The ‘Nanette’ Delusion

(The following editorial is a matter of opinion. The author has no inside knowledge of the subject and all thoughts herein are purely speculative in nature.)

Hannah Gadsby, the Australian performance artist masquerading as a comedienne, rose to international prominence through her interminably turgid Netflix special, “Nanette.”

hannahThe hubris gained from being suddenly world-famous has turned Gadsby into somewhat of a social justice monster, popping up on award shows to lecture the masses about the horrors of white masculinity, and teaming up with other reactionary mentally unbalanced Hollywood insiders like Ellen Page to reimagine what Casablanca may have looked like if the entire cast were autistic lesbians.

But how did an anonymous art museum guide like Hannah Gadsby suddenly become a media darling during a time when LGBTQA++ women are supposedly the prime target of oppression and exclusion?

Well, two reasons. One–because the previously mentioned oppression narrative is clearly false; and also–it is my assertion–that her powerful story of trauma/sexual assault, which she painfully hashes out in an expressly rehearsed and manufactured fashion during her special, is little more than performance art…a fiction.

Obviously, I can’t prove this theory, and I don’t suspect anyone can. However, it is my prediction that this fabrication will be brought to light sooner or later, especially with her 2nd special on the way. The more interviews she does, and the deeper any examination goes into her life, the more likely–should I be correct–this information is to come out.

We have seen the personality type of Hannah Gadsby far too frequently, especially in recent years. She is entirely wrapped up in a sociopolitical narrative that she desperately needs to be true.

Image result for kathy griffin trumpWe saw this in comedians like Kathy Griffin, making a gruesome artistic depiction of a beheaded President Trump, asserting her bravery and power; then immediately crumbling into victim status when people reacted with disdain.

We saw this in the public hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, where political opportunists claiming to be victims of sexual assault attempted to destroy a man’s life and career because of the notion that he may be politically opposed to unlimited abortion.

We saw this in the not-so-carefully orchestrated hate crime hoax by Jussie Smollett, scripting and attempting to essentially “film” his own victimization. The entire ordeal was the work of a man driven to near insanity by a culture and society that was too accommodating and inclusive to possibly meet his expectations of oppression.

Image result for jussie smollettAnd then there are the subtleties; the fake crimes and false accusations that either don’t make national news, or generate a stir and then fizzle out and become forgotten: desecration of Jewish graveyards that turn out to be soil erosion, hate-group symbols sprayed in parks that turn out to be the work of some edgy youths, actresses mistaking utility markings for symbols of hate, or politicians mistaking seasonal pollen increases for a white supremacist attack.

I believe Hannah Gadsby’s almost universally lauded Netflix special to be little more than another one of these displays of self-destructive behavior for the sake of sympathy and gratuity in a time when all you need to be (at least temporarily) famous is a tale of victimhood.

The story enables her to continue to reaffirm the narrative of oppression. It enables her to go unquestioned and unchecked as she finger-wags and scolds the elite “white” oligarchy of Hollywood who she (shockingly) refers to as “the Jimmies.”

Nanette is a character created by Hannah Gadsby.

In the same way that other alt-comics have created on-stage personas to allow certain jokes to fly, Hannah uses Nanette as her shield. Comedians like David Cross and Sarah Silverman would often take on the role of a racist or a bigoted buffoon to get an uproarious laugh through the lens of hate.

Of course, David Cross now serves a new master and Sarah Silverman is imagining swastikas in the streets (see above).

In Gadsby’s mind, if comedians can use fabricated trauma, anger, hatred, sexual assault, etc for the purpose of a joke, why can’t she use it for the purpose of shock and emotional response from her audience?

Image result for nanetteNanette was sexually assaulted “in her prime,” laughed at, and left for trash. But Nanette is a fictional character invented by the self-described hyper-active, attention deficit, autistic imagination of Hannah Gadsby.

