OK Fine, It’s Me

It was confirmed to me this weekend that I am, indeed, a coastal elite.

How else to account for my amusement and constant head-nodding recognition of me and mine while watching HBO’s sort of movie/Zoom session/play turned into a cable film of the same name?

Guilty as charged

Written by Paul Rudnick, a guy who is funny but yet not someone whose work I’ve ever much liked (In and Out, Adams Family Values, even his gay play/movie Jeffrey didn’t speak to me with much honesty),  no one is more surprised by my reaction to his above mentioned – okay, let’s just call it a Zoom-A-Thon – than liberal me.

Of course, that could be the reason.  Because these days I find that I’m not really liberal at all.  That’s how well I know myself.

Instead, I’ve been categorized as a slightly left of center traditional Democratic voting white guy with privilege who has spent the majority of his charmed life living  in big cities on either coast.  Sure, I sweat about things but mostly I rant, complain and sort of stand up for my principles when and if I’m pushed hard enough – but only if that push is a shove.

At least I still look cute

Granted, I am some of those things on any given day.  I mean, which of us does not embody some stereotype of our particular census group at a specific moment in time.  But I’m also a lot more than that.  Plenty more.  Not to mention I stand up for sh-t far more than my friends and family would like.  And often in public.

This seems to be the issue the majority of critics are having with Coastal Elites. It presents as five separate monologues by the kind of people I know or have met or might cross paths with, via what looks like five separate socially distanced chats, four of them on Zoom.

The Fab Five

The monologues are incredibly well-delivered by the likes of Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Issa Rae, Sarah Paulson and Kaitlyn Dever.  In turn, they play a NY Jewish “liberal” retired teacher gone ballistic; a gay unemployed actor melting down in West Hollywood; a philanthropist trust fund kid trying to contain her fury and fears; an online meditation guru unhappily dealing with her conservative family; and a thoroughly overwhelmed Wyoming nurse temporarily working in a New York City hospital.

With that cast playing those characters, all in the midst of this mess of 2020 politics and pandemic, how could you go wrong?

Okay, the truth is most critics, social media commenters and audiences have had it with Zoom.  Isn’t it enough we have to live it?  Must we now have it shoved down our throats in a cable movie?  What could possibly be fun or even meaningful about SEEING that small screen on our clearly larger screen.

Sorry, Marcia. #moreofaJanfan

Right, I get that but mostly, well, I don’t.  I’ve sort of come to appreciate Zoom communication.  For one thing, it sure beats sitting in a meeting live with lots of people you’d prefer not to ever have to deal with again live, or at least pretend to enjoy sitting through or next to at any office meeting.

Zoom or otherwise!

Would that you could turn off your inner camera and actually disappear from a room.  How cool would that be?

For another, Zoom has gotten us all to learn a piece of technology we all would have previously avoided like, well…the plague.

Sorry, too soon?

Well, that seems to be the problem for many of the naysers.  The tone of Coastal Elites is somewhere between comedy and drama.  A mix of theatre tweaked laugh lines honed for TV that move the tone up, down, around and through everything from the Menace that is POTUS, the pandemic that will soon have killed 200,000 Americans (Note: Yay, we’re #1! 😒) and the existential angst that only elites like me and these characters have the time to worry about.

My new inspirational poster

I don’t know, after spending the last six months working and living at home, and being told by medical professionals that in the next 12 months don’t count on the prospects being much better, I’m getting a bit freaked out in the mind here.  What the f-k is wrong with characters that feel the same way?  And since when can’t social commentary be, um, amusing and yet on another level, be about something?

Remember the Tony Award-winning play Six Degrees of Separation?  Sure, it was a lousy movie but the source material was pretty good.  And speaking of lousy movies most of the critics once thought was meaningful, have you seen the Oscar-winning best picture Crash lately?  Or revisited the Oscar-nominated Grand Canyon?

Perhaps those critics should (Note:  But you don’t have to, save yourself) and not get back to me.

Don’t even get me started

Bette Midler delivers one of her best screen performances in years as this New York Jewish lady of a certain age coastal elite.  Someone who couldn’t contain herself any longer and ripped that red MAGA hat right off the head of the smirking, Trump-loving provocateur who dared cross the line with her at her local Manhattan Starbucks.

I knew that woman and love that woman because, well, I AM that woman.  Or my mother and aunt sort of were.

Well, now I’m just being redundant.

In addition, who better but Schitt’s Creek’s Dan Levy to be an out gay actor fretting about queer representation at his most recent audition.  Try not thinking about your gayness with White, I mean, Mike Pence in and around the White House.

I never would’ve imagined Issa Rae playing a wealthy young woman who went to boarding school with Ivanka Trump but that’s probably because I have a middle-aged, late sixties/early seventies view of who went to boarding school.  If anything, that makes me far, far, FAR from being part of any elite.

She sure is

Sarah Paulson can make us believe pretty much anything but presenting this sort of new age guru who can barely deal with her Trump-loving family in the Midwest on a recent trip was an unlikely yet kind-of-inspired juxtaposition with a twist.

And in the clean up position, Kaitlyn Dever really delivers as a young, out-of-town nurse working in a NYC hospital at the height of COVID in April.  The young star of Netflix’s Unbelievable as well as last year’s best buddy flick, Booksmart, more than anyone else, brought a certain kind of even-handed pathos that was able to wrap up the show and make it, in total, much more of a journey than simply a series of rants and clever monologues.

