The message of 'Don't Look Up' is a warning about climate change — but also so much more

My wife and I recently watched on Netflix the brilliant Don’t Look Up! starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, written and produced by Adam McKay and David Sirota.

It’s being lauded as a metaphor for how we’re dealing with climate change in the face of petrobillionaire- and corporate-funded disinformation campaigns, but it’s so much more than that:

“Conservatives” on the Supreme Court don’t want Americans to look up at how they legalized political bribery with their 1970s Buckley and Bellotti and 2010 Citizens United decisions that have turned politicians into shills for the same billionaires and giant industries that spent millions putting them on the Court.

“Small government” freaks don’t want you to look up at how trust in our government has fallen from over 80% in the 1960s to fewer than 30% today, or how that’s the direct result of Reagan’s “government is not the solution to your problems, it is the problem” hustle that led to Trumpism and is today tearing America apart.

Republican governors don’t want their citizens to look up at how they continue to use racist tropes and dog-whistle appeals to frighten and thus hang onto a majority of the white vote.

Those governors and legislators don’t want you to look up at how they’re rewriting history and threatening teachers, passing laws that either outright ban teaching the actual history of race relations, slavery, and the Civil War, or, as in Florida, empower parents to sue teachers who mention a word about race.

Giant monopolistic corporations don’t want you to look up and realize the average American family pays $5,000 a year, on average, more than Canadians or Europeans for everything from cell phone and internet service to airfare and drugs — all because Reagan stopped enforcing the anti-trust laws in 1983 and no president since has brought them back.

Big Ag doesn’t want you to look up and see that you and your children are being poisoned by chemicals ranging from pesticides and herbicides to hormone-bending plasticizers used in food packaging, thousands of them outlawed in Europe.

Republicans don’t want Americans to look up at how they gifted a handful of billionaires and GOP-donor corporations $2 trillion in tax cuts in 2017 at the same time that America is the only country in the developed world where young people carry almost $2 trillion in student debt.

The NRA doesn’t want you to look up at how, over just the past two years, 17 million more people — including 5 more million children — now have easy access to guns in their own homes as the result of a Trump-driven explosion of weapons purchases.

They don’t want you to look up at how, as a consequence, our US homicide rate went from 6 per 100,000 to 7.8 per 100K during that same short period of time, what CNN labeled “the highest increase recorded in modern history” beating records going all the way back to 1904 when we started keeping them.

Coal baron legislators don’t want us to look up at the poverty across America as they drive their Maseratis and tell us that young West Virginia families will use the child tax credit to “buy crack.”

Big pharma executives don’t want us to look up at how they rip us off, as Americans struggle to pay $500 for the same insulin that Canadians can buy for $25

The Sakler family of drug pushers don’t want us to look up at how they just walked away with billions and not a single person in the family went to jail over the death of 600,000 Americans from opioids.

Republican secretaries of state don’t want us to look up at how they’ve purged over 17 million people, more than 10 percent of all of America’s active voters, off the voting rolls just between 2016 and 2018.

North Carolina’s GOP doesn’t want you looking up at how, immediately after five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, they permanently closed 158 polling places in the 40 counties with the most African American voters just before the 2016 election, producing a 16 percent drop in the Black vote in that state.

Trump and his Trump-humping toadies in Congress don’t want America to look up at the treason they incited their followers to commit on January 6th, invading the Capitol with Confederate flags and Christian fascist crosses while trying to assassinate Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi.

Giant “health insurance” banksters don’t want seniors to look up at how they’ve already privatized over 40% of Medicare through the “Medicare Advantage” scam George W. Bush gifted them, increasing their profits by tens of billions.

Billionaires don’t want Americans to look up at how they’re paying less than 3% in income taxes while the rest of us foot the bill for the country.

Religious hustlers don’t want us to look up at their mansions and private jets as they run ads for “prayer lines” on TV and push parishioners to vote for politicians who will help them keep their rich lifestyles going as they break the law with no taxes or oversight.

And, of course, the fossil fuel industry doesn’t want us to look up at the remote but very real possibility that the global warming they are causing could free ancient methane trapped in permafrost and undersea clathrate beds and trigger a mass extinction event (as DiCaprio and I pointed out in this short video):

DiCaprio, Lawrence, McKay and Sirota’s new Don’t Look Up! movie is funny, entertaining, and sure to provoke useful conversations with friends and family.