The painful tale, that she expresses effectively with a wide range of rehearsed and contrived emotion, is a means to what she sees as a socially productive end; and to people like Hannah Gadsby, the ends are always justified by the means.

Like everyone else caught in situations like this, she will inevitably explain it as such when she is forced to atone for “duping” the masses into feelings of empathy.

To Jussie Smollett, feigning a racist/homophobic/political/anti-Semitic attempt on his life is justifiable if it gets people talking about real hate, fear and bigotry.

Similarly, to Hannah Gadsby, playing a character of an oppressed minority, victimized by the most horrific scenarios one could potentially imagine, opens the door for her to really take on the projected and perceived “evils” of society.

To Gadsby, those “evils” are men–specifically, men who don’t find her act endearing or appealing. To Smollett, those “evils” are straight, white males who support President Trump. The crossover between these two demonic effigies is not difficult to imagine.

Surely her new stand-up special Douglas will be a similar piece of social justice performance art, perhaps straw-manning her new male title character as a bigot, or lampooning a fake “nice guy.” (Actual prediction: the show, named after her dog will be a thesis on how she dreams all men were like her dog; quiet, obedient, bashful, innocent, and always looking to her to be fed or scolded)

What if I’m wrong, and Hannah Gadsby is/was a victim of a despicable act of sexual violation? It still wouldn’t excuse the violent and aggressive takeover of both the comedy scene and all entertainment media by those dedicated to cutting the legs out from under the giants whose shoulders they stand on.

By all means, excommunicate the monsters, the serial harassers, the corrupt gears in the evil machine; but causing entire industries to devolve into self-flagellation, hand-wringing introverts, wondering when it may be OK to be funny or entertaining again is not the path to be treading with such furious conviction.

(As an aside to the comedians and entertainers of the world: Gen Z isn’t waiting on you to get your balls back. They are irreverent, funny, smart, and independent, and they will end you)

Image result for hit or missAs a western society, we do not need to be told not to hate, rape, kill or take what isn’t ours to take. These are inherent moralities embedded into our cultural soul. Every child is both the victim and the bully at some point in his or her life; and knowing both sides of that conflict are developmentally imperative and keep us intellectually honest.

The world is sometimes a scary, violent, aggressive place, but one can’t be a hero and a victim. Eventually those advocating for social justice and equality become the oppressors. Their tireless efforts were never about combating hatred, but jealousy and power; for too long they were shut out from the lunch table and picked last in gym.

Shutting everyone else down so that ‘Nanette’ can feel empowered does not make ‘Nanette’ powerful. But ‘Nanette’ finding her voice and succeeding despite (or because of) the tragedy and obstacles in her past will not only make her an unstoppable and immovable object, but will make her even more resilient when other hardship inevitably occurs.

But Hannah Gadsby didn’t create Nanette to be an unstoppable and immovable object. She created Nanette to mirror her own self-doubt, depression, and utter loathing of the ‘outside world.’ She created Nanette to be a weak pedestal on which she could stand smugly and declare herself gold medalist; conqueror of the ever-lowering hurdles in the oppression sprint.

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The Curious Case of Taylor Alison Swift

I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift’s since September 13th, 2009. Most people would lie to you and say “I’ve been a fan since the very beginning,” but not me. This was a very specific date when something very significant happened. Less than a year after America had elected its first black President and Taylor released her second studio album, Fearless, she was nominated, and won, Best Female Video for her song You Belong With Me at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

That evening, two notable occurrences took place. First, a drunk and obnoxious Kanye West hopped up on the stage, insisting that Beyoncé Knowles–then nominated for the chart-topping Single Ladies —had one of the best music videos of all time. Later in the evening, upon accepting her award for Video of the Year, Beyoncé offered Taylor Swift the microphone to finish her acceptance speech from earlier.

This evening soured many people on Kanye West, made many others aware of Taylor Swift, and served as a moment of mutual respect in a music industry that had crossed all racial divides. It was a proud moment in Obama’s America; a moment that nobody needed Obama for. There were no politics. Only people.

