Mind if I share a secret? I’m so over this pandemic! #covid19 #corona

Mind if I share a secret? I’m so over this pandemic! #covid19 #corona

This feeling that the pandemic is crushing something within me is overwhelming

I’m not one to complain. A lot. I do, of course, like all of us, but I’ve born the cross of the pandemic like the most patient of gods on their way to Calvary. I asked myself: why complain? It won’t change the course of things? I certainly won’t feel any better about it. Or so I thought. I’ve tried to keep things together, I’ve worked from home while watching others continue to go to the office (even though they didn’t “have to”), I endured continuous Facebook posts by acquaintances flaunting in the face of social distancing with pics of hugs and parties with friends, smiles all around. I watched daily press conferences, studied medical studies on variants, memorized incidence curves and comparisons between nations.

I still got the effing virus

To add insult to injury, our son came home with the virus in early December and we all got sick in the span of three days. When it happened, I went into automaton-mode, looking after child and husband, their complaints about my tasteless cooking, headaches, and fevers, while secretly freaking out about my physician’s warnings about day seven. Alas, we all got lucky and day seven came and went without any shortness of breath, blue lips, or ambulances. We recovered and have the antibodies to prove it.

Yet still, we wear the face masks on public transport and watch on while others don’t, we share the responsibility of school drop-offs to avoid extra travel, we order groceries online at extra cost to avoid crowding stores, buy stuff online to avoid unnecessary travel or visiting stores. All the while I see those Facebook posts, the pictures from cafés and bars, umbrella drinks, and smiling friends sitting way too close to each other for comfort.

Suddenly you find yourself facing another human being

Yesterday I combined a trip to pick up the kids from school with a necessary store visit. Online results and phone calls had not yielded the necessary results and a physical visit was necessary. Walking through a mostly empty furniture store (not unusual for 3 pm on a weekday even in pre-pandemic days) my eyes were like a radar, looking out for potential risk factors, other store visitors, potential health hazards. My visit was unfruitful, but utterly exhausting because as I was leaving the store I came across a couple of hinders in the shape of homo sapiens sapiens, standing stupidly between couches and sofas. Trying to squeeze by, turning my head and torso away from them, as to avoid breathing in/out in. their direction as the space between us was less than the prescribed two meters, I felt the adrenalin rush, the fear (stupidly and needlessly) of this sudden brush with my potential demise and my entire being suddenly seemed to scream: “Just get me fucking home. NOW!”

I wear it because I am responsible, not because it’s enjoyable

I’m so done with this pandemic

Weäre coming up on the first anniversary of our “shelter at home” orders: March 17. Not a date one easily forgets. And I am so done with Covid-19, corona, the virus, this pandemic, these “particular times” or whatever other stupid euphemism you wish to use to describe the existence we’ve all endured these past twelve months. I want to host a dinner party for good friends, talk about highs and lows over a good bottle of Amarone, I want to hug my best friends again, kiss my husband without fear of death, hug my kid more often, more naturally, the way we used to before he turned into a walking death trap for his parents. I want to travel again, sit in crowded airline lounges drinking their cheap wine while waiting for our flight out into a world of adventure. I want to walk on crowded streets of cobble-stone in ancient cities around the world, sit in bars and sip champagne and watch passers-by. I want my fucking life back.

Not wanting to sound ungrateful, of course. We’re alive and healthy, we survived the bug without any lasting symptoms. We’ve not (yet) lost any close friends or loved ones to it, and we have enough space to. call home that I can sit in three or four different places at home for my meetings without disturbing Alex in his. Compared to those who must brave the world every day, who risk infection, every day, we are lucky indeed. Lucky to be able to afford online grocery shopping, lucky to be able to work from home. Lucky. Unlike the millions who’ve perished. Yet still, mentally, this has been a rough year. I have been unable to write, unable to create. And I know that millions and millions are hurting, worse than I am. Much worse.

So here’s to you who doesn’t give a shit

Fuck you!

We’re so close to the end of the pandemic. Vaccines are coming, death rates decreasing. All we need is a few more months to hold out, as rough as it is. I’m a grown-up. I’ll keep wearing my face mask even though it makes me sneeze and my glasses fog so I can’t see shit. I will stay away and social and physical distance until the government says “it’s over!”, I’ll follow rules and regulations until they’re lifted, and I’ll be thankful and take my vaccine when it’s my turn. But to you who doesn’t care, doesn’t believe, or can’t be bothered, please enjoy my beautiful middle finger right there in your face. By now I will have unfollowed you on my Facebook and I will not reach out to you after this pandemic. Obviously, we’re not meant to be friends, because I expected more from you than you’re capable of delivering. I wish you well in the future as your subconscious grapples with the deaths and the suffering caused by your egotistical behavior. I doubt you’ll ever realize the cost you owe society.

