eat it up…

  • Melanie Fuller
    Posted at 11:47h, 18 April Reply

    I was one that “ate it up”…I was amazed at the story line (dazzled that she escaped to Germany & entered a conservatory)..then saw it was based on a book (Reality sets it), stumbled upon your review (The “inconsistencies“ are too much) and ended up here…plotting to find a way to NY and to take a tour (after COVID 19, of course). Bookmarked this website…so that I can bask in the glory of reality and humor…

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 11:50h, 18 April Reply

      well, well, sooo, we like to work with temperate expectations. Isn’t that how humor works anyway; hits you when you don’t see it coming? So come expecting… eh, drollery and so on… But come!

  • Tracy Hoekema
    Posted at 18:59h, 18 April Reply

    Also one minute in Berlin she goes to library unaware how to do a search but reflecting back to her marriage mentions you tube

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 22:22h, 18 April Reply

      I don’t remember the youtube mention. Can you specify?

  • Miriam
    Posted at 08:33h, 05 May Reply

    Hi Frieda – so interesting to read your perspective! I’m really interested in your take.
    I lived in Crown Heights Chabad commnunity and I felt that the women in Unorthodox did resemble women I had seen before… I thought the lady who taught Esti to medidate resembled some of the faux “gurus” i encountered in Chassidic life – totally unqualified women who are very charismatic (and maybe well meaning) who the community appoints to consult with people who have “problems”. Our community had such a woman and kalla teacher and I really felt her presence in Unorthodox.
    I totally agree with you that it is dangerous the way her “break-out” is presented.
    I just texted my friend as it really bugs me – where did Esti end up sleeping the whole of her stay in Berlin (before she hooks up with the classmate). She is completely destitute. She also seemed to buy new clothes, adapt to new fashions, and socilise so so easily with her new pals… That was a bit of wishful thinking.

    I really loved your article and wanted to say thank you for writing and for opening my eyes to what was off in Unorthodox.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 19:49h, 05 May Reply

      Hi Miriam!

      Left a reply. Looks like it disappeared!

      I agree about these “gurus”. I know some of these women. I think Michal Birnbaum, who acted the Kallah teacher and has done a short film in Hasidic Williamsburg, brought the character to life – although within the limitations of the script. I think the kallah teacher and the aunt felt pretty real.

      I have a bad feeling about these “gurus”, often power hungry women who build themselves up by oppressing fellow women. They are often self important and self righteous to the moon and back. I shudder!

  • Miriam
    Posted at 22:19h, 06 May Reply

    Hi Frieda!
    You’re so right!
    It’s all about submission and control. I thought this woman in the movie – (who you pointed out to me has done more film work as a Hasidic woman) was good because she captured that saccharine sweetness these idiotic guru women sometimes use. I looked up the actress and she seems amazing. The aunt was great too. Sorry for the delayed reply – I’m in Australia!

    Posted at 17:58h, 07 August Reply

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