It’s Brutal Out There

What is that key 18-24 year-old demographic thinking about?  

Well, I’ll tell you.  Mostly they’re thinking they don’t want to be in 2021.  And, well, who can blame them? 

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

To mask, or not to mask?

These should not be the questions. 

And why are those questions even up for debate?

Have I been quiet lately?

Once we lived in a world where science ruled; where political leaders understood they needed to agree to disagree in order to govern; and where actual news footage of hundreds of rioters storming the Capitol building, destroying property and killing cops was at the very least seen as a…well…riot .

Yet today’s 2021 has become one big mass of illogical conclusions.  A literal Alice In Wonderland where up IS down and down IS up.

That is if we could even agree on the definitions of DOWN and UP.

Nope. Na-ah. I’m going back to bed.

No wonder our young people want nothing to do with it, or us.

Every spring I teach a class for college writing majors called Thesis Writing For Screen Media.  In it, graduating seniors develop and write either an original screenplay or TV series pilot and first season episode guide.

It’s not an exact science but what I have come to see annually after reading their work over the years is a cross-section of what’s going through the minds of those with far less experience but far more guile and energy than myself and those of my peers.

Not at all what I look like while grading these scripts

What I get is a brief but fleeting glance of what they see as…the future.  And given their age and the fact that they will soon be taking over the reigns of this, ahem, Wonderland, their perceptions are far more relevant than mine.  Or, likely, yours.

Some years the stories are mostly pure escapist and other times they veer towards the deadly depressing in a way you can only pull off when you’re in college.  One year there were far too many scripts centered around technology (Note: At least for my tastes, which means more than three) and in another a decade back I wanted to shoot myself in the head when I had four or five (though it felt like ten) leaning heavily towards relentless versions of Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter sword and sorcery.

My notes. #igiveup

Of course, mixed into these are always, always, ALWAYS takes on love, injustice and outrageous coming of age, buddy, love stories in the contemporary world. 

Not much like that this year.

Of the twelve scripts I read, only ONE took place in 2021.  That means ELEVEN of them were set in the past, the future or, in one case, in an alternate animated universe that has never existed but you sure wish could exist.  Particularly in these days.

OK but not THIS alternate reality

I’ve got stories in the roaring twenties and depression era New York City.  I’ve got one that takes place in 18th century West Asia, two others set in the intolerant post Civil War west of the 1800s, and another in a literal ghost town not of this earth.

There is one that takes place far in the future on various planets, a second set in ancient Greek mythology (Note: Gods and all) and a third set only five years ago in a pre-pandemic restaurant.

I can’t wait to erase this from my memory

The sole story that takes place in our contemporary world is about three people, two of whom are on the spectrum, and all of whom pretty much live in their own worlds and mostly try to ignore ours.

It doesn’t take an analyst to understand what these writers are doing, and if you guessed taking the easy way out you would be incorrect.

We can intellectualize all we like – we baby boomers and we Gen Xers – but it seems clear that the reality we’ve rendered for the next generation has become pretty much incomprehensible to understand, that is with any real insight, without stepping out of our time period.

Gen Z edition

You can’t make sense of the illogical.  You can’t write about a world where there are no basic truths or rules the vast majority can agree upon.  If you want to answer real questions of faith or humanity you have to go back at least five years or more (Note: Preferably more) or move ahead some indeterminate amount of time (Note: Preferably A LOT more than five years).

Normally I tell young writers who are stumped or shy or reticent, if you merely look around your house or your neighborhood you will discover far more stories than you could possibly tell in a lifetime, much less a semester.

Me when I see that there is a screenwriting professor in the script

Choose what you can’t get off your mind, what fascinates you and go ALL IN.  Use all of YOUR creativity, YOUR craft and YOUR mind to recount to us one of those and you have the best chance of hooking us.  Not to mention, you’ll be amazed at how writing about what you care about in the here and now makes us exponentially care about it, too.

I gave that same min-speech this year but the result was like nothing in the past.

It’s not like there weren’t thematic personal truths to the stories they were telling.  We still got the love stories, the tales of deep hurt (Note: Sometimes even peppered with wry comedy) and the rite of passage journeys.  There were also those of war, of survival and even of government corruption that included people of all races, colors and sexual persuasions.

But in none of them, not a one, was there a literal evocation of 2021 as we know it.

Yep, this… entirely.

In reflection, this was a wise decision.

How can these young people, or any of us, write about something with any meaning that we can’t, at present, even begin to understand?

Olivia Rodrigo – “brutal”

DER ORANGE FUEHRER

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-3-53-32-pm

It’s difficult to watch the real life Leni Riefenstahl style propaganda film Donald Trump is trying to live each day he serves as the Electoral College president of the United States.

And yes – Riefenstahl was the official director of the Nazis – Hitler’s personal chronicler – with such films as Triumph of the WILL (Note that word in the title) to her credit.

And double yes – I am saying Trump fashions himself as a modern day Hitler – one who demands to be adored and rule with an iron hand as he WILLS to personally wipe out ANYONE and EVERYTHING that stands in the way of his adoration.

WAH!

WAH!

And, well, um – yeah – I’m not ruling out his attempts at future US concentration camps for particular groups of outliers he doesn’t like if he continues to remain in power. It will have to be craftier, done in a 2017 style and method, and I doubt he could pull it off. But I’m not eliminating it as his final solution.   Because I also doubted this ignoramus would be elected.

We don’t want people with bad, bad ideas coming into our country.

That was just one of many rousingly vague bromides that spewed out of his mouth in Saturday’s latest propaganda speech in Florida.