It accomplishes this by cleverly satirizing a crisis turned into a disaster by the corrupt power of big money bribing government, amplified by the banality of the infotainment “news” culture Reagan gifted us when he destroyed the Fairness Doctrine as the Murdoch clan came to town.

If ever there was a time when we all need to look up, it’s now!

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

New 9/11 documentary takes us inside the terror attacks with those who survived them

Ron Clifford remembers sharing the details of an important business meeting with his sister Ruth, who advised, "Ron, stand out." So he wore a new suit and a bright yellow tie. On that morning's ferry to Manhattan a man drinking champagne complimented his clothes, boosting his confidence.

Kevin Leary worked as a chef at the time, preparing sauces and pasta for a luncheon.

Joseph Pfeifer, a battalion chief with the Fire Department of New York, had 20 years and six days on the job. That meant he could have retired six days prior, but he was enjoying his time with the department so much that he wasn't even thinking about leaving.

It was a beautiful day, all told. Pfiefer and his crew were checking out a reported gas leak in a street. One of them was filming the job when American Airlines Flight 11 roared over them, seizing their attention before slamming into the World Trade Center's North Tower.

On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked the United States by slamming that passenger jet and United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center's buildings, and a third, American Airlines Flight 77, into the Pentagon. But most Americans experienced these terrible events from through our televisions and radio reports, shocked and yet only able to imagine what New Yorkers were enduring. National Geographic's "9/11: One Day in America" closes that distance, taking everyone inside the smoke and flames, and terrible collapses of the buildings to relive each minute of those attacks with those who survived them.

The active horrors the disaster wrought unfolded in the span of a few hours, from the time the first plane hit through the second tower's collapse. But the accounts given by those who lived to talk about them fill every moment of this four-night, six-episode documentary series, making footage from that day come alive in ways few other reports have.

"9/11: One Day in America," produced in official partnership with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, may be the most emotionally taxing examination of the events surrounding those attacks that you'll see this year. Hopefully the weight of that statement lands as it should, considering the slew of 20th anniversary commemorations debuting over the next couple of weeks. Encore presentations of previously released productions will certainly be part of this observance; we're not lacking for coverage of that day's events.

But as you experience these hours – not just watch, but feel them – what may immediately strike you is how antiseptic most of the documentary reports or news coverage have been. After the attacks the media's attention turned to the how and the why of them, offering deep dives into the structural collapse of the Towers, the government's failure to act on intelligence tip-offs or insights into how the hijackers planned and trained to turn passenger planes into weapons of mass destruction. Close your eyes and you can probably picture George W. Bush's grim face as he sat in that classroom, receiving the news. And there are all the accounts of those mourning their dead.

For the most part, though, coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks all these years later enables us to emotionally separate from the human nightmare of it. To take that part in requires us to accept the fact that we are indeed vulnerable, that the actions of 19 zealots could take the lives of 2,977 people and injure more than 6,000 others.

If we couldn't do that before, executive producers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin make that possible by placing viewers inside the frightened, thumping hearts of people who were inside the towers and the first responders who ran in and up the nearly 100 flights of stairs of the North Tower to get people out. Through footage featuring Pfeifer and his team we see the first plane hit. We watch their reactions and those of other New Yorkers in that moment as that flawless Tuesday explored in flames and disintegrating concrete and steel. We watch as bystanders head toward the blast out of curiosity and hear as their companions scream at them to run for their lives. Then we see the disaster unfold in real time from different angles, from the air and on the ground, outside the rolling poisoning clouds and from inside, watching abandoned cameras continue rolling as the world darken in the moments after building crash to Earth.

"9/11: One Day in America" is the product of a massive undertaking, involving sorting through 951 hours of archival footage, including shots never seen before on TV, to build out a narrative of that day told by those who survived it, and in chronological order.

The filmmakers contextualize the footage from that day by editing present-day interviews with 54 survivors around it, some of which prominently features the interviewees. Seeing archival footage of a younger Pfeifer on that day, directing his men from the lobby of the North Tower while its top floors were in flames, is extraordinary in the way that it showcases his composure in the face of imminent death. His description of his inner turmoil in those moments places puts us right in the midst of anxious uncertainty with him.