Probably for the best.

Love, Hans

The tale of how a bedtime story became so much more

The tale of how a bedtime story became so much more

The unintentional children’s book about losing your first baby teeth

Let’s begin at the top, shall we? Picture a cruise vessel (this was before the pandemic), somewhere in the Caribbean. It’s time for Sascha, our son, to go to bed. As he’s done often before, he’s asking for a bedtime story, and for once, I manage to come up with one. I’m usually not very good at this. But we had been talking about his teeth and his anxiety (small kids, small problems) that he was one of the last kids in his class to still sport all his twenty baby teeth. Sidebar: he ended up being the last one to lose one. At the time the new teeth had already sprung up behind and I pulled them both to create the necessary space. Anyhow, back to the ship and Sascha tucked into bed. Somehow, I managed to come up with this crazy story about a vampire who lost his fangs. Sascha loved it and I figured I’d better jot it down just in case he wanted to hear it again.

From Joe to Elizabeth

What a wonderful illustration. I love to work with Finn. He’s got such a talent to visualize my work.

Over the weeks after our cruise, I got to tell him the story a few times and he really loved it. But as is the case with all my children’s stories, I tend to put them aside. I know they need a lot of time and work. During the pandemic, as I was struck with a complete writer’s block (I still haven’t recovered), I began to edit the story, making sure it was the best it could be. Fast forward to late May and I had the idea to use this story to create a video with Sascha. We had done a couple of trailers together for my previous children’s books (here and here) and he’d done such an amazing job at reading the books that I figured, why not let him read an entire book? The idea had originally come from an author friend of mine, Bru Baker when I’d begun to read my own works live at the beginning of the pandemic (they, too, can be found on my YouTube channel.)

Meanwhile, in the editing process, Joe had become Elizabeth, as I figured the world had enough male heroes in books. I let Sascha name the vampire and he chose Elizabeth (he thinks it’s a great vampire name.) I reached out to Finn Swan, who’s been kind enough to illustrate my stories about princes Valerius & Evander. He agreed and created six beautiful drawings for it. He also created a GIF that I could use for the video.

The unintentional book

As Sascha’s summer break approached, I began work on the video and had the bright idea to create a PDF to add to the video description so that parents and kids could read along with Sascha’s narration. I used a native Mac tool to set up the pages, typeset the text, and create the PDF. Since I’m not an expert on typesetting, I sent it to my publisher for a once over. Here’s what she sent back:

“I’d rather not give you feedback on this. You won’t like it, but as you asked… The images are lovely – I saw them arrive in the Dropbox folder on Saturday. Finn’s brilliant. The story is awesome too, so you’re golden with the content, and the order of image followed by text works – that’s how we handled the V&E ebooks.
The formatting… oy. […]
Question: is there a reason you’re doing this yourself rather than through BTP? I’d already included it in this year’s schedule.”

She was right, of course. My response was short and sweet: “It’s all yours.” I hadn’t known that she’d put it in the BTP schedule nor that she wanted to publish this. Two days later, the book was out, and Sascha was still in school. That’s how things happen sometimes. Looking back, I’m glad that Debbie pushed for getting the book out. I think it’s a great tool for parents to talk to their kids about losing their baby teeth which can be both scary and exciting. My son was really anxious about being “left behind” in this regard and couldn’t understand that it is perfectly normal for some kids to begin losing their teeth at five, while others have to wait until they’re seven. The story provided me with an opening to talk about different being totally okay, not worse. This is a topic we’ll sadly have to revisit countless times as he grows up, in so many other areas of life. I’m sure other parents can relate to this.

We got to the video, at last

Summer came, summer almost ended, before we got around to actually sit down and record the video. Sascha was stellar (yeah, totally biased) and after a day of editing and Sascha choosing a musical score, we published the video on my YouTube channel. And ever since then, Sascha’s been asking me almost daily about likes. His generation is totally in sync with that sort of thing. So help him feel great about himself, watch the video and press the “thumbs up”, and feel free to like and share it on Facebook or other social media.

