Category Archives: DC

How long can Scandal stay on the air?

For the past couple of years I’ve had the fun task of recapping Scandal for my day job. With the exception of the most recent episode, which I missed because I was in India (more on that to come!), I’ve seen all of it, and watched it grow along the way from a soapy, uneven procedural with ultra-predictable twists to a critical darling and one of the most buzzed-about shows on TV. I’ll confess Shonda Rhimes shows are generally not totally my cup of tea—I gave up on Grey’s Anatomy after the first season—and were I not recapping Scandal, I likely wouldn’t watch it regularly. But the show has sparked some interesting discussions about race and gender roles in Hollywood and politics, and it has a darkly humorous—and often just plain dark—tone that appeals to my cynical side. (Plus how can you not love the vindictive, wounded-animal rage of Bellamy Young’s Mellie Grant?)

I’ve started to wonder, though, about Scandal‘s staying power. Todd VanDerWerff noted at the AV Club that Scandal keeps momentum going by raising what were from the beginning very high stakes. You’re talking about the presidency, about the fate of marriages and reputations, even occasionally about life and death. But for me, those stakes have started to lose their power. Those passionate, tortured declarations of love Fitz and Olivia are so fond of making to each other? If they want to be together so badly, Fitz could just give up the presidency, which, by the way, he didn’t actually win anyway. He outed his own affair to the press, then Olivia’s team swiftly covered for her by pinning it on one of the president’s hapless staffers, who retired to a desert island (or something), and he continues to be the president with little to no real damage to his reputation. In any case, we’re talking about just four more years of all these people’s lives before all these issues will cease to be issues, so why not just throw in the towel after one term? Where do you go when in two and a half seasons the president of the United States has impregnated one staffer, who is then murdered by his chief of staff; been outed as an adulterer; smothered a Supreme Court justice to death; and abused his power to let a known criminal who is also the mother of his erstwhile lover/campaign manager go free?

Maybe the real stakes are the fate of these people’s souls. Olivia’s team will do anything for her, the more illegal the better, sometimes at great personal cost. Abby lies to her boyfriend; Huck tortures people; Harrison wears pocket squares that don’t exactly match his tie. Olivia will do anything for Fitz—except the one thing she should do, which is let him go. Mellie, for some reason, will do anything to stay in her position, sad and largely powerless as it is. She’s hooked on the drug of future potential success, of one day having in her hands the power she wants so desperately to keep herself adjacent to. Power for these people is god and devil, the thing that gives them life as it simultaneously eats away at them. But as they hurtle toward their destruction in the form of wildly twisting plot lines, it’s hard to see how long that corrosion can be stretched out. Like the late, unlamented Hostages, which I also recapped (until I finally gave up), the concept of a president and his former staffer having an affair that dooms everyone around them to endless lies and machinations seems like one with a limited shelf life. Were any normal person subjected to the emotional (and sometimes physical) torture these characters have already endured, she’d end up catatonic in a mental institution. We’ve already had one episode of Kerry Washington doing that—and beautiful as she is, I’m less than enthused about a whole season of it.

This is what it’s like to cover the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner red carpet for Elle

You arrive at the hotel in a cab, early because you expect a lot of traffic. There is not as much as you thought there would be. You step out, blinking in the sunlight, feeling strange to be wearing a cocktail dress and false eyelashes at 5:30 in the evening. A gaggle of hopeful stargazers is clustered around the entrance of the hotel clutching cameras and camera phones. They all turn to stare as you walk by, and you hear the whisper ripple through the group like rustling leaves: “Who is that?” Finally they realize you are not anyone of note, and turn their attention back to the hotel entrance. You walk in on a literal red carpet. A crush of photographers and reporters stand to the left of the entrance, microphones dangling, jockeying for lens positions. They, too, stare at you, hoping you are someone you are not. You are with your much more glamorous coworker and her husband, who have actual invitations to the pre-parties; all you have is your business card and an printout of an e-mail from Elle.com’s editor.

You manage to finagle your way onto the list at the ABC party with minimal embarrassment, and you head to the tent. You immediately see Ty Burrell, who is wearing a tux but has not bothered to shave, holding hands with his wife while talking to Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show. They are standing by a picnic table, at which is seated John Oliver with his wife, who is much more attractive than he is. You decide you are both too shy and not drunk enough to approach any of these celebrities. Your coworker suggests hitting the bar. You get a free glass of white wine and clutch it like you are Tom Hanks in Castaway and it is your ever-loyal only friend Wilson. You drink it way too fast.

As you’re draining your glass, your coworker tells you Tony Goldwyn of Scandal has arrived. You get another drink. Then Kerry Washington comes in. You steel yourself, gulp down the rest of your wine, and head to the entrance. They are mobbed by reporters much more legitimate than you, with photographers and cameramen; you have just your iPhone. You hover awkwardly, until finally you see Tony Goldwyn break away and head into the party. You stop him, say you are a big fan of the show. He shakes your hand and smiles, exposing teeth so white and even you are momentarily distracted. He is incredibly charming and gracious. You ask him a few questions before releasing him, then sigh in relief that the first interview is over. You look at your phone and realize you forgot to hit record.

And it continues. Some celebrities—Charles Esten from Nashville, especially—will be overwhelmingly nice to you. He will smile the TV-worthy smile that crinkles his TV-worthy blue eyes and introduce you to his mother, whom he has brought as his date. He will call himself a “local boy” and talk self-deprecatingly about getting nervous before playing the Grand Ole Opry. You will thank him for the interview and think to yourself that you’re getting the hang of this.

Until you meet the celebrities who are not quite so nice. You will touch Kerry Washington on the arm, timidly, to get her to turn around, and she will fix you with a deathlike look and give you somewhat clipped answers that come out as friendly on paper. You will attempt to approach Eric Stonestreet, whom you assume will be as happy-go-lucky as he is on Modern Family, and he will shut you down completely. You will spot Connie Britton—glorious hair flowing, blue lace dress swishing—and will follow her into the party at a safe distance, as she’s stopped every few seconds by fans and acquaintances, trying to get up the nerve to talk to her. You never will. Other people you do not get up the nerve to talk to: Hayden Panettiere. George Stephanopoulos. Sofia Vergara (though her date will stand behind you on the lawn as he smokes a cigarette, and when you try to make polite conversation, he tells you he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s smoking, then leaves, crushing his half-smoked cigarette into the grass with his heel).

You can’t get into any of the other parties—in fact, you can’t even get down the escalator—so for a few minutes when your coworker and her husband go downstairs, you are sickeningly alone. You go back to the ABC party and stand around, nervously. You are slightly buzzed, nervous. You get up your nerve to talk to Shonda Rhimes, who laughs at you when you ask for spoilers. And then it’s time for the dinner and the celebrities begin to file out of the tent, and it’s like a giant whoosh of air is sucked out of the space, like the world is a balloon deflating, and you’re left among the wilted canapés and dirty glasses, still blinking in the sunlight that somehow now seems a bit less bright than before.

Ai Weiwei Likes to Drop Priceless Vases Just for Fun

On Sunday I went to see “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” at the Hirshhorn, which I think is officially one of my favorite museums in DC. It’s such a cool space, and it’s amazing how they’re able to transform it for each exhibit. “According to What?” has a lot of photographs, taken by him as well as of him throughout the years, and some sculptures and larger-scale installations that are a little like walking into someone’s dream world. A giant snake made from children’s backpacks zipped together snakes across the ceiling; in another room, a map of China is carved into a stubby column of wood, the countours extending all the way down the sides, but the top unviewable without the help of a stepladder. Another map of China is carved into a long log, the minute details stretching all the way throughout, so you can peek through and see light on the other side. This one was especially amusing because people were getting on their knees to look through it; as my friend said, “You know your art is good when you can get people to crawl on the floor to see it.”