And this experience isn't limited only to his portion. Footage of Clifford with a gravely injured woman he assisted that way reveals their panic and fear as they're running for their lives, but only after he describes every moment leading up to it – finding her still smoking from flames that burned her alive, sitting and praying with her to assure her she won't die.

The highly sensory focus of these hours can be overwhelming, especially when we see those unforgettable shots of of people jumping from the highest floors of the North Tower, choosing that kind of death over immolation. But in keeping with its insistent focus on the living, what stays with us is how those moments register from the firefighters' perspective that day – the dreadful thud of bodies hitting the ceiling above them, the absolute shock registering on their faces as they realize what's happening.

You may want to look away, but the eyes of the men remembering that day as they lived it hold us. By having subjects speak directly into the camera, the filmmakers create an intimacy between the survivors and the viewers that makes is easier to bear witness and relive that nightmare with them and for them. To absorb the enormity of it. Leary, for example, talks about a choice he made that saved his life by a matter of seconds, whereas another wasn't so lucky. He still wears the wide-eyed shock of it as he recounts the memory. If you're moved to weep in the course of watching this, or have other intense reactions, that's part of bargain. It's only a portion of what these survivors felt and continue to feel.

"9/11: One Day in America" isn't entirely immersed in horror, however. The filmmakers include notes of hope at every turn, structuring each episode around a particular story that contains the simplest of mysteries. Will anyone come to save me? Did my friend survive? How am I going to make it out of this hell? Will I get to walk my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day?

Episodes are edited in such a way to make the most of this human drama without cheapening each individual's accounts, circling back to reveal endings of rescue efforts that sound hopeless at first. Sometimes it turns out that they are. But the editing choices maintain the tension of not knowing, even though those telling these stories know how they end, without robbing them of their integrity. Then, by sticking us back inside blinding clouds cut by falling, flaming debris as the tales unfold, we obtain a visceral sense of how dire every second was, that living through it was indeed a miracle.

Through its subject, the documentary carefully honors the people whose sacrifices made all the difference, like the small team of firemen who kept heading up stairs to save more than 70 people and never made it out. Or the three-man security team who stayed behind to make sure all of their 2,000 people escaped, and were still inside when the second Tower collapsed on top of them. Or, of course, the group of people who overpowered the hijackers of United Airline Flight 93, including a young man whose mother called him to tell him what was going on and encouraged him to fight for his life – hoping, she says, that her son could be a killer.

For all the devastation, Pfeifer recalls, "There were also signs of hope. And at this extraordinary time in history, those little moments of caring for another were the difference between life and death."

Twenty years hence America is contending with other disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives, and the death toll is still escalating. In Afghanistan, the war launched in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks is finally ending; America is not victorious and worse, other terrorists are attacking personnel on their way out. It all has a terrible symmetry to it.

And yet, the main message "9/11: One Day in America" leaves with a person is a reminder of how delicate and precious life is. Sometimes it does this joyfully, as with one subject who attributes her survival by simply being determined that the building was not going to take her away from her family.

Others like Frank Razzano, a lawyer who barely made it out of the North Tower's adjoining Marriott Hotel, make that point sorrowfully as he explains that his reflexive instinct upon heard the first crash was to secure the legal documents he had with him. "I was at the apex of my career at this time," he said, acknowledging how silly that sounds in the face of death.

All this is completely relatable because we view September 11, 2001 through his eyes and his memory, not through a newscaster's lens. To him and everybody else, it was a normal, peaceful day.

"Not a cloud in the sky," Clifford recalls at the top of the premiere installment. Who would have gussed that a few hours later the World Trade Center towers would be gone, that ash would black out the sun and concrete particulates choke the air? It was still the same day, and yet in the space of a few hours a new era began. "This was my world," Clifford observed, "never to be the same again."

"9/11: One Day In America" airs over four consecutive nights at 9 p.m. starting on Sunday, Aug. 29 on National Geographic, with episodes available the next day on Hulu.

9/11: One Day in America Trailer | National

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Worst of 2016: 10 Movies That Failed Spectacularly to Deliver on Their Promise

The worst films of 2016 go beyond just disappointing, but extend to films that truly waste talent and ideas. Not to dance on Garry Marshall’s grave, but having endured his “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve,” one didn’t need to see his holiday film “Mother’s Day” to know it would be as bad. It was clear just from seeing Julia Roberts’ wig.

