Sunday, August 12, 2018

Yes, Yes Nanette!

(This ran yesterday on, but I wanted it to be searchable, so I'm putting it here too.  You should ALL read it).

Everyone is talking about the Nanette comedy special by Tasmanian lesbian comedian Hannah Gadsby, which quietly landed on Netflix about two weeks ago and has been getting the kind of buzz I can only remember for 50 Shades.  “Have you seen Nanette?  What do you think?”

Now you may already be asking yourself, “What the hell does this have to do with romance?” and you’d be surfacely justified, but in this age of #MeToo and TimesUp, everything in the life of contemporary women has to do with romance, or the total lack thereof.  And it’s time we, as romance readers, start connecting the dots (as Hannah Gadsby does brilliantly in this performance).

So, back to Nanette. This made headlines because the comedian said she was doing this comedy special to announce that she was leaving comedy, and then, to her surprise, the powerful, gut-retching and side-splitting performance she gave was so timely and honest that it literally launched an international career that she could never have imagined. So, of course, she is not quitting comedy (there’s your HEA).

Ok, so, if you haven’t seen this special (and maybe even if you have) let me tell you why it’s so perfectly zeitgeisty.

We have grown accustomed to female comedians doing their shticks about dating, marriage, children, shopping, their bodies, each other, men, etc.  We expect the humor to be self-deprecating.  If there’s any anger at all, it is usually aimed at ourselves, or society, or the patriarchy. And women on stage usually don’t get very angry because we have been told a thousand times that angry women aren’t fun or funny.

So here comes Hannah, a bordering on middle-age out lesbian who makes it clear to us that she doesn’t care what we think of how she looks because she’s spent the whole of her life not fitting in as a girl, as a woman, as a comedian, and even, sometimes, as a lesbian. We’ve laughed a few times because we’re trying to get to know her, and she’s being so incredibly forthright that we think we know where this is going… and then she just completely takes us elsewhere…a place we weren’t even thinking we would go on a comedy special.

And she does it so eloquently with a lesson from art history featuring Van Gogh and Picasso (and I have an art history degree, so this really got me where I live).

And where she takes us is to her teenage rape, but she does not dwell there.  She dares us to see her as so many men over the centuries have seen her and most women they encounter as objects for their pleasure telling us about 50-odd year-old Picasso’s bon mot about how his 17 year old lover was at her prime, as was he.  And Hannah then double dog dares us to see her for who she really is – a middle aged out Tasmanian lesbian – who is only now in her prime.
And then she utters this line (you will quote forever), "There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who's rebuilt herself."

Just so powerful.

There has never been another comedy performance like it.

I hope it sets the bar.

Now, go watch that special again. Grab some friends and watch it.


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