Without further ado, here it is The Vampire Who Lost Her Fangs:

As always, the book is available as a paperback and ebook from Beaten Track and is sold worldwide from Amazon and many other retailers, online but also from local bookstores (ask for it.) If you’d like to give it away as a gift to someone and wish it to be signed by me and/or Sascha, you can buy it directly from me.

Travel during the Corona-pandemic: same, same but different

Travel during the Corona-pandemic: same, same but different

Thoughts after our first trip abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic

I wasn’t sure if travel summer 2020 was a good idea, but weirdly, ever since the lockdown began mid-March, and I saw how airline after airline stopped flying to Gothenburg, I began to long. More than ever before. It was almost as if the mere fact that I couldn’t fly made me want to fly even more. We had been in Switzerland for a week for ski week in February and had made preliminary plans for a short trip to see my husband’s mother and some relatives over Easter, none of which materialized due to a national travel ban. But apart from Easter, we normally don’t travel until the summer. Yet this year, I longed and longed.

My immediate family, what’s left of it… With only one parent left, we want to make sure our son gets to spend as much time with his grandpa as possible.

Homecation, the new normal

Our government informed us early on that we shouldn’t expect a normal summer and that it would be most likely that we’d have to vacation at home, i.e. in Sweden. As the summer approached and after our previously made plans had been canceled we decided that we still wanted to travel to Switzerland, but replace the week of a previously planned cruise, we decided to show our son one of his two native countries. We had also planned for a few short trips across the border to Italy but had to cancel all but one of those (more about that later.)

After having spent several months talking to my dad on Facetime, we were looking forward to seeing him again, and for our son to get to spend some time with his only remaining grandparent.

Same, same, but different: rules

Unfortunately, this pandemic has shown just how little the world cooperates. Not just within the WHO framework, but also within the EU. Every country did their own thing, which was okay given how quickly things escalated in the beginning, but after the Italian shutdown, I feel the EU should’ve sat down and begun to plan how to do things in a more concerted way. To see borders closed and fences going up in the middle of neighborhoods that had worked as one for decades was weird. The blame-game across borders which is still ongoing is even worse and will damage European relations for a long time to come. Yet, weirdly, as I look at the different countries we’ve been to, the rules (post lockdown) are largely the same, with a few differences. Here in Sweden, the elderly (70+) are still in lockdown and aren’t supposed to meet their kids and grandkids (and most certainly not hug them.) In Switzerland, this restriction was removed as part of their opening up of society. Therefore, we had no ‘legal’ hinder to go visit my dad who just turned 79. But we were careful, of course, because we really didn’t want to risk his health. No hugs, no handshake when we arrived, and my dad’s house is littered with soap and hand sanitizer.

Same, same, but different: hotels

We traveled for a week, by car. We figured it was easier than taking a train since Switzerland requires face masks and those things itch after a bit, so we only wore them when necessary and mandated. Social distancing works well, wherever we were, but how hotels organize things is very different and it was interesting to witness the differences, what works and what doesn’t.

Buffets are a challenge, of course, and I think most of us will see buffets through different eyes. Our first hotel, one we’ve visited many times before, kept the buffet, but added single-use gloves (few used them) and hand sanitizer and a one-way system. It didn’t really work because if you needed something from the “end” you didn’t really want to wait in line for everyone else to have gotten what they wanted. Another hotel we visited had adopted a different system, spreading out the buffet throughout the breakfast room, allowing people to spread out more easily. All food items were either covered with lids or e.g. plastic foil.

Another hotel we visited had abolished the buffet and replaced it with an a-la-carte menu. You ordered your breakfast the night before. Drawback: deciding what you’ll likely want to eat the next day and remembering what that was in the morning. I was lost. LOL, but the presentation was great and the food delicious.

Same, same, but different: face coverings

First time in my life I had to wear one of these.

I’m no fan of them, I’ll admit. Yet we ordered a few the other day for future use, and we obviously follow government recommendations and mandates. I can barely go on Facebook anymore as the debate from the US is simply disgusting. Yes, we can argue the scientific value of face coverings in this pandemic, but once a decision is made, you follow the rules. Period. You don’t murder people or steal just because you disagree with the respective laws. But yeah, America…

We first experienced face masks when we boarded our flight to Switzerland. I was happy to take it off to eat and drink but put it back on once I was done. On our trip to Switzerland, the masks were merely recommended. On our way home, they’d become mandatory. Things change all the time.

