Welcome to Judgment City: A Look Back at Defending Your Life | Features


There’s no currency in Judgment City (the snow-white robes have no pockets) but Daniel still manages to feel like a schlemiel. You can feel him wondering what the point was of accumulating all those airline miles and credit card points, since he ends up waiting out his fate in a business-traveler class Hilton while Julia, his shiksa love interest (played by Meryl Streep), gets to stay at the Ritz. Daniel is a fish out of water, not just because he’s in a Purgatory, but because he’s been playing the game of life by the wrong set of rules. 

Daniel is fascinated and, at times, repelled by Julia, because not only has she had a rewarding life on Earth, she hasn’t taken any apparent food or sex shame or hang-ups with her to Judgment City. Nothing seems to embarrass or annoy her. She laughs loudly and doesn’t look to see if anyone is looking at her. Despite being told that he can eat all the “sensational” food in Judgment City without gaining any weight, he can’t let go of the sin of gluttony and the fear of cholesterol that ruined so many meals when he was alive. Instead, he enviously watches Julia wolf down a corn dog and asks her if she’s going to eat the stick too. He’s jealous because Julia is more alive when she’s dead than he ever was. Not only is she beautiful, fun, and open-hearted, she’s also a really good person who adopted children and saved the family cat from a house fire. How is he supposed to compete with that? No one told him that that’s what he was supposed to do. 

Daniel is put to the final test on the evening before he and Julia learn their fates. She tells him she loves him and asks him to spend the night. Daniel agrees and yet, he cannot allow himself to stay. He tells her that despite the fact that the time they’ve spent together is “better than any sex he’s ever had, ever,” he feels too spiritually inadequate to make love to her.

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“Let’s say it’s the most amazing thing ever,” he says. “Then what will I do? I doubt we’re going to the same place. So, I’ll just have to miss it forever and ever? And what if it’s not so good? I won’t be able to fantasize about it. I’ve been defending myself so hard. And I don’t want to be judged anymore. I have this wonderful feeling inside of me, but I’m just tired of being judged.”



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