Reality TV is a guilty pleasure of mine that has only been indulged by the recent Sydney lockdown. But although the shenanigans of the genre as a whole tend to be shocking, Netflix’s latest offering ‘My Unorthodox Life’ stunned me for an entirely different reason. As a Jewish woman, raised in a predominantly secular household but educated in an Modern Orthodox school, I was surprised to see a reality show that was so firmly centred around Judaism. Whilst on the face of it, the series tells the story of a flashy CEO, Julia Haart, and her family, it simultaneously reflects a process of cultural and religious discovery as Julia, and members of her family, navigate life in the big city after leaving the Orthodox Jewish community of Monsey.
From about the age of 15, I found myself more interested and attached to my religion. My family celebrated many of the Jewish festivals, I observed Shabbat and dressed more modestly than many of my friends. However, more recently I have found myself deeply reconsidering the cornerstones of my identity, cultural practices and value system. In view of this, I was simultaneously excited and apprehensive about the show. I was interested to see how others made such leaps in the process of self discovery, navigating waters much muddier than the ones that I found myself in. But all the same, I was concerned about the circulation of stereotypes, and demonisation of the Jewish community.