The 2020 Netflix drama series Unorthodox draws on tropes from a vexed archive of transcultural cinema, in particular Turkish German cinema. Through the frame of the captivity narrative, this essay examines how the series about a young Hasidic Jewish woman who escapes her family and community in Williamsburg, New York, and flees to Berlin presents culturally determined themes of victimhood, oppression, and gendered subjugation. A comparison with Turkish German films, such as 40 Square Meters of Germany (40 Quadratmeter Deutschland, dir. Tevfik Başer, West Germany, 1986) and When We Leave (Die Fremde, dir. Feo Aladağ, Germany, 2010), calls attention to the continuity of the captivity narrative, with its troubling themes, and asks the question of intent. As scholars have indicated in the case of Turkish German cinema, filmmakers have frequently been faced with the task of appealing to German mainstream audiences eager to see their own cultural stereotypes reaffirmed on screen. Rooted in colonialist and Orientalist fantasies, the captivity narrative provided an effective conduit. But what is it still doing in Unorthodox? Close readings of several scenes from the series and engagement with Hortense Spillers's concept of “pornotroping” as well as Hamid Naficy's “housebondage” and Meyda Yeğenoğlu's “unveiling” reveal at once the problems and the possibilities of Unorthodox as it employs and subverts the captivity narrative. The essay concludes with an analysis of place, namely, the Berlin setting of the series, as a historically fraught context that likewise raises questions about intentionality and the role of Germany's past and present.

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