Likewise, “Nine Lives,” starring Kevin Spacey as a nasty, cat-hating “daredevil billionaire” who transforms into a feline — so he can learn to appreciate his life and family — was relegated to the cinematic litter box. The idea of the film itself was awful, so it really couldn’t be any good, could it?

Even superhero action films like “Batman v. Superman” and “Suicide Squad” got such disrespect from legions of fanboys that there is no point in bashing those films further. Why shoot fish in a barrel?

It’s more appropriate to dismiss films where the outcome falls so short of expectation that the films fail to deliver on their promise of creating an experience. Bad films go beyond just being stupid or boring or unnecessary sequels. Seriously, no one should be disappointed that the execrable waste of talent that was “Now You See Me 2” didn’t deliver the magic of the first one. (And this suggests “Now You See Me” was indeed magical.)

1. “Captain Fantastic”

This Sundance favorite, an argument for homeschooling, is a twee-dious affair with Ben (Viggo Mortensen) living off the grid with his six kids. The film celebrates the family’s idiosyncratic life, showing how the kids are wise beyond their years and father knows best all because they have not been corrupted by modern society with its evil technology and rampant consumerism. So of course when their mother kills herself, these bohemians must re-enter the world they left to pay their last respects. (That irony of that just smarts, doesn’t it!)

This contrived road-trip plot therefore becomes series of step-and-repeat awkward encounters that show how this bohemian family is morally superior to everyone else. Plus there are agonizing scenes of forced whimsy, as when the family celebrates “Noam Chomsky Day,” or when the clan goes to a diner and the kids want hot dogs, burgers, Cokes and milkshakes, and Ben insists there is no real “food” on the menu.

One of the beefs with “Captain Fantastic” is that it promotes an all-or-nothing extremism that rings hollow. (Does anyone really want to spend two hours with — much less live with — a dad who won’t let his kids have any junk food at some point in their lives?!) “Captain Fantastic” is so sanctimonious that one practically expects the daughter reading “Lolita” to rip out the pages and use them as toilet paper while praising the biodegradable value of paper. That doesn’t happen, but when the family does steal food from a store as a way of getting one over on society, it seems to go against the family’s righteousness. Sure, Ben’s young daughter can recite the Bill of Rights to her older, dumber cousin, but the film never quite proves why life completely off the grid is better than, say, a more balanced existence. And when the film gets cloying and manipulative with a last-act accident that threatens the life of one of Ben’s kids, the film becomes really unbearable. Critics and audiences praised Mortensen’s performance and “Captain Fantastic,” but this crap-tastic film is the cinematic equivalent of a bran muffin. It’s supposed to be good for you, but it just makes you shit.

2. “Goat”

As much fun as enduring a fraternity hazing, this “issue” film, based on a true story, has the naïve young Brad (Ben Schentzer) giving a ride to two strangers who rob him and beat him senseless. So he joins his brother Brett’s (Nick Jonas) fraternity to absorb more abuse (both verbal and physical) and perhaps overcome his trauma. The film, which is supposed to expose the rituals of manhood and brotherhood, is a cautionary tale that has as much depth as an after-school special. “Goat” is never particularly insightful regarding the conduct of the men it presents. The fraternity jocks are vicious and amoral; Brad is an innocent teen who must “man up” to join their ranks. But Brad is such an unlikable, unsympathetic character, who makes a series of bad decisions, that watching him struggle and suffer for 96 minutes is itself pure torture. “Goat” adds nothing new to the reputation of frat houses, and having James Franco show up as an alum challenging Brad to punch him in the stomach simply adds insult to injury. How did the once respectable David Gordon Green come to co-write this?

3. “The Nice Guys”

Shane Black’s 1970s-era buddy cop comedy wheezes and groans its way through a lackluster mystery like an aging detective carrying an oxygen tank up a steep hill. The film, set partially in the adult film world (so it can justify its gratuitous female nudity), is without style, substance, or even a truly funny moment. A typically lame pass at wit has Holland March (Ryan Gosling) correcting his young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) who says, “rimjob” when she means “rimshot.” The slapstick humor involving bodies being discarded inappropriately is as strained as the “chemistry” between Gosling and his uneasy partner Jackson Healy (Russell Crow). The mismatched actors may be going for Three Stooges-type comedy, but Black never finds the right tone, shifting from one-liners about Hitler and unfunny dick jokes to violent set pieces and over-the-top jerry-rigged action scenes. Even the “ironic” title is bad; there is just nothing “nice” about this film.

