[SPOILER ALERT: This column contains major plot points from The Handmaid’s Tale.]
While the President of the United States addressed the nation about mass shootings this morning, I was on an exercise bike, sweat running down my back, pedaling furiously as I watched a YouTube video of The Three Tenors singing O Sole Mio in Rome.
I don’t care what this President has to say in our time of need. He is useless as a comforter-in-chief. He will never have the Bush bullhorn or Obama Amazing Grace moment. We are long past looking to our emotionally bereft President for anything resembling solace or answers.
Instead, we need to look to each other and within ourselves.
Lately, maybe the last month or so, when I’ve gone within, as they say, you know what my inner voice says? Keep seeking out entertainment, art, activities that make you feel and reflect and, sometimes, escape. This is an integral part of your survival kit.
I’m not talking about a numbing effect here. Feeling is not numbing. Reflecting is not numbing. Escaping for short periods, well, maybe that’s a little numbing.
For weeks I’ve felt a strong pull to see Pavarotti, the documentary directed by Ron Howard. All I kept thinking was, I want to sit in a theater setting and let that voice reverberate around me. This is how I came to be at the Paris Theatre in New York City late one afternoon, wiping away tears, because the voice. The escalating voice. A man taking his gift to its very heights.
Goose bumps. Ahhhhhhhh. It made me feel.
My entertainment is getting it done.
Because this week when the Marthas on The Handmaid’s Tale stuffed Commander Winslow’s dead body into an incinerator to the beat of Kate Bush’s lyrics declaring “… I just know that something good is gonna happen …” and when Naomi Watts’ Gretchen Carlson hit “send” on the press release about her suing Roger Ailes on The Loudest Voice, I cheered, sat back on my couch in satisfaction, took a deep breath, remembered hope.
Hell to the yes.
Yes, Commander Lawrence, hand June a gun for what’s about to come. Yes, Gretchen, record the hell out of the demeaning and vile man you work for. Yes, Joe Lindsley, hit that gas pedal and flee far, far away from all that is Ailes. Yes, film editor, zoom in on those Louboutins to signal June is wearing fierce shoes that will later be weaponized. Yes, Serena, when your husband says you’re a good writer, ask pointedly, “How could you take that away from me?”
Yes. Help us see our power. My entertainment choices recently have turned me inside out, in a good way. Feeling powerless, out of control one minute. Watching storylines that flip that around the next.
On The Loudest Voice we’re about to see Ailes go down, courtesy of a soaring performance from Russell Crowe. On The Handmaid’s Tale, the men in Gilead are being taken out. Death. Capture. Arrest. War crimes. Human rights violations. Kidnapping. Slavery. Rape. Cruel and inhuman treatment. It’s base and delicious.
Because just moments before we were holding our collective breath, watching men have their way with their hands and penises. Ailes humiliating a woman on his payroll by fondling her as she’s bent over his desk. Commander Winslow taking June into a room and ordering her to get on a bed and her self-talking that she can do this – “You steel yourself. You pretend not to be present. Not me. Not my flesh. I’m not here.”
Fiction and non-fiction all mingling together, letting us project our wishes for a certain President to get whatever is coming to him for degrading and debasing all that we stand for.
Gretchen stands tall in the face of fear. June turns over on the bed when commanded, but then snaps viciously and violently in a scene we couldn’t have seen coming. Commander Waterford is carted away in handcuffs by the Canadians. The offending men are vulnerable, finally.
I posted a Tweet after this week’s episode of The Loudest Voice:
Gretchen, among others, gave the Tweet a ‘like.’
It summed up where I am, where so many of us are.
As it also says in the aforementioned Kate Bush song, “The sun’s coming out.”
It just has to.