I have been catching up on Enlightened, helmed by the thoughtfully brilliant Mike White. I was intrigued initially by the premise of the show, and it took me a while to get completely into it— I have a short attention span at times— but it is some of the most beautiful and honest writing I have ever seen. I have learned so much from it.
Mike White isn’t afraid to talk about human weaknesses, on a large corporate scale, or to write, more suprisingly, of the most minute, specific, and personal vulnerabilities.
An example is the feeling of loneliness. Or, the way we survive, relate to people, and are affected by them, whether or not they know it. The way technology connects us, and how we chose not to see the many ways we have allowed it to make us completely disconnected drones, under security blankets of light cast from rectangular, glowing screens. But that’s only a small part of it.
White doesn’t say these things directly, he doesn’t criticize; he depicts. He shows us our flaws without placing blame or saying we are wrong. He is just making us aware.
By “us” I mean an audience, but I guess really I can only speak for me. I relate so much to the show. Particularly to the character Mike White plays. I just watched the fifth episode of the second, and final, season, called “The Ghost is Seen”. In the opening monologue and final voice over, White was able to articulate feelings- and a tension within the state of being- I have tried to explain in my plays, in my journals, in my life over and over. The tension between existing and not, not in terms of life and death, but in terms of presence and a sort of quiet shadow with regards to trust and engagement and fear and investment in others, in ourselves; our wants and needs, hopes.
White’s character talks about living as a “ghost” as not being tied down, as being free.
Conversely, he has no real connection to anyone, nowhere to make use of this freedom.
When no one is expecting you, there are no expectations. This is part of being alone.
I am so caught between those two sides, so confounded and fascinated and wound up in them. I think it’s the basis, in some way, for every play I write. Not belonging, not letting yourself belong because then you have something to lose, somewhere to be, some way to mess it up.
Mistaking elusively for power. Confusing not needing for strength and independence.
This is a reoccurring theme.
But you can’t be invisible and work in the arts, I don’t think. You can’t be a “ghost”. Because what’s the point of creating or doing something that doesn’t make a mark, that has no opinion or need for existence, on any scale? This is my greatest anxiety within the profession I have chosen. It is why I don’t like the parties and feel displaced at the openings- where the point is, somewhat, to be seen, which are superfluous to the work, anyhow. But in showing my work and wanting it to be seen, and actually being seen through that— this is both the most horrendous and the most thrilling.
It is the most crucial roller coaster I am driven to ride, though often tempted to duck out of the line and behind a big tree.
Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge and thank Mr. White for his work. For being able to say something so beautifully and completely, without a lot of words.
Watching his show, I am learning what I want to able to accomplish as a writer, actor, creator. I want to find the courage to speak the simplest and most resounding truths in the most beautiful, affective ways.
Here is the opening and closing of the episode I just watched. I feel silly, writing like this to no one, for myself on the internet, but I’ve always felt like art is so hard to make that when you see something you like you should let the artist/actor/writer/director/etc know if ever given the opportunity. I apply this rule mainly to people I see in Toronto theatre, but why not apply it further? Why not use technology, slightly aimlessly albeit, to try and connect? To say thanks.
The whole episode is wonderful. Molly Shannon is so great in it too.
The series is so good.