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← What Unorthodox Teaches Us About Trauma | Netflix

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Showing Revision 8 created 05/10/2020 by Buzbee.

  1. The dictionary definition of trauma is:
  2. Severe emotional shock and pain,
  3. caused by an extremely
    upsetting experience.
  4. There is no set way to process trauma.
  5. But, in "Unorthodox," we see how
    two different communities,
  6. one in Berlin, and another in
    Brooklyn,
  7. cope with the tragedies
    that have shaped them.
  8. And, in turn, we learn ways
    to deal with our trauma.
  9. In Brooklyn, trauma forms
    19 year old Esty's,
  10. and her community's,
    identity.
  11. The action follows
    the secretive Satmar community
  12. of Hasidic Jews.
  13. Established by a rabbi
    who had fled Satu Mare,
  14. in present-day Romania,
    during the Holocaust.
  15. The Satmar community
    does not mix with others.
  16. In "Unorthodox,"
  17. at the head of the
    sex-segregated table,
  18. for Pesach dinner,
  19. an annual commemoration
    of the Jews who escaped slavery
  20. in ancient Egypt,
  21. Esty's grandfather
    gives his reasons why.
  22. [Grandfather] We tell ourselves
  23. the story of Passover
  24. to remind us of
    our suffering.
  25. [Narrator] The show celebrates
  26. the strong bonds
    of family and tradition,
  27. within Esty's community,
  28. where religious customs
    and prayers
  29. can take place safely,
  30. while deadly attacks
  31. on synagogues, and
    other venues frequented by Jews,
  32. rise, across the world.
  33. This community defies
    anti-Semitism, by living devoutly.
  34. We also see, in this scene,
  35. how Satmar Jews
    draw on past trauma,
  36. to make members scared
    of the big, bad outside.
  37. [Grandfather] When we trusted
  38. our friends and neighbors,
  39. God punished us.
  40. When we forget who we are,
  41. we invite God's wrath.
  42. [Narrator] The Holocaust
  43. caused PTSD in its survivors.
  44. Its impact lives on.
  45. As Auschwitz survivor,
    chemist, and writer,
  46. Primo Levi puts it:
  47. "Auschwitz is outside of us,
  48. but it is all around us,
    in the air.
  49. The plague has died away,
    but the infection still lingers,
  50. and it would be foolish
    to deny it."
  51. This generational trauma
    grows from the roots
  52. of Esty's family tree,
    and shapes Esty's personal identity.
  53. She is discouraged from
    exploring passions
  54. that contradict
    the community's values.
  55. Her piano lessons
    are so frowned upon,
  56. she must take them
    in secret.
  57. Her teacher,
    Vivian Dropkin,
  58. is derided as 'a shiksa,'
    or non-Jew.
  59. But interestingly,
    though the show never mentions it,
  60. Dropkin is a secular Jew.
  61. Despite her faith, her choices
    are not Jewish enough
  62. for Esty's devout community.
  63. [Man speaking Yiddish.]
  64. Many Orthodox Jews
    believe that the way
  65. to undo the trauma
    of the Holocaust,
  66. is to repopulate.
  67. 2013 research for
    the Pew Center
  68. shows that Orthodox Jews
    have a birth rate of 4.1,
  69. as opposed to the U. S.
    national average of 1.8.
  70. Esty totally believes
    what she's been taught to believe,
  71. later insisting,
  72. "We are rebuilding
    the six million lost."
  73. Jews killed in the Holocaust.
  74. [Grandmother] So many lost.
  75. But, soon, you'll have
    children of your own.
  76. [Narrator] Six million
    is no small sum.
  77. So, alongside the housework
    needed to keep her home tidy,
  78. and her husband, Yanky Shapiro,
  79. well fed and in perfectly
    ironed suits,
  80. Esty's job is to have
    as many children as possible.
  81. [Woman] You will have no leverage
    in this marriage,
  82. until there is a baby.
    Understand me?
  83. [Narrator] She is told that sex
    will give her husband pleasure,
  84. which, in turn, will give her
    exactly what she wants:
  85. what she has been told she wants...
    a baby.
  86. The problem with this way
    of dealing with trauma,
  87. as we see it through Esty's eyes,
  88. is, it creates
    a domino effect.
