Unorthodox: Because Self-Love Comes First

By Allison Zambrano

Imagine going against your entire family and religious views, when you’ve been taught respect and loyalty your whole life. In the Netflix series Unorthodox, you will witness just that. This series will take you on a life journey where the protagonist faces many obstacles. Unorthodox has earned 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8/10-star rating on IMDb.

The Emmy award winning show is based on a true story that took place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The main protagonist Esther was raised Jewish by her grandparents, as her mother left to Germany at a young age to get away from the overwhelming lifestyle that came from being Jewish. At the age of 19, Esther meets Yakov, as they have been set up by their families for a potential arranged marriage. Nervous to become a bride, Esther must learn about sexual intercourse, prepare to shave her hair after the ceremony, which symbolizes modesty, and visit the Mikveh a few days before her wedding. In the series, they show the different rules and routines married Jewish women must go through in order to have intercourse with their husbands. Including the showering process, clothing that needs to be worn, toys that are allowed, positions, and even how long one must wait to have intercourse after ending her menstrual cycle.

Esther, now a wife, doesn’t only deal with the responsibility of maintaining the house or having food ready on the table, but also the pressure from her mother-in-law for her to get pregnant immediately after the wedding. Noticing the heavy the weight of married life and religious standards, Esther decides that she will no longer continue to live that way, making her way to Germany. She received help from the only person she could confide in, her secret piano teacher, that has been coaching her for months.  With only a limited amount of money and very few belongings, she finds herself breaking in and staying at a music school, where she meets a group of talented students from around the world. They show her around and welcome her into their group, giving her a sense of diversity and freedom. She even decides to audition at the school to become a student. Initially, she wanted to audition playing the piano, but in the end she sings and delivers a very heartfelt song.

While in Germany, she and her mom eventually reunite and rekindle their relationship, where a now older Esther understands why her mother left in the first place. During this entire journey and adaptation to this new life, Yakov and his cousin travel to Germany in search for Esther. Amongst finding her, Esther shares with Yakov her emotional reasons for leaving, and even though expressed that he will change for her and wants to be different with her by his side, she makes it very clear to him that she will not be returning. We also come to find out that she is pregnant with their child, which she plans on raising on her own.

Unorthodox is a very powerful story. With such an inspiring lesson that can be interpreted from this strong character that chose her happiness before anyone and anything else. She believed in herself and achieved so much and although it wasn’t easy, she did not give up. Esther focused on her future and wellbeing, which many people may be afraid to do. This is just one story out of many in the world, where freedom and risks come hand in hand, not knowing what the outcome will be or where your decisions will take you.


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