I think it makes sense to have that extra layer of protection in crowded spaces, such as airports (as abandoned as they are), shops, planes, or public transport. We complied using surgical masks we bought at our local airport in Gothenburg (the only place I’ve found them since March, excessively overpriced.) Sweden, along with other Nordic countries, does not yet mandate masks because of the lack of clear scientific evidence of their use, but I think we’ll need to change our approach not just because covid-19 is different from the flu, but also because of all the asymptomatic people not to mention all the covidiots out there, i.e. people who are sick yet insist on going out. But if you travel, bring a comfortable face covering (or four) along to use. The blue paper surgical masks are itchy and uncomfortable (my ears were going stir crazy having to bear both the rubber bands and the rims of my glasses.) Besides, if we have to wear a mask, make it part of your personality, your style.

Same, same, but different: uncertainty

Traveling is always accompanied by a certain level of uncertainty. You never know what might happen simply because countries are different. However, this year, even traveling to a country you know very well (I was born and raised in Switzerland) is accompanied by weird flukes. When we booked our trip, we knew that we were “allowed to”, both by the Swiss and Swedish governments. However, when we flew, the Swiss government had announced a ten-day quarantine for Swedish travelers, due to the high infection numbers in Sweden. We arrived two days before that rule went into place and didn’t have to. But it basically stopped our plans to travel to Italy because we didn’t really know if my husband would’ve had to quarantine after a day trip as he has no Swiss ID. Our son and I do, we would’ve been fine (silly, right?), but it just wasn’t worth the risk.

To make matters worse, after a week in Switzerland, the Swedish government “retaliated” and removing the green light from Swiss travel. Kind of nice when you’re already there. Our insurance was no longer valid (if anything had happened.) A few days before we returned to Sweden, the Swiss removed the quarantine for Swedish travelers and I expect Sweden to once again allow travel to Switzerland when they review their decision in two days. Silly, but that’s Europe 2020 for you.

But if you travel this year, this is something that might happen to you, as additional examples in recent days (UK, Spain) have shown. Things are very volatile and you better be prepared to pay your own medical bills or buy new plane tickets last minute. I am impressed with the Lufthansa Group’s decision and their “promise” to always bring you home. What it’s worth if push ever came to shove is a different story. There’s plenty of small print one cannot be bothered to read.

Same, same, but different: conclusions

We had a good vacation. We spent lots of time outdoors, we made sure to travel safely and avoid crowds. Sadly you can’t really avoid all the covidiots everywhere, but a good stare usually stops them from coming too close. We were well prepared and healthy and made the most of the time, and coming home after three weeks once again proved a well-hidden point about travel: you appreciate your home so much more.

Have you been traveling this summer? Plan to? What are your experiences?

Stay safe out there…

Hans

I.can’t.write.these.days.

I.can’t.write.these.days.

The pandemic and the state of the world killed my muse

You probably saw my post last week about the art project that I’ve been a part of. It’s been a welcome escape from my regular writing. But even though the post is long and includes several poems, I haven’t “really” written anything substantial in the past three months. Most of the poetry included in last week’s post was written prior to the pandemic. I just can’t seem to be writing fiction anymore. The state of the world, and how quickly it is descending into chaos is deeply disturbing for a soul like mine, and the pain metaphysically alters my ability to concentrate and write.

The hunt for good news

March 17, 2020, the date none of us will ever forget. The day things went sour here in Sweden and elsewhere. The exact day may have varied. It was sooner in Spain and Italy, later in other geographies. Two-and-a-half months later, we’re still in the middle of this pandemic and I find myself staring at the statistics from the Johns Hopkins University ten times a day (at least), looking for hope, looking for the graphs to turn downward, the number of cases to drop, etc. Alas, so far, no such luck. As a European with tentacles all over the world, I follow not only the European numbers, but the American ones as well, and the signs are deeply disturbing. I won’t get into a numbers game or even try to understand how the numbers relate and compare (or not), as even my own country’s numbers can’t be taken at face value. Changes in testing, ramping up testing, changes in who’s tested, and so on and so forth obviously impact the graphs which still look worrying from the outside (if you don’t know how to interpret them.) Good news is scarce these days, but it’s out there, at least with regards to the disease, in Europe.

