Archive | TV Matters

The Book of ‘And Then’

Yesterday I woke early to watch the latest episode of “This Is Us,” which means I was a puddle by 7 am, when I’ve programmed my phone to wake me every day with Aretha Franklin singing “Hello Sunshine.” The show always undoes me–Gd knows I’m not alone in this fact–but the last few episodes have been completely ruining. The death of Jack Pearson, the patriarch played so sweetly and sadly by Milo Ventimiglia, devastated me even though intimations of his demise have been woven into the series since its inception.

The timing also wove devastatingly into my real life. I’ve always believed it’s not my right to disclose the details of other people’s hardship on my blog, and I won’t begin to do so now. Suffice it to say the father of one of my dearest friends, a person so private I’ve never included a picture of her here or even her real name, died last week, and I’ve been taking her loss with me everywhere because that’s how our bond works. When good things happen to one of us, they happen to both of us, and the same holds true with the bad. But I also know that while I can hold my friend’s hand and even some of her pain, this is a path she walks alone. The loss of one’s father is a shadow nothing can fully brighten, especially in a world in which good daddies are far and few in between. Continue Reading →

The #MeToo of My Tween Acting Career

This morning, as the sun rose wanly here in Truro (yes, I’m back for the rest of the month), I caught up on the Harvey Weinstein revelations. Nothing unpredictable, I’m afraid, which made them all the more appalling. Woman after woman coming forward with the same clutch of details: the bathrobe, the massage requests, the obsession with showers, the need—nay, the demand—for sexual attention. What angered me most: Harvey claimed he was offering career ascension to these hundreds—maybe thousands—of young women, which is loathesome unto itself. But all he really was saying was: If you submit to my sexual demands, I will not harmfully, aggressively cockblock your career.

He is a larcenous pig not unlike, say, our alleged president.

As the estimable Gloria Steinem has written—as the Academy of Motion Pictures itself has acknowledged—such predatory behavior is hardly unique to Weinstein. Instead, this “isolate and destroy” brand of toxic masculinity has meant that we women have felt damned if we do and damned if we don’t in terms of sexual resistance.

Again, not news to anyone walking as female in this life.

But Sarah Polley did raise an issue I hadn’t considered in 15 years. In this week’s New York Times, the director addressed her reason for walking away from acting: She felt like prey. Scratch that. She was prey. And it made me think about my own career as a tween actor.

I never talk about why I quit acting. The truth is that it’s probably no loss to the world. As as an adult, I’m good enough on stage or in front of a camera as a commentator but not especially adept at pretending I’m anything but myself. As a young person, though, I really, really wanted to be an actor and experienced a surprising degree of success. Continue Reading →

Beautiful Resistance: Why Protest Art Matters

Recently I was at a dinner party of my peers, which is to say: Not Young People. (Thus far, most Generation Xers refuse to refer to themselves as middle-aged, though we surely are.) The subject came around, as it inevitably does these days, to the Trump administration and the turmoil wracking our country and world (besides France). ““I feel like there’s no protest music being made anymore,” said one friend. “Dude,” said another. “I feel like there’s no protest art being made anymore, period.”

On the way home, I realized how much I disagreed with that statement. One of the fundamental roles of art always has been to shed light on the human condition–to increase our empathy for each other. Even art that ostensibly focuses only on beauty–Monet’s lilies, for example, or ee cummings’s lowercase homages–is also about love and mortality, which brings us back to the human condition. And the concept of “beauty” has always been subjective and intensely fraught; read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye if you need a refresher on that concept.

But let’s not be fatuous. Not all art is equally charged. Karen Finley’s performance art is a provocative tool of second-wave feminism while “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2″ hardly challenges the status quo in any significant way. To even compare the two seems ridiculous, which begs the question: Isn’t there a place for fluff-o-tainment that allows us to turn our brains off sometimes? Isn’t there room in our cultural arena for, say, the “Real Housewives” television franchise and “The Wire,” David Simon’s potent examination of Baltimore power structures? For James Ellroy’s pulpy noir and Paul Beatty’s sharply observed fiction? For the works of kitsch masters Walter (and Margaret!) Keane and activist-artist Kerry James Marshall? Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy