Preface: It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a blog. During that time I had my son and have been tending to him…and by tending to him I mean spending lots of time on the couch watching TV, breastfeeding and dozing off while snuggling him. They are long blurry days. In truth, my sleep deprived state leaves me skeptical that I can put together a coherent blog. Consider yourself warned. This may not be my best blog, but it’s good to be writing again.
In watching everything there is to watch on Netflix I came across Hannah Gadsby’s special called Nanette. I’ve watched it twice now and I have it on again as I write this. It is unlike anything I have seen recently and so I feel compelled to write about it. I only wish I could capture with my weary words how special it truly is. After weeks of mind numbing TV, Nanette woke me up. Inspired me. Made me feel like a human again (not just a milk machine). And here’s why: Hannah Gadsby takes her own brutal unflinching and personal story and gives it away. Not for any reason other than to teach us how to connect. To connect through our stories.
Story telling is what I do. It’s why I write. This is one of the reasons her special resonated with me so deeply. But not just story telling for the sake of the story. When I write a fictional piece it’s for the sake of the story. No, in her show she tackles the stories we tell about ourselves and, moreover, the stories we tell about our culture.
I often try to remind myself to be careful of the stories I tell. Both about the people around me and about myself. It can be misleading, even harmful to believe some stories. There are already many stories circulating about Nanette. Is it really considered stand up comedy? Is it more of a one woman show? Is she really leaving comedy? Should comedy take a lesson from this special? Is comedy in the dire straits? I would argue that these questions all entirely miss the point of her insightful and brilliant show.
Hannah ends the special talking about connection. How we connect to each other. She wants to share her story, all of it, the good and the ugly parts, so that she can connect. It is through the brutal parts of the story that she can offer a connection, a lifeline, to others. Hiding the heinous parts, masking them in jokes or sarcasm or, in the case of high art, painting over the damage entirely for the sake of reputation, does nothing for humanity because it offers no way for us to connect to each other. And humans need connection. Honest connection, not fictionalized connection. Not punchlines. Not half truths.
Hannah Gadsby shares her whole truth with us. You will laugh because there is humor. You will feel tense because there is injustice. You will cry because there is sorrow. Hopefully though, you will connect with some part of her story. As a woman, I did. Even as a mother and a wife, I did. I hope I can always share my stories with you as openly, as deftly, and with as much beauty.
“To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity.” – Hannah Gadsby