Notes from the Emmys

Unlike the presidency, the Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote, joked host Stephen Colbert in his opening monologue.

That was pretty funny with just the right patina of tragedy – which, of course, is exactly what comedy should be.

Still, I much preferred the cold open musical number where he joined a bunch of handmaids in long, unflattering robes and white bonnets, dancing their way onto the stage and an audience of industry stars, only to then whip off their garments and turn into the Radio City Rockettes right before our eyes – still wearing their bonnets, of course.

How am I just noticing that some of the Handmaids are Handmen?? #stillfunny

It occurred to me that if Trump had his druthers he just might like certain Rockettes to be wearing those bonnets at a Christmas show in the White House – as he sexually harassed them and more – since this could hide some of the faces that displeased him. Sure, they all might be #UnderHisEye, but it is He that always gets to choose exactly what he sees – and how much.

Okay, I digress. Or do I?

When TV and real life come crashing together. It’s already happening.

For as Colbert wisely stated, Donald Trump is indeed the biggest television star in the world right now and who could argue with that?   On one hand, that gives him the ultimate TV Q – a worldwide face known by everyone. On the other, it makes him the ultimate target of each and every one of us. So let’s just say what pleased me most about Sunday night’s ceremonies were the numerous bullseyes scored right into the center of his, um…Q.

Donald Glover won two Emmys for starring in and directing his FX comedy series Atlanta (the first Black director to do so in this category) and only semi-satirically thanked Trump for making Black people #1 on the most oppressed list. This was not only a poison dart of a joke but a not so subtle acknowledgement that were we not actually living the lopsided reality of Trumpmania he (Glover) would likely not have won at all.

Bonus points for looking so good while doing it #purplesuitALLDAY

Of course, we’ll never know. Though one would like to think our Electoral POTUS could at least bring some smidgen of good to the world.   Though – well… maybe not.

One thing IS for certain — the vast majority of the best series Emmys went to shows that directly, or quite unsubtly and purposefully, dealt with what our Electoral POTUS has wrought on the country.

The best dramatic series – Hulu’s Handmaid’s Taleis the futuristic yet seemingly barely exaggerated stasis of life in America under a Trump-like extreme right wing of religious crazies.

… and Offred went GOLDEN #LizzieMoss #YASSS

The best comedy series – HBO’s Veep paints a barely exaggerated picture of what it’s like in the Oval office, for women in politics and for the rest of us who are left to follow along either helplessly in lock step or just plain confused.

The best variety sketch series – NBC’s Saturday Night Livewas the ultimate pop culture touchstone of all things Trump-related, be it arch nemesis Hillary/Kate Mckinnon’s win as supporting actress; Melissa McCarthy’s guest comedy actress win for playing now former press secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer; or Alec Baldwin’s win as best supporting actor for playing, well…you know.

Making TV Great Again

The best variety/talk show – HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – spent most of its half hours in total intellectual outrage chronicling the many blatant lies told by Electoral POTUS with solid research to disprove them. Too bad most of his voters and he himself will never see and process the evidence. (Note: Still, Trump did once tweet that host and fellow nominee Colbert was a no talent guy during the eligibility period so one supposes that’s something).

Also kudos to John Oliver for bringing this into our lives #Drumpf4ever

This says nothing of all the other winners and their Trump-related themes. The oppression of one woman – and by proxy a group of women – by a very tall powerful white man in best limited series Big Little Lies; the dystopian world in best television movie Black Mirror, whose Emmy winning creator admitted has been likened to one long never-ending look at 2017 madness; not to mention the many awards to the largest group of non-white and sometimes non-heterosexual men and women the Emmys has EVER seen. (Note: Including Lena Waithe, the first Black woman EVER to win a comedy series writing award).

Move over Donald Glover, THIS is a THE emmy suit! #GoLena

That is not to say each and every one of the above didn’t earn the accolades. Only to acknowledge that awards have mostly to do with the intersection of talent, timing and luck and nothing makes the #resistance happier than to finally be feeling #woke enough to acknowledge all those who somehow managed to slip though the cracks in a pre-Trumpian world forcefully pried our eyes permanently (well hopefully) wide open.

And yes – California and we here in Los Angeles (the capital of show business awards giving) are at the heart of the #resistance. Though I, for one, don’t think of myself as #elite. There is nothing #elite about any of this because we non-Trump voters are now a mere minority power in national governance despite actually being in the #majority.