4. “Miles Ahead”

Don Cheadle overreached when he wrote, produced, directed, starred in and did the music for this “exploration of the life and music of Miles Davis.” The film depicts the rocky period in Davis’ life between albums, which is good — Davis’ life shouldn’t be given the conventional biopic treatment — but the film becomes a goofy buddy action comedy in which Davis and Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor), a Rolling Stone journalist, try to track down a missing session tape. There are car chases and gunfire, but little in terms of providing an understanding of Davis’ creative funk, which would be far more interesting and enjoyable. The music is fine when it comes, but this wacky drama likely disappointed Davis’ fans and won’t gain any new ones.

5. “Max Rose”

This film was released in theaters this year, despite having been made way back in 2013. It’s a terrible film whatever year it is. Jerry Lewis, in his first film role in nearly two decades, played the title character, a miserable widower. Max has contempt for everyone — and he should, given the film’s weak script. He is sent to a retirement home, where he and viewers suffer forced, unfunny scenes of Max being urged to knit potholders in the shape of kidneys. All Max wants is to track down his late wife’s lover and confront him. But those scenes, when they finally come, are dramatically inert and unsatisfying to boot. But wait, there’s more. The film also chronicles Max’s touchy relationship with his adult son Chris, (Kevin Pollak), which turns this sour film into shameless Hallmark-y treacle. Lewis has a pained expression throughout “Max Rose,” and anyone who saw this debacle did, too.

6. “The BFG”

Not even my 6-year-old nephew liked Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book. Overlong, underwhelming, and full of special effects over-designed to be “magical,” this family fantasy was a misfire on many levels. As the Big Friendly Giant of the title, a digitized Mark Rylance seems to be doing an ersatz impression of the late Robin Williams that never serves the film well. The comic farting scenes involving Queen Elizabeth (Penelope Wilton) go on so long that the target audience of kids may became restless. The giant imagery is more insipid than inspired, as Spielberg and his screenwriter Melissa Mathison seem intent on recapturing the spirit of their decades-old hit, “E.T.” The story has Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) befriending BFG (Rylance), who aims to protect her from being eaten by some bigger, badder, unfriendly giants. However, the entire film feels sluggish and labored; rarely is it any fun. No wonder it fizzled at the box office, too.

7. “Me Before You”

Thea Sharrock’s screen adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ tearjerking bestseller has a terminal case of the cutes. In fact, the romantic leads’ good looks seem contrived to distract viewers from how grating the characters are. The story is highly irritating: Lou (Emilia Clarke), a young woman so cheerfully upbeat she ought to be strangled, is hired to amuse Will (Sam Claflin), an impossibly handsome and fabulously rich quadriplegic. (The beefy Nathan, played by Stephen Peacocke, is on hand to do all the hard and dirty work that Will requires.) Over their months together, Lou and Will teach each other how to live life to the hilt. Audiences can learn that lesson just by reading this review and avoiding this diabetic coma of sugar-coated romantic claptrap that is “Me Before You.” What’s more, the film is irresponsible in regard to its presentation of disability. Activists described the film as “insulting and condescending,” which may be its biggest crime against humanity.

8. “Rio, I Love You”

Less is not more in this international omnibus of short films set in the titular South American city. Sure, shorts programs are often a mixed bag, but this collection is more bad than good. As a valentine to the city, the films showcase mostly tourist-board Rio locations, never emphasizing what makes the city or its neighborhoods truly special. Moreover, a few of the shorts are set largely indoors, which seems beside the film’s tourist-y point. The love stories feature unpleasant characters — such as the scheming Dorothy (Emily Mortimer) in one segment, or the vain Jai (Ryan Kwanten) in another — making it hard to fall in love with the characters. “Rio, I Love You” wastes talented Brazilian actors, including Oscar nominee Fernanda Montenegro, Wagner Moura (Pablo Escobar on Netflix’s “Narcos”) and “Westworld’s” Rodrigo Santoro, as well an international roster of directors including Jose Padilha, Paolo Sorrentino and Nadine Labaki.