Another piece I found especially interesting was an ancient vase, squat and terra cotta, on which Ai painted the Coca-Cola logo in silver. It’s that juxtaposition of high art and commercialism, ancient and thoroughly modern, that I find so interesting. That vase is art because it’s old; who’s to say in 200 years or so the Coke logo won’t be considered a masterpiece?

Check out a few of the photos I took below.

China log.

Ai Weiwei flipping the White House the bird.

Coca-Cola vase.

A giant chandelier cube that I love because it’s sparkly.

Today This Guy Followed Me Down the Street and Told Me Two Amazingly Terrible Jokes

And because it’s the Friday of the longest week possibly ever, and my brain is fried, and I’m ready to head to happy hour like right meow, I’m going to share them with you.

Q: How do you find Will Smith in the snow?

A: Look for the fresh prints.

 

Q: What did the bra say to the hat?

A: You go on ahead; I’ll give these two a lift.

 

And a bonus joke, which you’ve probably heard before but which made my haiku-writing friend laugh out loud at his desk so maybe one or two people will find it mildly amusing.

Q: What does a vegan zombie eat?

A: GRAAAAAAAAAAINS.

 

Happy Friday, everyone. If you’re lucky enough to have Monday off for Columbus Day, I hate you, but also, I hope it’s extra enjoyable.

This Weekend

On Sunday, my college roommate and my other friend from college are screening the movie they made together, Not Waving but Drowning, in Silver Spring, Maryland. It’s a big deal for my roomie because she’s from the Washington area—which means I got to interview her for the website. An excerpt of the interview is below; you can read the full thing (and see an adorable photo of them) here. I have such talented friends.

Tell me how the movie and your partnership first came about.

DW: The idea started my freshman year of college, when I was 19—kind of from that overwhelming feeling of being trapped and being anxious. I started writing the script after I moved to New York [after graduation]. I went through this long period of restlessness, and a lot of the characters came out of that. It was a year of writing and working on it, and it was definitely a lot of getting to know the characters. It’s kind of a collage; there were lots of little things I knew I wanted to include, so it’s more like a novel in that you spend some time with these people and in the end maybe you learn something, rather than setting things up in the first act. At times it felt urgent that I be working on it, and at times it became distant. Like the characters—they kind of wax and wane.

NE: We started working on this in 2008 or 2009, and I quit my job in April 2010 to work on it full-time. Devyn and I were both delusional and thought it would take us one year to make the movie—it’s been two years, so only twice as bad as we thought.

When did you decide to include the short, The Most Girl Part of You, at the beginning?

DW: That was something that came about while we were in beginnings of preproduction. I wasn’t super-happy with how Not Waving but Drowning began, and I’ve been a huge fan of Amy Hempel since I was in college. I was thinking about howGirl would make such a great short film, and as I was walking home listening to music and imagining it, I got excited about making it. I feel like not a lot of people see short films . . . I liked the idea of putting a short with a feature so people could see both, like it being a throwback to when you used to see a short film before a movie.

What’s the common thread between the two?

DW: I felt like adding this other story brought the whole thing to completion and made it feel more cyclical. I hate the term “coming of age,” but Girl is one transition, going from a kid to a girl, and Drowning is a second transition that I think happens at different ages for different people. [Girl] is about a child becoming a girl and having her first sexual experience. I think that transition is very obvious; we’re used to seeing that in film, and by setting that up it makes it more open to the fact that Drowning is another transition. So though these are different stories with different characters, it could have been one person. I think there are a lot of similarities between the relationships themselves, in the sense that they’re these symbiotic relationships. [InGirl], Amy relies on Big Guy to be the mouthpiece in their relationship, and then they lose each other, so there’s the idea of having to grow that other half that you relied on in the friendship. The more I analyzed it, the more I could find a lot of things that were really similar between the two.

PS: Because our Internet at home failed yesterday, this is a makeup post. I’ll be putting up two today!