Oh, 2013. I’m looking forward to meeting you! You’ll enter my life as a big, bouncy baby who tells me to go to the gym and eat healthy and, at first, I will, because you’re adorable and smell nice. But then you’ll quickly turn into a teenager who is all, “OMG, you don’t know The Wavves?” And I’ll respond, “Um, as in Katrina and the?” And then I’ll stop going to the gym.
The point is that in thinking through resolutions it occurred to me there’s one we can all agree on. No, not gun control or what to do to avoid the fiscal cliff; we don’t have the collective maturity to deal with those issues. I’m talking about not making fun of Claire Danes’ crying anymore.
Henceforth, my case:
Claire Danes is a hella good actress, so RESPECT. And Carrie Mathison is a hella complicated role. Danes’ portrayal of a gifted CIA agent who is sometimes hindered by mental illness (or helped if you believe in the mixed blessings of bipolar disorder) is a ferocious, authentic screen presence.
At the beginning of Homeland’s second season, Carrie reluctantly takes on a dangerous assignment to gain critical intelligence on a major threat to national security (even if it comes at a personal cost). There is a scene where she is being chased in a crowded Lebanese market. When she loses her pursuer thanks to some quick thinking, a slight, manic smile flickers across her face revealing a deep satisfaction that only her job can deliver. I stood straight up and yelled, “Claire Danes was made for acting!” to my cat who went back to her 18th nap of the day.
She is one of those rare performers who consistently moves me. She gave us Angela Chase. Juliet. Temple Grandin. I’m asking for a little support in a revolution, ladies. I’m asking for deeper, better satire that is deserving of the vulnerable relatability that Claire Danes bestows upon us time and time again.
I looked forward to Saturday Night Live’s take on it when Anne Hathaway (another actress I admire) hosted in late 2012. There were funny parts for sure (especially Nasim Pedrad’s Dana -- “Dad, are you there?”), but much of Carrie’s portrayal focused on her crying or her being dramatically crazy.
It’s the same on the Interwebs. Just Google “Claire Danes Cry” and you’ll see what I mean. Carrie Mathison is a character who once sexually propositioned Saul(?!), and who entered an abandoned warehouse –- alone! -– with nothing more than a pipe to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist! Surely there is more fertile comedy ground in them thar hills.
I’m not above poking fun at pop culture. In fact, I like it. But I am sensitive about using a physical trait or characteristic to evaluate someone. Here’s why: At 23 I married my college sweetheart, Leo (It was the 90s. In Ohio. It’s what we did). By 26, I divorced him because he told me I wasn’t pretty enough for him as just one of the reasons he was having an affair.
That’s not even the most interesting part of the story (the “other woman” and I met up at a bar, discovered we liked each other and set out to confront him that same night). But the “you’re not pretty enough” theme stuck. So I started a website using that phrase to promote my writing and storytelling performances in DC and NYC, thinking it was my own little inside joke with some friends. To my surprise, my web stats showed me a different story.
Many people found me by accident; Googling some variation of the phrase, “Am I pretty enough for people to like me?” or, “How to be pretty when you’re not.” It bothered me, and there didn’t seem to be a good “answer” for that question on the web. So I set out to find one.
I collaborated with women's centers at universities and set up on campuses. I administered surveys and collected videos from people (modeled after the It Gets Better Project) to understand what drives that “not pretty enough” feeling, how it impacts an individual, and how it’s processed.
Turns out, like most things, it’s much deeper than we’d like to believe and is influenced at first by our parents, and then by friends, peers and society. Turns out even a throwaway remark can really hurt, or affect or stay with someone for a long time after.
I guess you could say I think about this stuff a lot.
I guess you could say I’ve thought about Claire Danes hearing she’s an “ugly crier” and I wonder if it hurts her -– even though she’s won Emmys and even though it’s meant lightly or qualified by “but she’s an amazing actress!” If it does, I hope she realizes there are no pretty little criers. Not me (as shown above with my cat, obvs). Not kids. Not even Kimmy K. There is enough out there already to make us feel bad about ourselves without inventing yet another “thing.”
“Why are you crying?”
“Because I’m an ugly crier!” Waaaaaah!
Finally, women cry to release stress, not because we’re weak or crazy. And we can all agree that Carrie’s dealt with a fair amount of stress, can’t we?
For me, whether it’s triggered by extreme situations (say, a fight or a death) or by masking strong emotions in an attempt to appear stoic, my go-to outlet to release sudden, situational stress is a full on level-4 cry (I’m making this up on the fly, but let’s say level 1 is the eyewell -– the “prettiest” cry face –- and level 10 is the worst red-faced, gasping-for-breath sob fest you’ve ever had). It usually takes about 10 minutes and when it’s over I’m able to concentrate on processing it, or I’m already over it.
So, you keep crying Claire Danes. Because that shit is real.
Unlike many of my other resolutions. As you think through yours for 2013, consider adding Stop Making Fun of Claire Danes Crying to your list. If you do, I bet I can keep those gym visits going until at least April.