… and I have a lot of shoes

So how is it that we’re leading a mere #resistance? Well, ask any woman who has ever wondered why, if they handily outnumber the men in populace, it has been for centuries that mostly men are in power.

As they say in Facebook statuses (and probably by more than a few Russian bots): It’s complicated.

The Chair’s Worst Emmy Moment: Colbert joking with the real former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer, who rode out in a fake podium spouting more untruths we’re now somehow supposed to laugh at while simultaneously normalizing him. #NeverForget

Yeah… I’m not sure about this Sean. #gohome #goaway

The Chair’s Best Emmy Joke: Colbert’s quip that Donald Trump is Walter Much Whiter – in a nod to Breaking Bad’s crazed and tragically iconic lead Walter White.

Now that was not only funny, with a patina of tragedy, but very appropriate. After all, the fictional Walter White’s most memorable line – delivered in equal tones of indignation and outrage at not being listened to and adored– was:

I am not in danger. I AM the danger.  A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!

Lesley Gore – “You Don’t Own Me” (from “Offred (Pilot)”)

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All of Them Witches!

We’re going to talk about evil.

Happy long Holiday weekend and beyond, everyone!!

Well, I see evil all around me a lot these days. No, I’m not ONLY speaking of ELECTORAL POTUS, though God knows he and Jared and Mike and Steve would make a nifty quadrangle of Marvel super villains.

That sounds precious!

Anyone want to do the casting?

Or shall we just make it the next drinking game to get us through all of this. Chug if you like Jimmy Fallon for Jared more than Ryan Gosling!!!

You can’t escape evil, even if you try. Correction – especially if you try. It seems that cardinal rule of opposites attracting is particularly potent in the heroes and villains game.   Cain vs. Abel? Luke vs. Darth Vader? U.S. vs. DJT? Too soon? Or not soon enough?

Melania vs. Tiny Hands #GURLYES

I made an executive decision this week to simply embrace evil. To bring it on. I mean, if I am going to be inundated with news like:

  • Jared has talked secretly to the Russians as far back as a year ago (during the campaign!) and is a person of interest in 2, 3, or 4 (?) federal government investigations.
  • Electoral Potus has taken to shoving the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way in order to get front and center in a photo op (Note: What exactly DID his parents do to him? Or not do?)

ahem

  • Montana voters electing another enraged white man to Congress less than 24 hours AFTER he body slammed/choked a nerdy journalist who merely asked him about health care – and then had his staff lie about it and blame the journalist – only to be refuted by an EYEWITNESS Fox News reporter – at which point he was charged with misdemeanor assault –

Then ––

Well, you can see how I’d like to be prepared.

K See ya later everybody! #theendisnear

See for me, it’s never been the existence of evil that has particularly scared me. I knew from an early age there was awfulness in the world. How? Well, that’s the subject of another discussion and of years of psychotherapy. Suffice it to say, we all learn at our own pace. Even Electoral Potus voters. Hopefully.

So in keeping to this theme, I decided to look around me and see what was playing on TV and at the movies this week that could help immerse me in that world. Okay, full confession: I didn’t look around. I actually watched the two shows that were THE most popular among my friends this week – things they wouldn’t STOP talking about. And wouldn’t you know it – EVIL – that’s what I found. PURE. EVIL. And who says popular art does not reflect the times we live in?

Don’t you forget about meeeeee

Well, a significant part of middle America don’t believe it because they’re constantly criticizing – or worse, not even sampling – shows like these. Which would mean…. Hmmm, let’s not go there. Yet.

Netflix’s The Keepers is a seven-hour, seven-part documentary series that is about pure evil. The 1970 unsolved brutal murder of a Sister Cathy – by all accounts a nun of pure goodness – the abuse of scores of young women in a Baltimore neighborhood Catholic School where she taught that she likely knew about, and the once again attempts by a very powerful Catholic archdioceses to stall investigations into obvious connections between the murders (oh, yes, there was a second) and the abuse, and shift around priests to different parishes in an attempt to do so.

Oh… so not that kind of show?

Sound familiar? Well, This story makes Spotlight look tame, partly because the crimes are still unsolved and justice has not been handed down. Life is not an episode of Law and Order, which should tell you something about why that series (Note: Juggernaut? Holy Scrolls?) has endured all these decades and will be around far longer than you or I. We humans like to watch EVIL brought to justice (Nee ORDER) as often as possible since it too often doesn’t happen in real life.

As if I had to tell you that.