Turn off the news…

I also spend some time on Facebook, staying in touch with friends and family around the world, and my stream includes a lot of “other”, political memes, articles, and whatnot. That’s usually more disturbing than anything else. I read a lot of newspapers, too, from local news from Sweden to Süddeutsche Zeitung, FAZ, the Guardian, the Independent, CNN, The Washington Post, etc. I like to be informed, I need to stay abreast of what’s going on. Recently, good news has been scarce, or they drown in the pile of manure that is headlining. The first commercial rocket to bring people to ISS, an amazing feat, yet who cares? Instead, it’s hashtags like #ICantBreathe or #BlackLivesMatter which take up all the oxygen in the room, not to mention the evil that currently resides in the White House in Washington, and his utter lack of empathy for those less fortunate.

I wish I could turn off the news, ignore it, but I can’t. I need to know, I need to somehow feel, believe that the good of humankind will prevail over the evil. Right now, the optimist within me is desperate, losing hope. The signs are bad. Facing climate change, facing the biggest global unemployment since the 1930s crash, all of this coupled with an unprecedented divide between the haves and the have nots is not leaving me much to be optimistic about.

Even in a relatively healthy society like Sweden’s, the signs are troubling: our elder care and our healthcare system is anemic, having been deprived of much-needed resources for decades. Doctors don’t have time to visit patients, we send people home too fast, too soon, and what was once a retirement home is now a hospice where people go to die. Is this what we envisioned when the law was changed in 1992? Hardly. But that’s the reality. We pay our nurses so miserably they flee in droves to work in Norway instead. The same with doctors who pull insane shifts in ICUs to cope with things.

My mind keeps reeling: what will the future hold?

So I don’t write. I worry. I think. I try to come up with ideas of how we can overcome the situation. What can we do to fix climate change, fund our healthcare, get people back to work and create a society where everybody feels needed and is valued, regardless of how they look, appear, or whom they love? Is this really too much to ask for? I worry, and while I worry, I can’t write. Who knows when I’ll be able to listen to my voices again, to hear them speak to me, loud enough for me to hear them. Two things need to happen: either my voices start to speak up, speak louder, or the noise around me needs to quiet down. Right now, neither seems likely.

How do you cope in these crazy times?

I.can’t.write.these.days.

Dance/Write: the end of a nine-month project that expanded my artistic horizon

I will miss you all!

I’m struggling for words, hence the above title. I just cannot express appropriately what I feel, still. Maybe it is still too raw, too fresh. Yesterday saw the conclusion of a project that I have been a part of for a long time, first as a translator of some official documents to accompany fundraising efforts and later, intrigued by the concept, having applied and having been accepted, as a participant. “To write for dance and to dance written text” seemed such an intriguing project for a novelist such as myself, especially in the context of the LGBTQ context it was founded on. I simply had to be a part of it and I guess the “powers to be” saw the passion in my application.

Three Swedish authors, three international authors, and the dance company Spinn

On September 19th, we kicked the project off over a cup of coffee. Little did I know how it would affect me. The final performance yesterday is still swirling around in my head, deeply affecting me emotionally. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet up again this fall, post corona, for hugs and much needed personal thanks to everyone involved. It goes without saying that I am greatly indebted to the organizations that have funded this project, enabling me to spend time expanding my artistic horizon, returning to poetry after all these years.

In the following, rather than expressing how I feel, I would like the art to speak for itself. First, you have a video of the final performance yesterday, which included two works of me, a poem I wrote about four months ago, I feel love, everywhere, which I wrote off a clue from my writing buddy Claire Carter, based on two of her characters. Secondly, there’s the live improvisation that Claire, Rannhvi, Izabell, and I did, a conversation of poetry and dance toward the end. Following that, I have included the video that Izabell and I created inspired by Matt–More Than Words, and finally the actual poetry I wrote as a part of the process. Enjoy! 🙂 Maybe in small doses. It’s quite intense…

Live Performance from the Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg, May 28, 2020

Matt–More Than Words, a dance/poetry version

Eyes open, wandering
Head, bobbing
Mouth open, drooling
Body, broken
Movement, involuntary
Pain, constant pain
Muscle spasms, cramps
No way to speak
Moaning, groaning, wailing
Behind those eyes,
Is there a mind?
Thoughts, ideas, dreams?

