Call Me Crazy…for Watching Barbara Walters
Made a point to stay home and watch the Anne Heche interview on 20/20 last night--not for my own sake, mind you, but for the sake of understanding this culture we live in that deifies celebrities and victims.
If you missed the interview because you have a life, it went something like this: scenes of Anne in the recording studio reading from her new memoir in perfect, solemn drama school diction, intercut with the interview itself. Anne tells the lurid story of her family--her closeted gay dad who allegedly molested her several times throughout her childhood (these incidents are reconstructed from 'recovered memories' a topic I don't want to address here), her parents' divorce, her father's subsequent embracing of the gay lifestyle in New York where he contracts one of the first cases of AIDS in the US, and dies. We hear briefly about Anne's life with Ellen, and about her other personality, Celestia, and the "voices" she has heard all her life. And then we hear the happy ending--she meets cameraman Coley Laffoon and falls in love and becomes instantly sane.
Sad, puzzling story--but what exactly is the point of us knowing all this about Anne Heche? When Ellen Degeneres came out of the closet, I got the sense that she was doing so for both her own good, and for some larger purpose--to stand up and say, "Being gay is nothing to be ashamed of" and "Hey, closeted teenagers, don't kill yourselves."
Anne's disclosure seems a little suspect and defensive to me. What are we to bring away from her story? "I did a lot of bad things, but here's why. If you can't like me, you can at least feel sorry for me."
Maybe the book reveals more, all I'm responding to is the interview, during which we never learn what snapped her out of 31 years of alleged insanity--so the closeted schizophrenics among us are left without copin' tips. Her description of mental illness is cliched and unmoving (and without the ring of philosophical truth--she never reveals what God has been telling her all these years) so it either must be true, or the imaginings of a very dull person. We never learn how she healed from the devastating effects of her childhood wounds, or if she forgave her parents. It is just a given in this culture that if you've got grim gossip to tell, you must tell it, loudly, and if you can get it on TV or into a best-selling book, all the better.
She tells her tale prettily--her pale, open face flushing lightly as she gravely, bravely unfolds her life before us. But it is the photogenic, vaporish bravery of an Emmy acceptance speech...it is a fluttery Sharon Gless moment...it is Mary Tyler Moore saying for the fortieth time "I'm finally happy...with *me*." All I can take away from this is: Anne Heche had a nutty life and now she's got a book. "Must buy book."
In other news, it turns out that Mother Theresa had an exorcism performed on her in 1997 to alleviate some devilish insomnia. Now *that's* cool. That's information that lets me know that exorcism is...OK.
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