  89. There is a field of academic study
  90. called epigenetics,
  91. which deals with the concept
  92. of trans-generational trauma,
  93. or, the idea that trauma
    can be inherited.
  94. Some studies suggest that DNA
  95. changes in response
    to horrifying experiences,
  96. and that, then, passes
    down generations.
  97. Whether through epigenetics
    or not,
  98. in "Unorthodox," traumatized parents
  99. unintentionally traumatize
    their children.
  100. Esty's grandparents are still,
    understandably,
  101. bereft by the Holocaust.
  102. Their son, Mordecai,
    is mentally unwell.
  103. As for Leah, her trauma
    comes, mainly,
  104. from not quite fitting the mold
    that's been set for her.
  105. Esty is tarred by her parents' pain.
  106. Now that she is a bride herself,
    she finds the rules troublesome.
  107. [Mrs. Shapiro] We shouldn't have agreed
    to this marriage.
  108. [Yanky Shapiro] Mommy, please!
  109. [Mrs. Shapiro] The apple doesn't fall
    far from the tree.
  110. [Narrator] When Esty tries
    to argue the case
  111. for her to be pleasured,
    rather than traumatized in bed,
  112. using scripture as evidence
    of God's will for it,
  113. she is shut down.
  114. [Yanky Shapiro] Women are not
    allowed to read the Talmud!
  115. [Narrator] This text is for men only,
    not for women's eyes,
  116. due to something known as
  117. "Kavod Hatzibur," or the dignity
    of the community.
  118. Esty's story shows how
    socially restrictive responses to trauma
  119. often unfairly muzzle women.
  120. Esty can't get away with half
    of what her cousin in law, Moishe, can.
  121. Moishe is a thief, a liar,
    an aggressive lout,
  122. with no consideration
    for others.
  123. Yet, his behavior seems rooted
    In self-loathing.
  124. His moral decay,
    his own trauma,
  125. is catching up with him,
  126. as he realizes, he has neither
  127. the commitment of one community,
  128. nor the tools of another.
  129. [Moishe cackles laughing.]
  130. [Narrator] Meanwhile, Yanky,
  131. a saint next to Moishe,
  132. ends up meting out trauma,
  133. through his childishly ignorant
    commitment
  134. to maintaining his community,
  135. by any means available.
  136. In Brooklyn, we see how trauma,
  137. sadly, sometimes begets
    more trauma.
  138. As Esty's mom puts it:
  139. [Leah] So much damage
    done in Brooklyn,
  140. in the name of God.
  141. All the rules, all the gossip.
  142. No wonder Esty couldn't stand it.
  143. [Narrator] Berlin, meanwhile,
  144. has a very different way
    of dealing with trauma.
  145. [Classical music.]
  146. "Unorthodox" presents
  147. Adolf Hitler's former stronghold
  148. as a liberal, diverse idyll,
  149. where people, especially the young,
    can do
  150. what they want, when they want,
    with whom they want.
  151. Once the epicenter of suffering,
  152. Berlin counters its past trauma
  153. by celebrating joy,
  154. and reclaiming some of its character
  155. that the Nazis tried to extinguish.
  156. This is the city
  157. that once saw the Golden 1920s
    of the Weimar Republic,
  158. when Marlene Dietrich
    rose to fame,
  159. cabaret was popular entertainment,
  160. and the Bauhaus art movement
    was founded.
  161. This social liberalism
    comes across in public displays
  162. of affection, that the naive
    and modest Esty is struck by.
  163. She is used to a traumatic sex life,
  164. that only ever happened in private,
  165. yet was discussed so publicly.
  166. In Berlin, the opposite is true.
  167. This is because pleasure,
    rather than procreation,
  168. is the goal.
  169. Esty begins to realize
  170. that the world is not
    as black and white
  171. as she has been taught.
  172. [Man] You could try to rescue
    Robert's attempt at a salad.
  173. [Narrator] The city's physical spaces
  174. are examples of how traumatic sites
    can be reclaimed.
  175. On Esty's first excursion
    with her new friends,
  176. she ventures upon what is,
  177. to her community back in Brooklyn,
  178. hell.
  179. [Man] When the Berlin Wall was up,
  180. East German guards shot anyone
  181. who tried to swim across this lake
    to freedom.
  182. [Esty] And now?