9. “The Hollars”

Dysfunctional family comedies have their place, but this lousy entry is either embarrassingly bad or just plain dumb (or often both). John (John Krasinski) returns home to care for his mother Sally (Margo Martindale) who is about to undergo surgery for a brain tumor. Apparently, her husband, Donald (Richard Jenkins, in a career-worst performance), didn’t think her symptoms were cause for concern. Hilarious, right?! To be fair, Donald may have been preoccupied trying to revive his very failing business and handle his immature, divorced adult son, Ron (Sharlto Copley), who lives at home. Meanwhile, John is battling his own career issues — he really wants to write comic books! — and worried about impending fatherhood; his rich wife Becca (Anna Kendrick) is expecting any day now.

As John tries to deal with his immediate family in crisis, he also jeopardizes his impending family by visiting his ex, Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whose current husband (Charlie Day, in annoying, wisenheimer mode) is John’s mom’s sarcastic (but unfunny) nurse. Packing all these characters and their foibles into less than 90 minutes fails to give them any real definition, and Krasinski directs without creating any dramatic or comic tension. There is the expected scene of Becca’s water breaking, and it happens at a funeral no less. That is one of many cringe-inducing moments in a film that also includes an uninspired Indigo Girls’ sing-a-long in Sally’s hospital room.

10. “Collateral Beauty” 

As staggeringly bad as it is painfully obvious, David Frankel’s film insists, “Life is about people.” His film is about “love,” “time” and “death.” These abstractions become “bereavement hallucinations” for Howard (Will Smith), who is depressed after the death of his 6-year-old daughter. They appear in the guise of actors — Amy (Keira Knightley), Raffi (Jacob Latimore) and Brigitte (Helen Mirren) — who are hired by Howard’s colleagues Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Peña). The morally reprehensible idea — which is so crazy it just might work! — is to manipulate Howard’s pain and snap him out of his depression. Or prove he’s crazy so Whit, Claire and Simon can take over his business. Of course, Howard’s colleagues are the ones who need to learn the true meaning of life, love, time and death.

Howard, however, is self-destructively biking at night against traffic and learning to appreciate “collateral beauty” from Madeleine (Naomie Harris), who runs a bereavement group. The discussion of what “collateral beauty” is is head-scratching. Moreover, Frankel’s film cudgels viewers by repeating everything nine times when just thrice would be more than enough. He connects every dot, aggressively ignoring nuance. He telegraphs the waves of emotions viewers are supposed to feel with dominoes falling and syrupy music playing. This is instinct-free filmmaking, full of didactic dialogue and not a single earned emotion.

When Howard writes a letter about “dead tissue that won’t decompose,” one might actually think he was talking about a Kleenex he used crying over his dead daughter. Adding to the awfulness are bad performances. Helen Mirren is hard to watch as a needy, hammy actress, and poor Kate Winslet can barely muster the energy while sleepwalking through her role to play a woman actively searching for a sperm donor while also trying to save her job and her friend’s life. The collective talent wasted is more collateral damage than “collateral beauty.” But then again, any film that has the line “When something starts with a 6-year-old dying, nothing is going to feel right” was damned from the beginning.

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Ivanka Trump: Perfect No More

The first time I became aware of Ivanka Trump as an adult and not a line item in Donald Trump’s divorce from her mother, Ivana, was through Jamie Johnson’s 2003 documentary about the existential angst of the monied class. Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson family fortune, turned his college thesis film into a documentary about himself and his society buddies trying to figure out how one becomes a person in the world when one’s family is seriously loaded. I know — what a challenge!

Before this election season, at least, watching the wealthy make assholes out of themselves was fun. Or kind of fun. (Add this innocent pleasure to the burning trash heap of things Donald Trump has ruined, along with the color orange, democracy and the winsome 1994 Timothy Busfield comedy “Little Big League.”) “Born Rich” is not a good film — Johnson might have gone into this project with many assets, including a boodle of pseudo-woke self-awareness about “the voodoo of inherited wealth,” but charisma and a flair for voiceover were not among them — but it remains a favorite hate-watch of mine. I mean, at one point the cost of a plane ticket to Europe is categorized as roughly equal to the price of one pair of pants. When Young Master Johnson verbalizes his existential crisis, it’s a cringer: “There are no courses in college about how to be a hardworking, productive rich person.”

