In the Autumn 2020 quarter, thanks to Anna Malin and the UW Department of German Studies, a special online viewing and discussion group was offered to students. 26 participants signed up, and together we watched the Netflix original miniseries Unorthodox, in which a 19 year old Jewish woman from a heavily Orthodox community discovers herself and her path to individuality. The show features the city of Berlin along with German and Yiddish language, and it was interesting to see the overlap and shared genetics between Yiddish and German. More importantly, Unorthodox illuminates fascinating cultural juxtapositions and it served as a potent inspiration for discussion.
The necessity of an online-only viewing party seemed like an awkward half-measure at first, but many voiced that they had underestimated how engaging and successful it would be. Rather than 15-minute conversations following each episode, we typically spent a full hour with many different students taking the chance to speak up and offer ideas, interacting with each other in a format that can be hard to find elsewhere. We mused about symbolism, music, religion, storytelling, sex, culture, language, gender roles, politics, and psychology while we processed each intense entry of the series. The overwhelming mood at the conclusion of our Unorthodox meetings was one of appreciation for a shared group experience that was much more engaging than we expected, and many were excited to have a group like this again.
Austin Heinz (German 201 student)