Ellen Burstyn in “Political Animals” (2012)
27 July 2012
The pilot of Political Animals is surprisingly great. This new USA Channel show starring Sigourney Weaver is a roman à clef — Weaver plays a thinly disguised Hillary Clinton, except she divorces her husband after losing in the primaries to be the presidential candidate, and Ellen Burstyn plays her mother, a former showgirl. The underlying theme, which most fundamentally concerns uncovering the many motivations of a woman stereotyped by the press as a bitch (why does she stay with her philandering husband through so many affairs? does such a political wife “sell out” feminism when she does so? why does she adopt that bitchy persona, and what does it allow her to achieve? what do younger women fail to understand about their older, powerful women leaders?), is kind of amazing.
Problem: the second episode is ridiculous. Don’t even get me started on the “gay son as emotional trainwreck” theme. Or the “Asian-American daughter-in-law as forthcoming emotional trainwreck” foreshadowing.
But let’s not lose the point. The point is, how can I look like Ellen Burstyn when I’m 79? Has she made some kind of soul-selling arrangement with the devil to look this great?
That hair, which is white around the edges and still strawberry on top & in the back. Those cheekbones, which could still cut glass. Honestly, Ellen! You are ruining it for the rest of us!
Frankly, I’m going to keep watching this show — not least for a good cast and the dynamics between the reporter (Carla Gugino) and Sigourney Weaver’s political-animal Secretary of State — even though the second episode was such a dropoff in smarts from the pilot. I mean, how great to see a show about politics in which most of the important players are women?
So what if it’s a little West Wing in its fantasies that right triumphs over might? I’ll watch any show in which the average age of the relevant lead actors hovers around 60 years old. But secretly, I’ll be watching for Ellen Burstyn’s potty mouth, that face of hers, and — most of all — that extraordinary hair. Damn.