The characters are straight out of a Wes Anderson film about well-heeled misfits, but real. They include Josiah Hornblower, an introspective Vanderbilt-Whitney with a melancholy lisp; Condé Nast heir Si Newhouse IV, who channels his fury at a mercurial pater familias into his fencing; and Georgina Bloomberg, who’s bummed that journalists care more about her dad than her horses. And then there’s Ivanka Trump, alternately sporting brown hair, which makes her look painfully young, and the sleek, basic blonde she wears today. She’s humble and appreciative of her family’s good fortune as she shows Johnson and his camera around her childhood bedroom overlooking Central Park, with its Bon Jovi posters — girl, me too! — and pink walls.

“There’s some sort of pride in the fact that people would even take an interest in me, just because I’m a part of them,” she demurs. “For my whole life I was worried I’d be under my parents’ shadow. But it’s not a bad shadow to be under, I guess.”

When I first watched this movie in my mid-20s, with my nonprofit job and fresh graduate-school debt, I thought the Born Richies were clueless, shameless and awful. They truly had no idea how revolting they sounded to the average person, I thought. Except Ivanka. Poised, enchanting, model-with-a-brain, big-dreaming Ivanka! This is damn faint praise, true, but compared to her peers in the film she came off like a sane, well-adjusted person.

Lately, I’ve begun to wonder.

Throughout this interminable election, Ivanka has kept a tight rein on her position as the prestige product of the Trump family business. Sandwiched in birth order between proto-fascist Don Jr.. and walking ’80s movie villain Eric, Ivanka emerged as the star of Trump’s traveling creepshow thanks to her ability to glamour her father’s piss on your leg into a reasonably priced, office-appropriate facsimile of rain.

Flash back to her speech at the Republican National Convention this summer:

Throughout my entire life, I have witnessed his empathy and generosity towards others, especially those who are suffering. It is just his way of being in your corner when you’re down. My father not only has the strength and ability necessary to be our next president, but also the kindness and compassion that will enable him to be the leader that this country needs.

Even if we didn’t have him on tape at that point admitting that he tries to grab women by the pussy whenever he feels like it, Ivanka’s portrait of Donald Trump was unrecognizable to anyone with a pulse and an Internet connection.

Indeed, after the “Access Hollywood” Billy Bush audio emerged, Ivanka’s brothers got busy downplaying the old man’s predatory “locker-room talk,” but Ivanka clung to her fantasy version of Donald, as if she believed deep down that if she simply repeated these things about her father often enough they might come true: “He recognizes it was crude language. He was embarrassed that he said those things, and he apologized.” Clap if you believe Daddy means it!

Throughout this election, though, the public and the mainstream press have largely swallowed what Ivanka has served them. She’s actually a Democrat, we equivocated, and friends with Chelsea Clinton. Even Hillary gave Trump a masterful backhanded compliment when she said nice things about his kids at the end of the second debate. (Which we all know really means the girls — #FreeTiffany — plus that little boy who knows the cyber.)

Being Donald’s millennial woman-whisperer hasn’t always been a smooth ride — Ivanka found out the hard way that being interviewed by Cosmopolitan’s Prachi Gupta (a former Salon writer) about the lackluster maternity leave policy she was so proud of pushing on her father is no walk in the park with Jamie Johnson — but she has soldiered on nevertheless, delivering howlers like “My father is a feminist” with her game-face on.

And who better to perform this illusion of a miracle? Ivanka isn’t a walk-on in “Cruel Intentions” all grown up, she’s an accomplished executive with an on-brand husband who never misses her children’s bedtimes. All that, and the most amazing daughter, too?! I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT. Especially during the Republican primaries, she often acted as the aspiring first lady Donald Trump wishes he had, and if that sounds 11 kinds of icky, it should.

But one does not arrive on the world’s stage so prepared to throw one’s self between the speeding bus of one’s father’s temperament and the majority of the electorate without preparing to do so for one’s entire life.

Aside from a shared youthful appreciation for Jersey hair-rock and an astrology sign, Ivanka and I have one more thing in common, and no, it’s not an ex-boyfriend who wants you to call him “Bingo”: We’re both middle children. (Basically. Tiffany, Donald’s daughter with Marla Maples, was raised on the opposite coast; 10-year-old Barron might as well be a nephew.) I know a thing or two about the skills and deficits you develop as a middle child, including triangulation, extreme diplomacy and negotiation tactics, and the emotional distance you can cultivate from flying a little under the family radar, burdened with neither the expectations on the eldest nor the indulgences of the baby.

