This post brought to you by the Department of Arts and Entertainment, ™Madwoman Enterprises, LLC. For an idiosyncratic survey of the mostly political Madness of 2012, scroll down or click here.
This post will be even more idiosyncratic than the previous one was, shaped as it is by the peculiar tastes of a couple of cranky old broads who miss most of the good movies because they tend to get released during the college basketball season and keep forgetting to tune into the shows that all the cool kids are watching. Breaking Bad? Mad Men? Girls? Game of Thrones? Oh, for heaven’s sake, people, we’re already planning to catch up on The Wire when we’re settled into the nursing home. Add these to the list, and let’s move along to a few things we actually did see this year.
Mad TV: Dorothy helpfully reminded us in a comment on the previous post that one of the year’s best and Maddest moments in live TV was Karl Rove’s election-night meltdown on Fox News, as he spluttered that Fox and other networks should not be calling Ohio — and thus the election — for Obama. It was an epically entertaining moment and a comedown long overdue in our humble opinion. Karl Rove has been a boil on the backside of American politics for more than two decades. It was thrilling to watch the boil get publicly lanced. See it here. Oh, and for a deliciously conspiratorial take on the diabolical plot that might have fueled Rove’s meltdown, go here.
As for non-live TV, we are at least cool enough to have been fanatically devoted to Homeland in its sophomore season, despite some of the improbable plot twists and allegations of overacting on the part of Claire Danes. (We reject those allegations, because, well, we look goofy when we cry, too. Don’t judge.) For us, what makes Homeland white-knuckle television is the radical ambiguity of both lead characters, the soldier/terrorist/double agent Nicholas Brody (played by Damian Lewis) and the bipolar CIA analyst Carrie Mathison. In scene after scene, the evidence is split 50/50 on fundamental questions about each of them: Was Brody in on the attack on CIA headquarters, or was he a patsy, a pawn in Abu Nazir’s last brilliant plot? Does Carrie really love Brody, or is she playing him in hopes of getting useful information? Mandy Patinkin‘s Saul Berenson was also riveting this season, especially in the last couple of episodes, as he grappled with the corrupt machinations of his supervisor David Estes (David Harewood) and the possible loss of Carrie. Homeland explores, with greater nuance and insight, what’s become of the American soul in the wake of the attacks of 9/11/01. If you aren’t watching it, you should be.
Everything else we watch is cotton candy compared to Homeland. Shonda Rhimes’s Scandal is entertaining, but there’s concern on our couch that it’s already gone the way of Grey’s Anatomy halfway through its second season. I mean, srsly, kids, you’ve got a show centered around a presidential administration and you shoot the big guy in S2 — Where do you go from there? Does the guy live and become a doddering Reagan, leaning on a conniving First Lady, or do you sacrifice your credibility by having him miraculously awaken from his long winter’s nap from wounds that seemed Kennedy-esque in their gravity? Or do you let him die and worry later about what to do with all of Liv’s libidinal energy, not to mention all those pesky co-conspirators who helped get
Bush Fitz into the White House? We shudder to imagine how this plot might resolve, but we’ll tune in January 10 when new episodes resume to see. CBS’s The Good Wife with the incomparable Julianna Margulies in the title role is less melodramatic but sometimes so polished that we forget who or what we are supposed to care about. Do you know what we mean? The actors are extraordinary and the writing impeccable, but, well, are Alicia and Peter really married, and will that demented/creepy husband of Kalinda’s please just go away?
Also: Nashville, starring Connie Britton. Watch it. Jill Dolan explains why. Parks and Recreation, when we remember to tune in. Revolution, because I need guidance on how to survive power outages. (Bear in mind, though, that I’m alone on the couch for this show. WFKG won’t watch it anymore — The plots are too thin and the body count’s too high for her taste. I can’t explain what it is I keep hoping will happen here, dramatically or politically.)
