Posted on January 13, 2017
I don’t ever publish personal stuff on this blog. I tried doing a blog like that a while back and it ended up consuming all of my creative time and energy. The only reason I returned to blogging at all was that my agent told me I would need an internet presence when The Vengeance Season came out and he had a deal in the bag.
Also, I feel like talking to yourself about yourself is the literary equivalent of jerking off in a bus station while yelling about how the government is trying to control your thoughts.
The content updates have been splotchy at best over the last year. Maybe this scene will explain why I’ve had other things on my mind:
Me: What does alcohol consumption have to do with stage IV cancer?
Doctor: I’m just trying to get a lifestyle profile for your chemo…
Me: I have three martinis a night. My cholesterol is fine and my triglycerides are little high, but that’s mostly down to my love of fried food. Let me save you some time. I don’t exercise, I eat too much, I drink just the right amount and I smoked for twenty years. And yet no doctor has been able to take me out of the game.
(I reach for the gun in my ankle holster)
Me: You weren’t the first white coat to make a try for me and you won’t be the last, but today is not the day. Or should I say, it’s not your day?
(I shoot him twice in the chest and stride out of his office to a Springsteen song we can afford)
That’s right. I’ve been unable to focus on blogging because… I’m a terrible screenwriter.
Oh, and my country somehow managed to elect an unhinged narcissist to the highest office in the land. That may also have had something to do with it.
Okay, let me be serious. I haven’t been on stage since November 9th. I haven’t written any new material since then. I haven’t done any improv. I haven’t worked on my book. I’ve just been watching blankly until something grabbed my attention hard enough that I would look at it.
Rogue One was a wonderful and powerful film. I loved it. I came right home and started to write a post about it and all I could think was, “Hey, here’s another goof saying Rogue One is good.” Saying something is good without delving into the emotional context of the experience of having watched it is the equivalent of “liking” a post on Facebook or “hearting” a tweet on Tweetbook.
So, Rogue One was good and impactful and I’m so proud of Disney for not getting in the way of that ending that showed that rebellions require real sacrifice, but I actually wept while watching Arrival.
So, yeah, I came home and wrote that one up and published it. I got on a roll with Black Mirror because I was basically hate watching an inferior product that didn’t live up to my expectations — which is the firstest of first world problems. Dirk Gently, as much as I loved it, wasn’t good for my mental state. Douglas Adams has never been good for me. He’s exactly my kind of depressive. Where everyone else sees randomized hilarity, I see him speaking directly to my fear of the truly nihilistic heart of an uncaring universe.
It’s been a tough year. I think my psychic propierception alerted me early on that Trump was going to win, that the world was going to shift suddenly and terribly to the right the way it did during the 1930s and that we were going to have to live through some truly terrible times. The sense of doom fell over me a year ago and I haven’t been able to shake it since.
I finally did find something to engage the other parts of my brain. A show that Netflix dropped without warning or fanfare, one that I watched only because I respect its star and creator, Brit Marling, and because of Netflix’s cache for original programming.
Spoilers for The OA follow.
If you’ve seen The OA and didn’t care for/had qualms about the ending, let me reassure you: you are wrong. Close your eyes and remember, you want to be a good dog. Breathe. Move. Relax. There, you see? It was the perfect ending.
Now that we’ve put that pointless bit of contentiousness behind us, let’s talk about a show that is truly transcendent. A show that asks you to have faith in a story told by a narrator you know is fundamentally unreliable. A show that never gives you an easy out to decide one way or the other if you just got punked or witnessed something truly angelic.
I was an easy sell for The OA. I love Brit Marling (we dated for a while in an alternate reality where I was a much more heavyset UPS driver) and I really love stories in which someone tells a story. My favorite of these is Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.
There’s something about an author’s frank admission that our lives run on story while they’re telling a story that is just so illuminating to me. Think about it. How do you win an election? You tell a story about a poor, blue collar millionaire who was able to create a floundering, poorly managed real estate “empire” with just a $300M gift from his father. How do you get off for murdering two people? You tell a story about how the LAPD likes to frame black people because they’re racist.
I feel like I’m saying the word “story” a lot.
Yes. The LAPD did frame black people and they were (and probably are) very racist, but OJ did it, for fuck’s sake. What I’m talking about is the genius of his defense team turning the story from the evidence to the persecution of the black community OJ had repudiated his whole life. “I’m not black, I’m OJ.”
Want to go to war? Want to do an IPO? Launch a product? What are brands? They’re stories. Human beings don’t eat food to survive, they suck down stories. Food is just fuel to keep them alive long enough to get to the next installment of The Bachelor.
So when The OA assembled her five and began to tell her story, I got very hooked, very fast. I knew to question every point in the story. I knew that there would be inconsistencies. I knew there would be fantastical elements. Because that’s what a story is. It’s a way of telling that which cannot be told in a way that people will want to hear it. And more importantly, it’s a way of conveying a truth that cannot expressed by distorting the facts enough that they can be consumed.
What Marling and her co-conspirator Batmanuel (I’m sorry, that was a cheap joke but I’m a huge fan of the live action Tick series so I just had to go for it), I mean Batmanglij, is a thing of magnetic beauty.
It’s so magnetic, in fact, that My Lovely Assistant who never wants to watch anything a second time (hell, she barely watches things the first time), immediately demanded we start over from the beginning.
But seriously, we’re about to go through some hard times. The people who thrive on greed, the zero sum game people, the ones who can’t eat unless someone else is starving, the ones who want it all for themselves and won’t be happy until no one else has anything, have taken control of all three branches of government, the Supreme Court and most state governments.
Trump isn’t the disease. He’s just the blister that tells you how badly you’re infected.
As such, look for transcendence where you can find it. And start with The OA.