As her mother told Town & Country, this was Ivanka’s role at home. “As the middle child, Ivanka was the peace maker and keeper. She was always a savvy deal maker and negotiator, even as a little girl. She could charm anyone.”

Since Ivanka’s brand is built around an emphasis on the increasingly permeable boundary between professional and personal lives, it’s no wonder she glided so effortlessly into the role of peacemaker with the entire country on behalf of her sleazy father’s terrifying, retrograde beliefs.

“There was a previous generation of women who rose through the ranks in an environment when work and life were highly compartmentalized,” Ivanka told Vogue in an early 2015 profile. “Where there used to be work life and home life, now it’s one life.”

Ivanka has been mixing work life and home life since her youth. At 15, she co-hosted Trump’s 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant. You know, the one where he allegedly barged into a dressing room full of teenage girls bragging, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.” One contestant told Buzzfeed that when she told Ivanka what happened, her response was, “Yeah, he does that.”

If that account is true, it would seem as though Ivanka has spent years in the awkward position of speaking on her father’s transgressions as both daughter and employee. I wonder if she is starting to see the wisdom of that previous generation of female sphere-separators now. Living under the Trump shadow isn’t looking so hot, maybe, if her father’s views of black Americans or his admitted pussy-grabbing habit are turning off Ivanka Trump apparel customers. Ivanka might now be realizing that slapping her signature polish onto the Trump family bullshit only takes a rotten deal so far. Nov. 9 is coming, and she has blouses to sell. “I’m not a surrogate,” she insisted this week. “I’m a daughter.” You do you, Daddy, but don’t mess with my business.

Which brings us to that Jonah Peretti tweet.

Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the third and final presidential debate, Buzzfeed’s CEO dropped a curious item of gossip on Twitter. Reacting to Ivanka’s protestations about Trump’s pussy-grabbing comments, in which she claimed, “That’s not language consistent with any conversation I’ve ever had with him, or any conversation I’ve ever overheard, so it was a bit jarring to hear,” Peretti wrote that he was surprised that Ivanka “would be shocked by lewd language.” He followed that with a quote in which Ivanka allegedly used a racially offensive word to describe one of the types of cocks she had not yet seen. In a follow-up, Peretti has said this conversation took place eight to 10 years ago.

Ivanka’s team called the anecdote “a complete and total lie” and demanded an apology, which as of press time has not come. Perhaps Ivanka does not share in the litigiousness favored by her father or stepmother, or perhaps she hopes that Donald’s “nasty woman” comment aimed at Hillary Clinton during Wednesday night’s debate has knocked the spotlight off of a mortifying story. But the tweet lingers on in Peretti’s timeline like a fart in a Trump Tower elevator.

It must be emphasized that the shock of the anecdote lies not in Ivanka Trump talking about cocks (I hope you see all — and only! — the cocks you want to see in this life, Ivanka!) but in the allegation that she sprinkled a racist term into casual conversation much as her father did with his infamous conversation with Billy Bush, depersonalizing men of color in the same way that her father depersonalizes women. This is an Ivanka I can imagine palling around with the obnoxious “Born Rich” crowd, who now seem like lonely, anxious, alienated and very angry kids — painfully human and depressing to watch, with or without trust funds.

We don’t know Ivanka Trump, but she has told us to believe her when she says her father is a good person who will be a good leader for women. As a practiced middle child, let me step in here and offer a translation: What Ivanka meant to say is that her father has always been good to her. And if we can all just be as good as Ivanka — as beautiful, as polished, as diplomatic, as gullible, as willing to wave off a terrifying strain of white nationalism and politicized misogyny as Daddy-bluster — maybe he will be good to us, too.

To reference the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that lends Jamie Johnson’s documentary its name, Ivanka’s learned cynicism has served her family’s purposes well. Now the crippling softness emerges. She is human, allegedly. Ivanka has played the role of that girl in the “Born Rich” documentary throughout Trump’s campaign — the one perfectly poised and humble face among the twisted weirdos — and now the mask has slipped. Ivanka the person has clashed with Ivanka the product; the work life and the real life are no longer seen as one. Jonah Peretti had no reason to take this interest in her until Ivanka moved from building hotels and an anodyne lifestyle brand to selling a dystopian future to the electorate. But that was the deal Ivanka Trump the savvy deal-maker accepted, whether she realized it or not.

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