NetFlix, Part One
What with the Washington whirligig in full swing, it would be easy to write a Blast castigating those who somehow believed that the Princeling Kushner was anything less than a cleaner looking copy of his father-in-law. Ivanka did marry her Dad, simply picking up the 21st century model. And isn’t it appropriate that the real estate albatross around young Jared’s neck is 666 Fifth Avenue? That his wheeling and dealing with Russian financiers and who knows what else may come to light in the coming weeks should not be a shock to any of us. This administration is so rife with corruption from top to bottom that we should cease being surprised and just wait, as we did during Watergate, for the dominoes to begin falling. The Republican Party has sold its soul to the devil, proving that the McConnell/Ryan leadership cares far more about Party over Country, and will, hopefully, pay for that in the 2018 midterms (a long, long way away). So, I’m going to turn to a more entertaining topic as we head into the Memorial Day Weekend (and the beginning of summer!): NetFlix.
If you are not a NetFlix subscriber, this may not interest you but I would encourage you to consider signing up as some of the best content on television is being produced by this little giant of a company. Years ago the breakthrough shows Orange is the New Black and House of Cards began building the base for NetFlix’s homegrown production company and, while not all their content is flawless (some is pretty pedestrian, in fact), their batting average is pretty impressive at this point. What led me to write about NetFlix today was my viewing this week of a documentary (Get Me Roger Stone) and a new series (Dear White People based on the 2014 movie of the same name). Before praising the “network” and offering some viewing tips, I want to briefly talk about those two programs because they are not unrelated.
If you are not familiar with Roger Stone you probably are not a political junkie (as I and many of my friends --- and the lovely Carol Marie --- are). Stone cut his teeth (along with Roger Ailes) working for Richard Nixon and has been a notorious “political operative” and “dirty trickster” --- and a longtime Donald Trump advisor and supporter. The documentary (released May 12, 2017 on NetFlix), written and directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme, does a pretty thorough job providing Stone’s background from his start with Nixon to his working for Reagan (and then morphing into a highly $ucce$$ful lobbyist --- with Paul Manafort) and hitching his star to Trump as early as 1988. It shows how he met Trump through their mutual “f(r)iend” Roy Cohn (Joe McCarthy’s right hand man and a lawyer for a number of Mafia figures as well as Steinbrenner’s Yankees) and saw the political potential in the New York Real Estate tycoon.
Stone clearly loves that the documentary is being made about him and struts and preens throughout it, proudly displaying the tattoo of Nixon between his shoulder blades and striding along New York streets in his bespoke suits. He does seem to revel in being disliked and makes no bones about being willing to do anything to make piles of money. The documentary is well worth a look, particularly as it carries us through the Trump election and makes the clear parallel to Nixon’s “silent majority” and Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (a slogan we see Reagan using in the ‘80’s, btw) crowd. You may want to take a shower after seeing Get Me Roger Stone but it’s a story that’s well worth watching to help understand how the Gang that Couldn’t Govern Straight assumed power.
Equally fascinating, in a totally different way, is Dear White People. The 2014 Justin Simien film has been adapted as a series on NetFlix and uses elements from the movie (the same main characters, a “blackface” party at a white fraternity/Satire magazine House) but has the luxury of probing the characters and their personal as well as social issues with far greater depth --- making the show entertaining and thought-provoking. The series (ten episodes) is set on the campus of the fictitious Winchester University, an Ivy League college, and the cast is an ensemble that represents what would be, in less capable hands, a stereotypical group of characters. Samantha White, a biracial student who identifies as black, has a campus radio show entitled Dear White People and lives in the Armstrong/Parker House --- the black residence hall on campus. There she has an array of compatriots that range from Troy Fairbanks, the dean of the college’s son who is an up and coming (“don’t make waves”) politician, his sometime girlfriend Coco (from Chicago’s Southside but trying to “move up” a la the Jeffersons) and Lionel Higgins (who was the movie’s narrator but simply a character here) a young black man who is just discovering his gay sexuality while writing for the campus newspaper. There are more characters, including Gabe, Samantha’s white graduate student boy friend, and the series focuses on one character per episode (and his/her personal/racial/societal challenges) providing perspective and provocation about privilege and “place.” Definitely worth a look and highly recommended.
Tomorrow we’ll look at NetFlix, Part Two, just in case you have time over the Memorial Day Weekend to binge watch some quality television.