A star on the rise

But that’s my take.  One from a coastal elite who is clearly the target audience for this type of thing. So sue me if these days we want some meaning but also want to be amused for just a few secs on and off.   That doesn’t minimize the issues if, at the same time, you accept that no one piece of art can possibly generate the depth to deal with it all, or even huge chunks of it, effectively.

You can’t even address it all on social media, try as so many of us might, and think as so many of us do.

Me, on my better days

Take it from the source but to my mind what myself and likely more than a few of those non-elites out there are looking for right now onscreen, in a movie (Note: Remember those?) are at least a few glimpses of  honesty – a sense of some angsty reality mixed in with… maybe a smile or two we may, or likely may not, be getting in real life.

If that doesn’t please the critics, well, tough sh-t as me and mine might say.  It certainly gave me/us some relief and something to think about for 90 minutes.

Bette Midler – “One Fine Day”

I Like Meghan McCain?

It was the sneer that finally won me over.

I’d like to say it was Pres. Obama’s lofty message of inclusion or George W. Bush poking fun at himself and finally seeming to mean it.

But it wasn’t.

Even the lost, help me looks on the faces of Ivanka and Jared as they desperately searched the room for allies, or even a safe place that would never materialize, couldn’t match it.

but like.. WHY ARE YOU THERE?!

That was because this was a simple rebuke to everything they now stand or perhaps sit for, as they were forced to do on this day.

Yup, the words that preceded it made it better.  But many of the words in Meghan McCain’s 17-minute eulogy of her father, Sen. John McCain, at the National Cathedral on Saturday were powerful.  Though none more so than:

The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great….

Those words, clever though they may be, might have hung in the air as yet another slogan of pure patriotic psychobabble were it not for – that sneer.  That two

seconds of unbridled emotion that encapsulates everything the majority of the country now feels each and every day.

You can’t plan that look, it just happens when you’re in the moment and feeling it.

Okay, perhaps Meryl Streep could mete it out but who among us has that kind of technique???  There are 21 Oscar nominations to answer you back – NO ONE.

Well, yes, but only because I’m dead.

Still, words are words, slogans are slogans and who among the now 60% of the country that stand against Trump haven’t at one time or another thought, said or heard variations.

Certainly Ms. McCain’s aren’t much better than any of the ones we’ve encountered and will ourselves utter in the not so distant future (Note: Nee tomorrow).

But that spontaneous look of disdain the minute those words sputtered out.  Heck, that was some rare, unvarnished truth on display on the national stage.

Say what you will, but this was REAL

Anyone who has lost a parent will tell you that nothing you feel is phony.  You might know Mom or Dad is terminally ill, play out the moment endlessly, but still, when it occurs, and for an unforeseeable time afterwards, you are in a jagged whirl of gut-wrenching reality.

Not everything you SAY, especially the polite and nice stuff, is true but every emotion your face SHOWS is real…and raw.   Every moment of anger, of disdain, of acidic retribution (especially the non-verbal kind) are as dependable as the fact that for the rest of your life you will be either motherless or fatherless.  It doesn’t matter what is later countered, massaged or full out denied.  Trust what a mourner is showing you, if you dare.   They are the most honest moments any of you, or us, will ever see from them.

I’ve never been a Meghan McCain fan or hater.  She’s one of those people – and they are rare – that I’ve never had much of an opinion about because she’s had so little effect on my world.

That’s all changed.  You can count me now always on the side of fan.

wait… what?

It takes a lot to get up before a large group of people at your parent’s funeral and in so many non-words, tell one of his enemies to go F—K himself.  Now think of what it takes to actually have the nerve to say it in words, feel it on your face, and do it before an international audience, where it will be preserved in perpetuity, to the President of the United States.

Okay, the Electoral College President of the United States.

As far as we know.

For now.

Srsly. When is he gone??? #AREWETHEREYET?!?!

I’d like to think I could do that, gladly, but I’m not entirely sure.  It’s one thing to tell DJT to bugger off on Twitter, or in your living room to your TV set – as I’ve roared countless times – but it’s a whole other ball of wax to muster it publicly and withstand, as Kathy Griffin calls, it, the Trump Woodchipper.

You won’t read here what the Trumpsters are saying about her but go online to the platform of your choice if you need confirmation.  Though it doesn’t take much imagination.  They’re not known, for the most part, to be original with the insults.  Pick up any rock pre-1962 and something might crawl out akin to what you might read.  Or hear.

Yep, logic no longer exists. #theend

I’d like to be able to take a lesson from the words said by Pres. Obama at the service.  To really hear him and act accordingly when he says:

So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse seems small and mean and petty.  Trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage.  It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear.  John called on us to be bigger than that, he called on us to be better than that.

Well, I believe I am doing that by in some small way by writing about the death of a person with whom I never agreed with politically (Note: Actually, I loathed his views on pretty much everything and will never forgive him for creating Sarah Palin) and really seeing him, his family and those he surrounded himself with merely as people who today I could not only learn something from and admire but…actually…could like.

But to accept as valid or do anything but repudiate what Sen. McCain’s former campaign manager Steve Schmidt on Saturday called….

…the vileness, the corruption, the self-centeredness, the selfishness and the cruelty that we see emanate from the White House in the form of President Donald Trump everyday….

It’s s a bridge too far for me.

… and yet here I am quoting a man who ran the McCain-Palin campaign #miraclescanhappen

And that goes for anyone who works for him, votes for him or in any way supports him.

For me, it only starts with a sneer.    I have no idea where it will all end.

Unless we all VOTE.

“Danny Boy” – Renee Fleming