Monday, September 9, 2013

Just like everybody else does


One of the most popular characters on "Orange Is the New Black" is Suzanne Warren, aka "Crazy Eyes," played brilliantly by Uzo Aduba.  It is obvious this woman is an experienced stage actor.  Aduba uses her whole body to portray the complexity of Suzanne's character.  Every gesture, posture, nonspeaking moment is rich with expression. And how Aduba delivers her lines is by now legend.  "I threw my pie for you." The clarity, annoyance, resolution, and intelligence delivered in that line — just moments after her pie-throwing eruption — is masterful.  She has a long list of other memorable moments, and all of them are meaningful because of the humanity they reveal.

Why is Crazy Eyes so popular?  Because she represents the true human experience:

• She asks, "Why does everyone call me 'Crazy Eyes'?" and we all remember what it feels like to be misunderstood.

• She appreciates that the arts enrich life.  She writes poetry. She easily recites Shakespeare (I think it's Shakespeare).  She can throw in a little classical dance move — did you see the pirouette or whatever that spinning airborne maneuver was at the Christmas audition?  The arts help us understand what it means to be fully human. Crazy Eyes knows this.

• She's trying to cope.  We all have our methods.  Her coping method is to clean the bathrooms during the wee hours.  Some of us run ("Cheaper than therapy"), some of us blog, others self-medicate.

• She wants to be loved.  She recites a poem in pursuit of a new love: "Before I met you the sun was like a yellow grape."  She is gallant in defending her new love: "I threw my pie for you." She is playful in romance: "Chocolate and vanilla swirl." 

• She surprises us.  Everyone has unexpected facts about their lives.  Seeing Suzanne with her white, middle class parents was both unexpected and easy to believe. 

• She is generous.  She gave Piper the hot peppers with no condition of reciprocation.  I believe we all have an impulse, or at least a hope, to be generous — we just fail at it.  We see ourselves in Crazy Eyes, and we can learn a lot from her.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

March on

"Because they marched, America became more free and more fair. Not just for African Americans, but for women and Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities. America changed for you and for me, and the entire world drew strength from that example."
 – President Barack Obama on the 50th anniversary of the great 1963 March on Washington

March on, my sisters!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hey, I have an idea

Since Laura Prepon might be leaving the show and sadly taking Alex Vause with her, I have a great idea for Piper Chapman's new love interest on "Orange Is the New Black." WATSON!  They had chemistry when crawling side by side in the air shaft.  Remember that scene?  Janae + Piper.  Beautiful.  Totally works.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Boston Strong

It's been a difficult and emotional time here in Boston recently.  I've watched the Boston Marathon all my life, sometimes on Boylston Street near the finish line, sometimes on TV, sometimes in Kenmore Square, once in Wellesley.  And the race always makes me cry a little because of the beauty of the human spirit — not just because of the spectacular achievement of the elite athletes, but also because of what ordinary people accomplish on that day.  Of course I cried while watching this year's race, too.  And then came the lockdown, the helicopters overhead, the police search.  I'm so proud of the city's capable, brave, and loving response to the tragedy. That is the meaning of Boston Strong.  Many victims have a long road ahead.  The best way to help is to donate to The One Fund.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jodie Foster came out – why it matters so much

Photo attribution: Tom Sorensen.
It happened a few months ago, and you would be mistaken to think not much has changed since Jodie Foster finally and unequivocally came out at the Golden Globes in January 2013. Some folks the next day were still wondering if she actually had indeed come out, but the Guardian said it best: You'd have to be "willfully obtuse" to doubt it.  She came out.  And everyone was talking about it the next day. And by everyone, I mean actually everyone. A cross-section of society. Not just the lesbians. Not the way "everyone" was talking about the poolside rendezvous between Sherry Jaffe and Shane.  Jodie's declaration was news around the world. It was talked about by our moms and our colleagues and on the front page of The New York Times.

Jodie Foster was certainly not the first famous person to come out as gay or lesbian.  But her coming out was the biggest, and, I would argue, the most important, and here's why: She's part of our collective American culture — from her childhood movie roles, to the Reagan assassination attempt, to her multiple Academy Awards — and the public cares about her.  An example: A few years ago, in my classroom of college freshmen, I mentioned the legendary actress Meryl Streep. None of the young men in the room knew who she was.  They didn't know Meryl Streep.  They don't watch her movies.  Jodie Foster, they know. They've all seen "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Panic Room."  Jodie's coming out was like having the entire country personally know someone who came out.

But that's not the only reason it was such a big deal. There's something else.  Jodie is not a goofy and lovable comedian like Jane Lynch or Ellen. She is not an egghead intellectual stud like Rachel Maddow.  She's not Chaz Bono.  No, she is one of the cool kids in the upper stratosphere of beauty and status. At least, this is how the straight world perceives her.  She's someone who straight women might aspire to be and straight men might desire. We may have several examples of conventionally desirable, successful lesbians in pop culture, but they are usually fictional characters played by straight actors.  Jodie Foster, on the other hand, is real.  She's beautiful. She's mega-famous. And she's gay -- and now everyone knows.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wouldn't it be nice

"Wouldn't it be nice to live together in the kind of world where we belong?

. . . Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray
it might come true.
Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do. 
We could be married!
And then we'd be happy. 

. . .You know it seems the more we talk about it, 
It only makes it worse to live without it.
But let's talk about it.
Wouldn't it be nice. . ."

– I'd like to send this message, written by The Beach Boys, to the US Supreme Court.