The second was the return of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks as a 10-episode limited Showtime series. Yes, Lynch directed every episode and if the two-hour premiere is any indication, it is as confoundedly EVIL and CONFUSING and RIVETING as anything he’s ever done.

RIP Log Lady

No one does evil as the just below the surface underbelly of good as well as Mr. Lynch. The best of his work – the original Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive – defy description and plot analyses. Let’s just say Kyle McLaughlin returns as dual FBI Agents Dale Cooper – one whose body is literally inhabited by EVIL Bob as it blithely pops off victim after victim – and the other who is stuck in a series of zig zag floored rooms with a talking arm/tree and various dead people speaking to him in slurred, 16 rpm speech as if they were sort of alive. Which, well, they still just might be. Though I doubt it.

Confused yet?

Lynch’s evil is riveting to watch precisely because it’s so strange – with images and ideas you’ve never quite seen before – if you can imagine it – which you can’t – that it becomes frighteningly haunting. Or to put it another way, it challenges you to wonder if the lamp in your room won’t one day soon come alive and kill you or if the spouse you’ve lived with all your life, or even in the past year or two, doesn’t indeed have a secret number of hours where you’re not watching where he/she carves up innocent suburban ladies in modest middle American cut rate American apartment complexes with names like Alpine Village (Note: I was forced to live in one of those in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley for almost a year when I was 14 – hence my use of that real name. Look it up. It was in Tarzana).

Yes, I do feel as if watching these two shows prepared me for another week of news in what has become the Other America. I would also add it also prepared me for the next episode of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale series – which this week revealed to us more of just how Trump America wound up being transformed into the religious conservative right wing hell of Gilead – a place where women and gays are hung alive in the town square unless they bear children, submit to the males who control them or/and turn straight.

Again, I view these shows to be prepared.

My daily mantra

I finally wrapped up the week by watching the Oscar winning Hungarian film, Son of Saul – a Holocaust themed movie I’ve always wanted to see but managed to avoid for the last two years because I was warned it was difficult to sit through. And this was by multiple friends who already knew my taste for what we’ll now generously call the darkness.

Though it was different this time. I saw it as preparation for a possible future. How else could I, a patriotic gay Jewish American liberal, view a movie that chronicles a day and a half in the life of a gay Jewish guy in Auschwitz who works in the concentration camp crematorium scooping up dead bodies and scrubbing the “shower” floors following each hellish murdering aftermath.

Cheery Saturday Night plans chairy!

(Note: It is worth noting that though it is a fictional composite, Son of Saul is actually based on diaries of Auschwitz survivors entitled, The Scrolls of Auschwitz).

Okay, of course, I’m exaggerating me preparing for the future just a little in my desire to watch it. I guess all that evil I exposed myself to before it this week just reassured me I’d finally be able to tolerate it. And I did.

It’s amazing what one can tolerate once our senses get inured to this kind of stuff.

Evil Ways – Santana

Open Books

Does anybody really want to be private anymore?  Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and their many future and inevitable iterations would say otherwise.

The idea that each of us can express opinions on a mass scale and actually be heard – well, read and seen, which are close but not exactly the same thing – feels revolutionary.  Rather than shouting in the wind, or to your family and friends, one can literally shout at the world these days and it is entirely possible that a person or mass of people that one’s never met will see, hear, perhaps even listen… but most importantly RESPOND.   Of course, not always kindly.  File that under be careful what you wish for.

Oh days of yesteryear

Still, one could argue the situation these days is a lot more preferable than it used to be.  There was a time not so long ago that one could die in frustration with one’s inner thoughts or angry outer thoughts that the world too often turned away from.  Certainly not everything one has to say or voice is important to the world but what is certain is that it is very much important to that person.

We all, each of us, have at least one thing in common and that is the desire to be heard, and in turn, hopefully, understood.  By someone.  Or many.  Why?  Well, it varies.  Sometimes it’s on an interpersonal issue with someone we know.  In other more existential moments it is on larger topics and what we believe about ourselves.  about the world, and about humanity.  And in loftier but no less meaningful moments it is about a pressing desire to proclaim what is RIGHT AND WRONG in  ALL of the aforementioned orbits.

It really is hard being the smartest person in the room

When we can’t stop shouting about an instance, an argument or an issue, it’s more than pressing.  It’s crushingly personal.  And we can’t shut up about it no matter how much we try or don’t attempt to.  This, in particular, is where a 2017 life comes in handy.  Even if one doesn’t receive a direct response (DM) there is a feeling that somehow, somewhere, someone listened.  And might act on what was said.  By US.

Oh, and by the way and on a very much-related topic – this – more than anything else – is the dirty little secret about being a WRITER.  (Note:  Though certainly, not the only one).

Was someone spying on me? #meeveryday

On a recent and quite brilliant stand alone episode of Girls, Lena Dunham’s emerging writer Hannah Horvath is summoned to the breathtakingly gorgeous and sprawling apartment of a famous writer played by The Americans’ Matthew Rhys.  It seems Hannah has written a think piece for a feminist blog about this man, one of her all-time literary heroes, and his misadventures with a series of four different college age women he mentored and taught with whom he had unwanted or perhaps manipulated wanted, sexual relations.

Hannah tells him she wrote the piece as a means of support to thousands of young women who are forever scarred by a situation of abuse at the hands of someone more powerful.  But the writer makes a powerful case that although her words are brilliantly executed by someone with rare talents, they only tell a partial story of what she merely chose to see based on second and third hand accounts that she read.  For to be a true writer, he tells her, is to not only respect all sides but to dig deeper into one’s subject and understand reality, motivation, connection and situational circumstance in order to truly determine what constitutes the truth.

At which point, Hannah and the author have their own new interaction that EXACTLY mirrors one of the aforementioned circumstances, leaving it to the audience to determine who was right or wrong.  Or if, indeed, such a thing even exists at all.

Oh how I’ll miss you, Girl #hannah4ever

There are all types of writing and each has their individual demands.  But what they all have in common are two very specific things:

1. The truth

and…

2. What the writer believes the truth to be.

Of course, there are few absolutes in the world outside of math and science and lately even those have been brought into question.  Which really only leaves us with #2 and brings us full circle.

As both a writing teacher and someone who annually reads numerous works of writing from all over the country for various grants and scholarships, it becomes joyously and sometimes painfully obvious to me that when reading a writer one learns as much about that person as one does about the issue or subject being presented.  Often more.

You can’t help but begin to wonder – why of all the subjects in the world did this person choose to concoct a story about homeless LGBT youth?  What happened in their background that provoked this individual to pen a story about a 1930s honkytonk in the southwest with such fervor?  Who would choose to devote years to telling the tale of gnome who appears to a young lad in the middle of a cornfield at turn of the 20th century Midwest?

Or a tiny sprite of a girl who loves eggos

I choose these because in the last year all three have been among the most outstanding student and professional pieces I’ve read from young, unknown authors.  And in the cases of at least two of the three (Note: I do not know the author of the third) I know the writers revealed quite a bit more about themselves than they ever intended.  And to their great credit.

I’ve quoted it before but it bears repeating that no less than six famous writers are credited with having once famously stated (and I’m paraphrasing because five of them most certainly did):  Being a writer is easy.  Just open a vein.

And add to that in less witty parlance:  There is no other way to get to the truth.

Perhaps (?) (!) that was what Margaret Atwood was doing in the early eighties when she wrote the now famous A Handmaid’s Tale – a work of fiction in a dystopian world that not only went on to become a best seller which has since never been out of print but has spawned both a feature film and an upcoming Hulu television series where Ms. Atwood herself makes a cameo guest star appearance.

And…… PEGGY!

In her story, a Christian fundamentalist movement takes over the United States -which reeks of pollution and sexually transmitted diseases – and installs a totalitarian regime that subjugates women and forces a particular class of them to serve as the term vessels of unwanted pregnancies to a more powerful group of men forcing their wills on them for what they believe to be the ostensible survival of society.

Well, of course this is a work of fiction!

Fact almost seems more surreal than fiction these days

So much so that Ms. Atwood herself penned a piece several days ago for the NY Times explaining where she was and what she was thinking when she first wrote her perennial bestseller.

As well as what she could offer as to it’s meaning in what has been promised to be a new and improved United States that will once again be great again.

It’s a curious position to be in – addressing the real possibilities of a fictional story written in the past of an unimaginable dictatorial future some believe we are headed towards in the present.  But like any great writer she demurred on how prescient she was, attempting to be vaguely encouraging without providing answers.  In the age of what we’re constantly being told is instant communication, it’s up to all of us to draw those conclusions in the present.  Loudly.  For our futures.  Revealing not only where we stand but real parts of ourselves.  Before that is no longer a possibility.