In the context of the remarks he was referring to immigrants.   So let’s take him at his word, even though he doesn’t seem to have one worth taking, only many that stream out of his sub-consciousness in scattershot directions.

What exactly ARE bad, bad ideas? Who decides they are bad? And how?

Believe me, this country already knows BAD ideas

Believe me, this country already knows BAD ideas #SAD

Well, he indicated in his speech the answer laid somewhere between his skewed interpretation of the appeals court opinion overturning his recent executive order to limit immigration and the actual special powers granted a president to enforce laws via our Constitution. So to prove his point he quoted said law in his speech, reading the following from a piece of paper.

Whenever the president finds that the entry of any alien, or any class of aliens, to the US detrimental to the interests of the U.S., he may by proclamation and such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens…or any restriction he may deem to be appropriate.

What the subject of his own Riefenstahl mind movie leaves out – and what separates the U.S. from past and present dictatorships – is presenting some sort of reasonable proof or argument of one’s assertions of detriment to the gatekeepers of checks and balances enshrined in our constitution. That is to say that blanket refusal of entry – and in many cases – RE-ENTRY of tens of thousands of people, many of whom already hold green cards and are actually re-entering their own homes, dorm rooms or childhood homes – needs to be reasonably defensible in court, in life, or otherwise – or it is illegal.

And we know a few things about illegal dealings... don't we Don?

And we know a few things about illegal dealings… don’t we Don?

As is the case with dictatorial thinkers (nee the president who lost the popular vote by almost 3 million), there is an outright rejection of anything that challenges their ultimate power. In fact, his voice grew fiery and his body physically jolted as he bridled at how his people were now hard at work on a NEW (world?) ORDER to challenge the court’s blockage of his original executive one. This was most apparent in the words he chose to describe his view of what the Constitutional statute enshrining his powers that he had just read from did to anyone who opposed him.

Every word here is a total KILL for the other side.

That’s right – KILL. As in – you’re dead. Lie down.

LET ME HEAR YOU SAY IT!

LET ME HEAR YOU SAY IT!

There is a style and rhythm to the way this guy speaks, haphazard though it might often be. One of the few consistencies is – there is not a lot of nuance. KILL means just that. Whether in a competition, or the court system, or perhaps literally. In America we will win, win, win. At what cost? Well, you tell me. Or perhaps he is already telling – us.

Again, he’s not that complicated.

As the man continues to speak about fake news from our most vetted and fact checked information sources (eg. The New York Times and Washington Post); appoint people who have fought their entire adult lives to dismantle the very government agencies they are now being charged to steward (eg Scott Pruitt EPA, Betsy DeVos Dept. of Education, Rick Perry, Dept of Energy); and stacks his closest inner circle of advisors with white men who, like himself, have ZERO to little experience in governing or foreign affairs (son-in-Law Jared Kushner, charged with achieving peace in the middle east, and the unmentionable former Breitbart “news” chief and avowed Leninist Steve Bannon, who I’ve unfortunately just mentioned, as his top consigliere on EVERYTHING) – we all need to CONTINUALLY ask ourselves.

WHAT. EXACTLY. IS. THIS?

Gotta get it together!

Gotta get it together!

Since the majority among us, certainly among those reading here, are reasonable people, the answer is, once again, as uncomplicated as a Trump speech:

IT. IS. EXACTLY. WHAT. YOU. THINK. IT. IS.

What this in turn means is that we all need to act accordingly:

#RESIST #DEMONSTRATE #ACT #DONATE

LOL (but also, YES!)

LOL (but also, YES!)

Do not stop. Call your representatives in Congress. Post on social media. Talk to friends. Go to meetings. Argue with relatives. Take to the streets. This is how the country came into being centuries ago, has continued to flourish through difficult decades, and is the ONLY road for survival. Despite how much our new dictator-in-chief rails against it.

How do I know this is needed? Because these days I even find myself, a life-long liberal, occasionally agreeing with John McCain from the sidelines. Yes, that’s right. The guy who brought us Sarah Palin.

We need a free press. If you want to preserve democracy as you know it you have to preserve a free and adversarial press. That’s how dictators get started.

Nailed it #maverick?

Nailed it #maverick?

Sure, he walked back that statement hours later by saying he wasn’t equating Trump with a dictator. But I’m not. I’m in full equating mode. Well okay – perhaps that’s a bit harsh in light of recent court opinions. Let’s just say that at this point – he’s an aspiring dictator.

When I told my husband about what I was writing, he reminded me of the brilliant Susan Sontag’s 1975 essay for the New York Review of Books on the work of Leni Riefenstahl entitled, Fascinating Fascism. In it, she factually and intellectually goes on to debunk and devastate the Nazi chronicler’s attempt to rehabilitate the reality of the extensive period of her life in service to Hitler into a gauzy creative representation of an unfairly marginalized artist who simply shot what she saw.

I'll save you the trouble it looked something like this #dumpsterfire

I’ll save you the trouble it looked something like this #dumpsterfire

Let’s hope someone, or more than one, are able to do the same thing en masse with Trump that Sontag did with Leni. And that it sticks.   If history is any indication, this person, or people, will come from what our modern-day American Fuehrer in training likes to most sourly call: THE CROOKED MEDIA. Which, given the reach of global internet platforms these day, is not only the NY Times and the Washington Post but each and every one of us Americans who gives even a whit about democracy and freedoms – not only for ourselves but for all of our non-immigrant, and immigrant, brothers and sisters throughout the world.