Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why Veep Has Become So Hard to Watch

I am not one of those people who needs to defend a television show all-the-time and proclaim that it is wonderful when, well, it isn't, and think that I've declined the ability to call myself a fan.  I am also one of those people who will stop watching a show if it's bad-I don't feel like I need to stick it out until the bitter end if it's dipped so low in quality it's not worth the time investment (that being said I still watch The Big Bang Theory which hasn't been above adequate in at least four seasons, so I'm not immune to such pointlessness).

This, however, isn't the case for why Veep has become a show that I struggle with keeping in my DVR each week.  Arguably one of the most prescient shows on television right now given the climate of Trump, Veep went from being adequate in its first season to becoming a home run later in its run, particularly the miraculously good 4th season, which showed what would happen if a terrible, unprepared person were to become president.  Real life has managed to prove me wrong on multiple occasions with the show (I used to complain that there's no way someone so embarrassing and personally odious could ever hold the Oval Office, but I got a sobering truth in that department last November 8th).

You might assume, then, that I'm giving up on seeing Veep because reality has made it too painful to watch.  Too often I'm stuck with something that Selina Meyer herself would find unthinkable happening out of the current West Wing, a motley crew of idiots that make Mike McLintock look like Madeleine Albright.  But honestly, that's not a problem.  For starters, last season I was just as appalled (though not as frightened) by the Trump campaign and I kept watching.  I'm able to discern pretty easily between reality and fiction when it comes to this aspect of the show, and I've never shied away from liking my politics a little bit grey (it's how it works), so Trump hasn't turned me away from Veep because it reminds me too much of what is actually going on in the world.

And it's not because there's a dip in the quality of the show.  The acting is still uniformly good.  I particularly like Reid Scott's Dan getting a taste of George Stephenopalous-style fame, and the listless determination of Anna Chlumsky's Amy (someone give that woman an Emmy, please?).  I think that it took an interesting direction looking at the life of a post-president Meyer, a world of dignitaries and presidential portraits and book tours, with near constant reminders of how you were once the most powerful person on the planet.  While some of the plots are starting to read a little bit too predictable or repetitive (it's starting to feel like they're leading to either Meyer being the VP for Jonah at some point or Jonah himself becoming the veep in the future, leading us back to the beginning), by-and-large this is still a well-constructed, well-scripted show that always guarantees a few laughs.

No, where I'm struggling is that every time I see Selina Meyer fail now, it's a reminder of how wholly unfair it was that Hillary Clinton will never become president.  This may seem like a juxtaposition against my comment how I can separate Trump and Meyer, but that might be because Selina Meyer is not Donald Trump.  Selina Meyer, as framed by the show, is vain, ruthless, short-tempered, and cruel, but she's a person, and someone whose struggles you've seen on the show.  Yes, she might not always be a good person, but she still has had to endure seismic amounts of sexism, being dismissed over-and-over despite accomplishing an enormous amount (two-term senator, first female Vice President, first female POTUS), and yet she's publicly scorned, constantly berated for her appearance and her lifestyle choices, and frequently denied her spot in history.  Plus, at the end of the day, she's someone you've secretly routed for for five years despite all of the reasons not to, perhaps because you want Julia Louis-Dreyfus to be happy, or her team to be successful, or for someone who has had to endure failure over and over and over again to finally get some form of respect.

Hillary Clinton is, in my opinion, the exact opposite of Selina Meyer, except in the sense that she is also too easily dismissed by history and has been denied her place in it because she's a woman.  It's impossible to imagine Clinton losing the 2016 election if she was a man with the same resume.   Impossible.  Indeed, my comment for years that she was the female George HW Bush would hold true; she might not win a second term, but a first-term in that situation was guaranteed.  She had to endure nearly 3 million more people voting for her and still losing the White House (like Clinton, Meyer's loss on the show was on a technicality as well), and is denied what most people assumed would be true: getting to be the first woman ever elected as president.

Every time I see Meyer endure an indignity, I'm reminded of what might have been with Clinton, and think of how she's also being denied that by history.  She'll never get a presidential library, she'll never get an inauguration.  She'll never appoint Supreme Court justices, or win a Nobel Peace Prize.  She has to watch a buffoon with the intellect of a groundhog get everything she's ever dreamt of achieving.  She'll be famous, forever, of course, but a scene in the "Library" episode of the series where Selina is forced to take a photo with the First Ladies but not the former presidents-that's where Clinton will forever be enshrined, just on the periphery of greatness.  Like on Veep, there will be another female president in real life at some point (provided Trump doesn't destroy the planet), but it won't be the one I spent so many years wanting; it'll never be who "should" have been the first female president.  And like real life, Veep's reminders of that make it increasingly uncomfortable to watch, through no fault of its own, but instead through the faults of 80,000 people in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

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