Thursday, June 1, 2017

Weiner

Year 9, Day 152 - 6/1/17 - Movie #2,647

BEFORE: This documentary break worked out fairly well - and it's over tonight, so back to scripted material tomorrow.  But Bill and Hillary Clinton carry over from "Sicko", via the miracle of archive footage, so in some way the linking was maintained.  But tomorrow I'll pick up the actor linking, right where I left off.


THE PLOT: An examination of disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's mayoral campaign and today's political landscape.

AFTER: Our new President said something this month, at a graduation ceremony or something, about how no other politician in history had ever "been treated worse" than he has by the media.  Well, even accounting for how much Trump loves to talk about himself, and how everything connected to him has to be the biggest, the best, the most YUUGE, we can all tell that this statement was pure bunk and merely more hyperbole.  Because you don't need to think very hard to come up with a politician who was treated worse - Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner both come to mind immediately, but what about NY Governor Spitzer, and NJ governors Chris Christie and Jim McGreevey?  What about Obama, having to fend off numerous challenges about his birthplace and citizenship (gee, who was the loudest instigator of that, I can't recall...)?  What about Abe Lincoln, hated by one-half of the country and assassinated for his efforts?

But I digress, let me focus on Anthony Weiner for a minute - if you're not familiar with the man, he was a 7-term Congressman for New York who represented Brooklyn and Queens in the House.  Though he had a reputation as being short-tempered, he did occasionally put that to good use, as this film shows in footage where he was yelling at fellow Congressmen for not passing the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2011 (nice tie-in with last night's film "Sicko", right?).  But then a texting scandal forced him to resign from Congress, thanks to the dick-pic seen 'round the world - and then, somehow, he very impractically decided to run for Mayor of New York City, and furthermore, very impractically decided to allow a documentary crew film him during the weeks leading up to that election.

This means that the camera crew was in place when Weiner's second sexting scandal broke - the one after he said he wasn't sexting anyone any more, or sending out any dirty tweets, when really he meant to say was that he wasn't sending out dirty tweets FROM THAT ACCOUNT, and had instead created a new Twitter account, under a new name ("Carlos Danger").  Which really should have come as no surprise to anyone familiar with addictive behavior, few people ever really stop drinking or using drugs or watching porn, they just find better ways to hide their tracks - hiding booze in their desk at work, or shooting up between their toes, or taking the time to clear their browser history.  People are human, they make mistakes, they grab on to little behaviors that bring them pleasure so they'll momentarily forget that someday they're going to die.

But Weiner became a local and national punchline, and fuel for all of the jokes on late-night talk shows, not to mention the New York Post headlines that seemed to write themselves, like "Can't Keep Weiner Down" or "Weiner: I'll Stick It Out" or (when his wife threw him out) "Huma Cuts Off Weiner".  There you go, NY Post, keeping it classy.  You just KNOW they were waiting for him to quit the mayoral race so the headline could read "Weiner Pulls Out".

This documentary is uncomfortable to watch, because it shows Weiner and his wife going through their daily routines, meeting with staffers, speaking to the press and it gradually wears on them and makes the relationship difficult.  You can tell from Huma's body language that she was developing a different attitude toward her husband as the new revelations came forward and the election neared.  And while she was willing to stand by her husband throughout the campaign, at some point she stopped making appearances, only to have the press jump on the fact that she was less visible, and start asking questions about her lack of involvement in the campaign, and possible detachment from her husband.

Sure enough, soon after the filming concluded, the couple announced their separation, but the news as of YESTERDAY was that Weiner was planning to move back in with Huma, after spending a few months sleeping on his mother's couch in Brooklyn.  Right now no one seems to be sure whether their relationship is back on, or if he's just moving in to take care of their son.  A couple times in 2015 or 2016 I used to see him hanging out in Chelsea with his son, maybe the kid goes to a daycare around there or something.

A couple takeaways, the most notable is the fact that I don't think we've seen the end of the effect of Twitter and Facebook on U.S. politics - we're just getting started.  How do candidates (and celebrities) seem to forget that posting things on social media means that other people can, you know, SEE THEM and pass whatever judgements they want.  This cuts both ways, on the one hand it's a great sign of an open democratic society, but it also serves as a de facto invasion of privacy (especially when you get down to hacked cell phone videos...).  But as far as political scandals go, this should have been a relatively tame one, I mean, Weiner didn't have extra-marital sex, he didn't hurt or kill anyone with his photos, but now he's been forced to register as a sex offender because the age of one of his texting contacts.  And why did Trump somehow get a pass for all the rude behavior in his past, when Weiner was humiliated and received so few votes?

Plus, if you remember, that Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal that returned JUST before the 2016 election pointed out that Huma, Hillary's aide at the time, may have stored some of the classified e-mails on a computer that Weiner had access to.  (God forbid, government e-mails on the same device as a couple of horny tweets...)  But that may have tipped the balance on the election - so it's possible future historians will look back on the Weiner scandal and identify this moment, this person's mistake, as the point in time where everything started turning to crap and civilization started to collapse.  Who can say?

Also starring Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Bill de Blasio, with cameos from Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Bill Maher, Howard Stern, Jon Stewart, Donald Trump.

RATING: 5 out of 10 press conferences

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