  183. [Man] Now, you can swim
    as far as you like.
  184. [Mystical music.]
  185. [Narrator] It might be
    the location of trauma,
  186. but it's not the source
    of trauma.
  187. Unlike the Mikvah that
    blessed Esty,
  188. a secular body of water
    cannot bless, or condemn.
  189. Only people can.
  190. Of course, some people
    will never be able to find joy
  191. in the same waters Hitler
    gazed across,
  192. as he decided to end
    millions of Jews' lives.
  193. But in this scene,
  194. Esty has
    an opportunity to help
  195. begin her new life,
    within its waters.
  196. Esty removes her wig
    in this lake,
  197. in a more extreme version
    of the breakup haircut.
  198. While the shorn hair
    beneath it
  199. is the imposition of a sect
  200. that sees women's hair
    as so tempting to men
  201. it must be shaved off,
  202. it is also an uncanny
    and unintended reminder
  203. of the ways in which
    Esty's ancestors
  204. were dehumanized
    by the Nazis,
  205. their heads shaved
    in the concentration camps.
  206. [Esty panting.]
  207. [Narrator] Without this wig,
    she can float in the water,
  208. free to forget her trauma,
  209. and all the rules and regulations
    that led to it.
  210. The lake scene proves how
  211. expression of individual freedoms
  212. can pay tribute to past generations
    who were once restricted.
  213. By swimming in the waters,
  214. Esty and her friends
  215. do what many from
    previous generations could not.
  216. Joy is, for them, a far more useful
  217. tool of remembrance,
    than guilt.
  218. [Man] A lake is just a lake.
  219. [Narrator] Esty's new friends
  220. prove that trauma comes
    in many forms.
  221. Each carries with them
    their own difficult histories.
  222. Some come from war-torn countries,
  223. have lost loved ones,
  224. or grew up gay
    in homophobic countries.
  225. The friction between
    Esty and Yael hinges
  226. on how their shared trauma
    is dealt with so differently.
  227. [Esty] My grandparents
    lost their whole families
  228. in the camps.
  229. [Yael] So did half of Israel.
  230. But, we are too busy
    defending our present,
  231. to be sentimental
    about our past.
  232. [Narrator] Both Jewish,
  233. Esty and Yael's ancestors
    may have very well died
  234. alongside each other
    in the death camps,
  235. but their responses
    to this trauma
  236. couldn't be more different.
  237. Yael used music
    as an escape from military duty,
  238. and its inevitable traumas.
  239. With her violin in hand,
    she expresses herself as she chooses.
  240. Esty quickly learns that,
    in Berlin,
  241. men and women,
  242. secular Jews,
  243. Muslims, Christians,
    and others
  244. play music together.
  245. The only rules
    are that they turn up,
  246. stay focused, and
    collaborate.
  247. Esty no longer
    muffles her own screams,
  248. but unleashes her pain
    and trauma,
  249. using the creativity
    she has always longed
  250. to be able to wield.
  251. Using Yael's unfiltered freedom
    as a template,
  252. Esty finally expresses
    her personal identity.
  253. [Singing]
  254. [Narrator] The Berliners
    of "Unorthodox"
  255. haven't forgotten their trauma,
  256. or that of the city
    they live in,
  257. but have found ways
    to deal with it,
  258. reclaiming Hitler's land
    for their own, joyful purposes.
  259. Wanting personal freedoms
    for everyone,
  260. especially women.
  261. Using creativity as a conduit
    to exorcise their trauma.
  262. That is not to say
    Brooklyn is totally opposite.
  263. Like everything else in the show,
  264. from the costumes to the sets,
  265. "Unorthodox" handles trauma
    sensitively and beautifully.
  266. No one is outright good,
    or outright evil.
  267. Some people struggle in Berlin,
  268. in the same way others thrive
    in Brooklyn.
  269. Human trauma
    is complex and individual,
  270. not black and white.
  271. In "Unorthodox," we see
  272. the classic tale of a Jew
    escaping European trauma
  273. and captivity, in reverse.
  274. In Berlin, Esty discovers
  275. that undoing trauma
    can be as simple
  276. as going for a swim,
  277. communicating with outsiders,
  278. and singing her heart out.
  279. All on her own terms,
  280. and in her own time.
  281. [Soft music.]