[Izabell’s Dance]

My mind is full of thoughts, ideas, dreams
I dream of walking
Walking toward you, touching you
There is so much I want to say
So much I want to tell you
But I can’t
I am a prisoner inside my body
But I see you
And I love you
I am human
I am Matt
I am more than words

Other poetry I have written for the project

Cowering in the Dark

Cowering in the dark, alone
A chameleon, hiding in plain sight

At first, you can’t see it, the light
It cuts through cracks in the dark

Extending toward you, caressing you
Dare you reach out? Dare you touch it?

In time you step out from that dark
and as you spread your delicate wings
Your soul takes flight, at last.

I feel love, everywhere

So good, so good, so good

I feel the beat

I feel the heat

Pulsating, through me 

Calling your name

I can’t see you

Bodies, all around me

Moving, moving, moving

dancing, grinding, sweating

Calling your name

I can see you

Dancing, dancing, dancing

Your face, your eyes, your smile

Calling your name

Turntables at my fingertips

Beats, beats, beats

Pulling you across the dance floor

Closer, closer, closer

You and me, together

I feel love, love, love

Glitter of the disco ball

Everywhere

Colors of the rainbow

Together, forever

Recorded for Improv Session, May 27, 2020 (This text is likely going to be re-written and edited for further use)

Voice recording

All alone
Flickering faces on a screen
Pandemic? Systemic?
Socially distanced togetherness
Isolation celebrated
Quarantined in a closet with windows
How quaint
I may talk to you, even see you,
But I can never reach you
Like a childhood nightmare long ago.

I watch your every move from afar
A distant voyeur
I see your hair
Those lovely eyes
And how you look at me
Through that screen in front of you

Can you see me?
Do you even care?
I watch you, I see you
As you swirl, twist, turn
But do you see me?

Distance, Closeness, Intimacy
How can we bridge the gap?
Will they ever let me out of the closet?
And when they do, will I dare?

Live Improv Session, May 28, 2020 (This text is likely going to be re-written and edited for further use)

Flickering faces on a screen
Pandemic. Systemic?
Socially distanced communion
Separated by PPE, glass or space
Quarantine be hallowed
Isolated in a closet with windows
I may talk to you, even see you,
But I can never reach you
Like that childhood nightmare.

I see the glass, beyond it the sky, the sun
Oh, that look you give me,
I miss your touch
Your silky lips against mine
Your caresses, body against body
Dance for me baby, dance

I feel like I’m in an aquarium
Surrounded by glass, freedom beyond
Yet here I am, drowning in water
I want to shatter the glass, the fish tank
I dream of the beach, waves coming ashore
Lapping against the warm sand.
Can you see it?

I see your swirls, your elegant moves
Our electronic Togetherness
A dreamscape, a Tsunami of emotions
Let us break out of the confinement
Find a Secret pathway
I long to be with you again
Don’t deny me this one thing. HOPE

A great big thank you!

Finally, a great big thank you to The Region of West Sweden, The Nordic Culture Fund, and the City of Gothenburg for funding the project. How lucky am I to be able to get paid to do something that gives me so much joy? A big thank you to the Writers’ Center West Sweden (Hedvig & Kristín) for organizing it and allowing me to be a part of it, to Danskompaniet Spinn (Veera) for working with us on this, and helping us expand our horizons, to the dancers, particularly Rannvhi and Izabell, for working with Claire and me, to the other writers (Sara, Hilding & Elias) for all the discussions, the open dialogue, and your creativity, and last, not least, to Claire Carter, for putting up with me, and literally blowing up any preconceptions I had about poetry, dancing and expanding my mind and my creative courage like the big bang. Your thoughts on the influence of text and dance, the interdependence between the two, has been mindblowing and I can’t express just how much it has influenced me. The project that Izabell and I did about Matt had not been possible without that, and I doubt our improv session yesterday either. Thank you, all, from the bottom of my heart.

Hans M Hirschi

I.can’t.write.these.days.

Hollywood on Netflix: Are “revisionist” TV shows a good idea?

Watching “Hollywood” left me severely troubled

It’s been a week since we finished the Netflix hit mini-series Hollywood. It’s impossible to NOT include spoilers in this post, so be prepared or walk away. But while my instant reaction was enjoyment, after the end, especially after the final episode, I was left troubled. I found the final two episodes really disturbing. I turned to my collective brain on Facebook to ask them about their impression and I walked away even more confused. The almost unanimous feedback was “great. show”, “it’s revisionist”, “it shows how things could’ve been, should’ve been”, etc. I’ve been thinking about those comments for days now.

