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WEINER – the movie, or, trapped in “Life the Sitcom”

The most powerful image in the film is Weiner and wife Humma after the “sexting” images of Anthony naked surfaced, ruining his bid for becoming Mayor. He is sitting, staring forward, nothing to say. She is standing, also with nothing to say. They both understood the compulsion that had him by the short hairs (ugly but appropriate). There it was—nothing to say. But something deeply understood. So deeply, she stayed with him.

The image reminded me of Sam Roth, who could only mutter “I’m sorry” to his wife after his term in prison for publishing porno, doing what he had to in the early morning, before she woke up. Pauline stayed with Sam despite his many infidelities, his anti-Semitic screed, his affairs. Sam, like Weiner, was full of spite, lashing back at critics, with always his own explanations, always elevating himself and his needs and ambitions above his loved ones’ needs. Yet they loved him. His selfish determination was at one with his ideals about freedom to publish, and with his own religious ideals. Reminds me of Anthony Weiner, whose bluntness and guts in fighting for the pensions of first responders, for example, impressed many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

Laugh at or curse him, he endured, to write very good religious poetry, in fact. He knew he would be judged, but in the “true world.” Not by a gossip columnist, a Princeton professor, a French modernist little magazine, a judge and jury, a D. A., a James Joyce, an Ezra Pound—or by a Freudian psychologist, although Sam’s appetite for displaying sex (and indulging in the illicit kind), and for his violent resentment of his father, might merit it.

A person’s life, looked at with respect (the amount we all deserve) is a mixed multitude of acts. This is very true of fictional characters such as Duddy Kravitz (voracious businessman), Sammy Glick (always running away with people’s talents to feather his own and the Hollywood moguls’ nests), and Alexander Portnoy (for whom sex meant mutual masturbation with women for whom he had contempt) . All were schmucky, yet deserved the light that fine writers’ microscopes focused on them.
Anthony and Humma, grieving in silence—beautiful, in comparison to the childish indignation that the American public has been taught to feel by the bubblehead reporters, milking the tragic disgrace of a talented man and turning it into a bad movie, a sitcom. Such bad teachers as Katie Couric, on a bench in Central Park, asking Weiner to say how he felt about the publicity for his wife and child. Or Lawrence O’Donnell, who brought the disgraced candidate on his MSNBC “Last Word” chat-with-the- party-stars show to ask, in high moral indignation, “What’s wrong with you”? (O’Donnell’s last word is no different from his first). Or the sexting partner herself, cameras at her back, running to accost Weiner to ask – get this –“why did you let me down, when you were my hero?” Headlines for her, if he had not gone out the back door. Or the solid citizen in the yarmulke who shouted “You’re a scumbag, Anthony.” How could Weiner harm his wife and kid by that sexting craziness? Then, under his breath, “He married an Arab.”

Weiner did not succumb to this soft-headed egotism, from people who think in terms that will make them consumerist suckers maxing out credit cards because they are good, decent Americans who “deserve” to treat their “priceless” whims. He had a pride that lifted him way above acceptance of scapegoat status. In my opinion, his resentment and spite were saving graces, considering to whom they were directed.
But he could not fight the hounds most greedy for public approbation. Although Bill Clinton married Humma and Anthony, and she was very close to Hilary, the latter made it clear that she could not work on the Hil’s presidential campaign unless she divorced her husband. Now there is a sincere and caring candidate.

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