Netflix’s Heretics and Their Descent into the Postmodern Abyss

Aug. 11 2020

In the past year, Netflix has brought its subscribers the film The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch and the series Unorthodox, each of which tells the story of a young Jew who find his or her way out of an insular Orthodox community. Roy Pinchot, reviewing both, writes:

Both Unorthodox and The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch present the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community as an exotic, picturesque, and quasi-primitive society, out of touch with modern values and modern culture. [The two productions] portray only the weaknesses of this society—never attempting to show its strengths. . . . These stories attack the ultra-Orthodox community through ridicule and parody of the parents, rabbis, and adherents, all of whom are turned into a source of laughter. They possess little wisdom, and even less virtue, which gives the writer and director license to extricate the hero or heroine from this outdated prison and bring him and her to the delights of postmodern virtues and morals.

What are the idealized postmodern virtues and morals of these films, and who is the new Moses who leads the hero or heroine into the promised land? After the audience sees how controlling these religious societies are, and how they narrow the expectations of the adherents and surround them with rules, laws, and authority figures, the hero or heroine meets a representative of the outside modern world, whose life appears to be enlightened and superior. This angel of opportunity leads our protagonist out of the community and toward the promise of personal fulfillment. In this outside world, the main character undergoes a detoxing process that involves sexual activity as an expression of his or her new “freedom.”

Toward the end of Motti’s awakening, he visits a dying friend and fortuneteller, who helps him reframe his recent rejection of family, friends, and religion: “Everything is now possible,” he explains. There are no limits. In Habits of the Heart, the author Robert Bellah notes that “Progress, modernity’s master idea, seems less compelling when it appears that it may be progress into the abyss.” At the end of the movie, Motti sits on a park bench alone, having given up everything that had meaning in his life. He does not realize that a future without limits may mean descent into the abyss.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Heresy, Judaism, Television, Ultra-Orthodox

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy