Netflix Synopsis: “Pressured to marry a nice Orthodox Jewish woman, Motti is thrown for a loop when he falls for classmate Laura, who his mother will never approve of.”
As an avid fan and writer of romantic-comedies, and an Orthodox Jew, I found the Netflix film, The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch to delve into anti-Semitic stereotypes, in an insensitive, crude and painful way.
Humor that paints noticeably Jewish characters as overbearing, lewd, disingenuous, manipulative, condescending, or insane, but portrays their secular counterparts as normal, decent people begs the question— Why does the humor only flow in one direction?
How are viewers to understand a storyline where a young man who makes a living chooses to live with a mother who is emotionally abusive and insane? Are viewers supposed to accept that he doesn’t consider moving out of a dysfunctional home— because his crazy mother is a typical Jewish woman? I have never met an Orthodox woman remotely like the over-the-top mother portrayed in this film. She is happy she drove her car into a German? This gets a laugh? Are viewers supposed to think that Jews secretly want to hurt Germans?
Motti goes to Israel because Israeli women are promiscuous? This is an acceptable plot point?
Motti’s told not to be picky in his marriage selection because he’s not the “King of Kings.” This reference to Jesus, in this context, makes spurious assumptions about how religious Jews relate to Christianity.
The movie was poorly researched and plot lines make no sense regarding how Orthodox communities arrange marriages. If one were to write about religious and ethnic minorities, wouldn’t such details be well-researched and authentic?
For a community that is constantly marginalized and attacked, showing our lives in such a grotesque manner with zero acknowledgement to any of the positive aspects of our traditions is problematic.
Showing spirituality through yoga and tarot, while neglecting to show any spirituality within Judaism–a religion which has inspired countless numbers of people throughout the millennium– is offensive.
But perpetuating harmful stereotypes that could lead to viewers being dismissive of Jews— and the value of their lives– is dangerous and anti-Semitic.
J.M. Law & Religion, Emory University School of Law