Mad Flicks: Lincoln, you had us at “The Gettysburg Address,” even if that moment was totally fabricated. Forgive us, history pals. We love narrative, and this was some fine cinematic storytelling. And Daniel Day-Lewis should get an Oscar just for getting out of bed every morning. He is incredible, here as everywhere. Les Misérables was pretty swell, too, for entirely different reasons, most of which involved the extreme hummability of songs I cannot get out of my HEAD! Stacy Wolf lets us off the hook for loving a show with such atrocious gender politics — Go read that piece, and then get thee to the multiplex, citoyen. We saw The Master and kind of scratched our heads over it, but it’s on a bunch of other Best of 2012 lists, so what the heck. The pas-de-deux between Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman is pretty fricking compelling.
Mad Moments in Sports: In March, our beloved Lady Terps won the ACC championship in basketball but then went on to suffer a stunning 31-point loss to Notre Dame in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA tournament. (The adorable and ridiculously talented Brittney Griner and Baylor would go on to win the tournament, so we weren’t hugely disappointed by the fact of the Terps loss, only its scale.) In the summer Olympics, we thrilled to the classy, emphatic swan song of swimmer Michael Phelps and the fearless grace of gymnast Gabby Douglas. Though of course what we really loved about this Olympics was Queen Elizabeth’s star turn in the opening ceremonies and the McKayla Maroney is not impressed meme launched by a photograph of the gymnast’s disappointed expression on the medal stand when she won silver in the vault competition. The sports lowlight of 2012? That award goes to lying sack of performance-enhancing drugs Lance Armstrong. Sports Illustrated has a great piece on the year’s biggest moments in sports. It’s here.
Mad Musical/Theatrical Interludes: We saw Madonna this year. Nothing else matters, though Kathleen Turner was fun to watch as Molly Ivins in Red Hot Patriot. Still: Madonna.
Mad Reads: On the New York Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2012 you will find a brave and beautiful book by one of the original Madwomen, Susan Gubar, whose chronicle of life with ovarian cancer, Memoir of a Debulked Woman, is making waves among those affected by the disease and those who treat it. Gubar was diagnosed more than four years ago with advanced ovarian cancer, which was treated with a surgery called “debulking,” which removed her uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, appendix, and seven inches of her intestines. The surgery was followed by complications and many rounds of chemotherapy that Gubar undertook with mixed feelings, because she appreciated the gravity of her diagnosis and didn’t want to subject herself to treatments that had no real chance of succeeding. The book unflinchingly recounts the physical and emotional aspects of her ordeal. It is a harrowing story but one that ends up inspiring, even though its author consciously positions her story against the chirpy American fantasies of beating this thing that structure most cancer narratives and the pretty-in-pink movements of cancer survivors. Gubar is not a believer in miracles. She rejects false hope and refuses to traffic in euphemism, though she is careful not to deny hope to others. What’s inspiring about her story is precisely its emphasis on endurance and on the consolations of love, art, and literature. Memoir of a Debulked Woman is about navigating the final stages of life without illusion but with a quiet persistence that amounts to grace. I am not objective about Susan Gubar. She was my teacher and remains a friend. She has written a book that matters profoundly and is now blogging on living with cancer on the New York Times website. She is still, always, brilliantly teaching. (The New Yorker has a print interview with Gubar on the subject of the book, her illness, and the need for women to educate themselves about ovarian cancer. She talks through those issues — in her glorious, straight-out-of-Brooklyn voice — with NPR’s Neal Conan on Talk of the Nation.) Thank you, Susan, and happy new year to you and yours.
Most Madly Wonderful Photo of the Year: So, this is what marriage equality looks like:
Oh, homonormativity, who knew you would be so . . . lumberjacky!
(For other notable photos of 2012, please see the Star-Ledger‘s haunting collection of photographs of Union Beach, NJ at night, after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and the New York Times 2012: The Year in Pictures.)
Happy new year, darlings. May 2013 fulfill all of your wildest dreams or, you know, not suck entirely. Peace out, and thanks, as always, for reading.