For almost ten years after that moment, Taylor Swift went from being the darling of the country music scene to one of the most successful pop acts ever, and did so while remaining almost entirely apolitical. She recognized that alienating half her audience may not be the best path forward for a pop superstar.

She’d adopted this persona as a heartsick fairy tale princess who only wanted to bake cupcakes, give surprise gifts to her fans, hang out with her cats, and find Prince Charming somewhere down the line.

So what happened?

Related imageTaylor’s career was deeply invested in Big Machine Records, the music label she lifted off the ground, and vice versa. She had complete control and the money was good. She had made a name for herself, brought up new country artists, and cultivated a fan base (or Stan-base?) of Swifties the world over.

In 2016, three more monumental occurrences transpired. First, Taylor Swift had a very messy and public spat with Kim Kardashian and (once again) Kanye West over some of the language about her used in one of West’s tracks. Second, Taylor postponed her 7th and final album to be released through the Big Machine Records label due to the stress and anger she was receiving from non-Swifties. And finally, Hillary Clinton, with the full force of everyone in the entertainment industry behind her (sans Taylor Swift), lost the Presidential Election to Donald Trump.

With the release of her 7th album, Reputation, and subsequent tour, Taylor was finished with her label, and became one of the most valuable musical free agents in history. She had been through the eye of the storm, risked losing her fans, generated a lot of frustration due to her silence in the 2016 election, and had a successful stadium tour to promote her album.

And that brings us to today. After being acquired by Universal Music Group, starting work on her 8th studio album, and pushing 30, Taylor Swift decided it was time to show people who she really is in the pages of Elle magazine. Her self-written article titled 30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30, reads like a strange fiction concocted by someone who isn’t quite certain of her own real world identity.

Image result for taylor swiftShe explains her decision to cut off commenting from Instagram and other social accounts due to caustic responses from the Internet’s finest.

It continues in awkward fashion, as she analyzes and critiques her own changing body like a teenager noticing them for the first time. And while turning 30 may be a milestone in her own life, she bizarrely asserts that strange notions like the idea that her hair has suddenly become straight after 29 years of being curly, and that men could never possibly understand the horrors of aging.

She reacts in a somewhat confusing manner to the May 22, 2017 Ariana Grande concert suicide bombing. She claims that she constantly fears for not only her fans’ safety, but hers as well. In a thought experiment that would lead any rational reader to conclude “this is when I started carrying mace/a taser/a knife/a gun” she reveals that she now carries first aid gauze for patching knife and bullet wounds, seeming to imply a complete lack of either honesty or awareness of actual physical danger.

She vows never to let outside opinions and politics impact her own, which then begs the question, why all of this? And why now?

She casually blames the entire year two-thousand sixteen for her desire to learn how to mix her own cocktails; a woman in her late twenties. Furthering a narrative that she is a long-time home cook, she assures readers that she loves cooking several recipes including an appalling “only ground beef” meatball dish, and other entirely basic concoctions courtesy of solely celebrity chefs. Less disturbing is her celebration of acquiring a game-changing “garlic crusher” (an item that doesn’t exist).

Perhaps even more egregious than the whole cooking debacle she announces that she has learned to always believe the “victim” of sexual assault due to her own experience as a victim. Not to belittle Taylor’s legal butt-grab battle, but comparing her experience to those who have experienced actual sexual assault seems to cheapen it a bit.

Taylor then proclaims that now, at age 29, she is finally ready to get extremely political with her hundreds of millions of followers…a decision I’m certain will not go over swimmingly.

The remainder of her learned experiences are often somewhat sad. She regrets relationships, fake friends, trusting the wrong people, and not going with her gut more often. Surely, all of these sound fairly commonplace in American life.

What this article communicates with me is that while Taylor Swift has spent her career being a consistently aspirational figure, she has spent very little time figuring out what it means to be truly authentic.

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