Medici, Borgias, the Crown paved the way for this…

I’ve watched a lot of historic TV shows, some mentioned above, and then some. Doing so, I always have my phone in hand to check things on Wikipedia: is this a real character/event? And as has always been the case with TV and movies, writers and directors take significant liberties when creating their shows. I also watched “Once upon a time…in Hollywood“, the Tarantino movie which takes the murder of Sharon Tate and changes it significantly. I enjoyed that movie, to a degree. And it wasn’t primarily the fact that Sharon Tate isn’t killed, but the violence of the movie in general. Typical Tarantino, I guess. Just not my cup of tea.

But “Hollywood” is different on a completely different level. While very loosely based on real events from the post-WWII period, and using several historical figures, including Rock Hudson and Henry Wilson, to just name two of the most infamous ones. It starts out by depicting the arrival of Hudson in Hollywood, and his character is portrayed as the gay man he was. So far so good. The same is true for Henry Wilson, in all the gory despicability of who he apparently was. It also showcases the racial differences and how extremely difficult it was for POC in those days. And while some individuals were able to see past that and regarded people as simply humans, that certainly wasn’t true for society at large. There are scenes with Queen Latifah and Michelle Krusiec that are gutwrenching to watch, yet based on the reality of those days.

Suddenly, everything is different

There is a scene where the gay black screenwriter walks up to the studio head to warn her that he’ll be holding hands with Rock Hudson on the red carpet. By that scene, the improbable movie had already become a smash hit at the box offices and been nominated for a lot of Oscars. She warns him of the consequences thereof, but he, as they say, persisted. From there, the scenes are stacked up and blacks, gays, and the improbable movie “Meg” walk away with Oscars and the mini-series ends with the promise of a romantic gay movie being made. Yes, amazing, isn’t it?

Yet totally unrealistic… That gay movie still hasn’t been shot. No, Simon’s not it either. And while it’s close, it shows that even in 2020 we are so far away from even being close to treating minorities similar to the white ruling classes of Hollywood. #hollywoodsowhite anyone?

Yes, things have changed for the better, but…

I don’t mind fantasy. I don’t mind things being portrayed in rosy colors. But please, don’t change history. Why? Stupid people, simply put. And there’s plenty of them, sadly. There are hundreds of millions of people around the world with no sense for historic accuracy/literacy who do not know how to use Wikipedia while watching historic dramas (I’ve seen the comments about e.g. the Medici or the Borgias on Facebook) and they’ll take this at face value. Don’t believe me? Five letters: T R U M P.

The man and his regime change history on the fly. Suddenly we’re facing “Obamagate” (even though there is NO such thing and never was), Russia is replaced by Ukraine, the Trump campaign by the Biden campaign (which had not begun yet) but I guess beating on Hillary got old. Without any care for facts, we have seen how the perception of the world is changing. One day 45 trumpets about a malaria medication being a promising cure from the White House pulpit, the next day, people are poisoned in Nigeria because they (lack of education) believed him and overdosed on that shit. I’m just waiting for the first idiot to publicly spout from the rooftops that gays and blacks have no reason to complain, that things have been so great for them as the show portrays. And don’t tell me people will not react like that because there are literally millions upon millions who are incapable of separating truth from fiction. Sometimes even educated people. The worst part is how this will affect the perception of things like #blacklivesmatter and the ongoing struggle of the LGBTQ and POC communities for equality if suddenly people think there’s no reason to complain.

Remember 1984?

It was one of the great reads of my youth, George Orwell’s novel 1984. I remember how they went back to change articles in The Times to better and accurately reflect changes to IngSoc dogma. It was Winston Smith’s job, after all. I doubt that Mr. Orwell would’ve been able to even imagine a time, in the not too distant future where the president of the world’s dominant nation would lie so often and so callously that facts had become a perishable good. He changes his views on the fly and there is no Winston Smith there to alter the facts and clean up the mess. He simply ignores it, labels yesterday’s facts as “fake news” and moves on lying. I have family members reading every word from the man’s lips.

This is why I am so disturbed by revisionist (what an awful word btw.) TV shows and movies. Do fantasy and sci-fi, by all means, but don’t change the past (unless you do so the way time travelers do, where it’s all in the open and stated as fiction and an alternative reality.) It’s simply too dangerous in our time and age. I’m not surprised though. It’s the perfect form of entertainment for the Trump age where nothing is real anymore. Not the news, not science, not facts, not even history. That makes me sad and worried for humanity.