Carrie Mathison is stressing me out
I’m so quite really unfashionably late to the Showtime drama/thriller series Homeland.
The pilot was in 2011, now — gosh — seven years ago, when I was still a wee lad. I just started watching the series last year with Season Six.
Obviously I’ve missed a lot. Thank the little baby Jesus. My nerves are so shot after each new episode (Sunday, 9 pm Eastern) that my liquor cabinet dries and my boss, who believes in generous family and medical leave for a happily productive workforce, has let me take the rest of my life off.
Anyone reading this piece because the headline includes “Carrie Mathison” knows more than I ever will about Homeland. But for dilettantes like me, one fan site summarized:
Few female characters in recent memory have been put through the wringer as much as former CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), who has lost family, friends, colleagues, lovers and assets while doing what she believes she must to defend America.
I salute Carrie. She inspires me. Like her, I do what I believe I must to defend America. Like many true patriots, I try to put my trash in the right recycling bins, eat healthy, use my turn signal, vote when not inconvenient, and write powerfully insightful, compelling and sometimes snarky pieces about Trump on Medium.com.
But Carrie is starting to put ME through the wringer.
She never has a good day. Like, waking up late, wallowing in swaddling bedclothes after a night of sweet lovemaking to morning breezes and birds chirping in the dawning sun … padding to kitchen for fresh rich coffee … perusing the morning paper and chortling over Beetle Bailey and Miss Manners … cheerily greeting friendly neighbors while walking her Golden Lab to nearby farmer’s market for fresh homegrown tomatoes, etc., etc.
Instead, Carrie’s life is one urgent crisis after another. Not the usual crises from balancing the demands of family, work and life, like scrambling for nanny to cover the kids and get to work for a majorly important client presentation when schools are closed due to an unexpected 1.5 inches of snow and litigation avoidance. Carrie’s crises are matters of national security for all of us.
Thus, Carrie rarely smiles except for a forced, pained rictus. She mostly looks like she needs a good six-hour, continuously solid bowel movement so satisfying and memorable it would be acceptable, even riveting, to share every last detail of the experience with family and friends at the next Thanksgiving table.
Carrie’s usual constipated expressions make sense since she’s often in the gravest of circumstances, desperately scrambling against all odds and personal risk to save someone or pals or the nation or humanity, which seems to require a lot of yelling or being yelled at or at least stern talking. And few if any bathroom breaks.
To borrow wisecracking critic Dorothy Parker’s ostensible quip about Katherine Hepburn, Carrie conveys the gamut of human emotion all the way from A to B. In this instance, A=OMFG and B=PIJTTPTEOTWAWKI! (Please, I’m Just Trying To Prevent The End Of The World As We Know It!).
As Homeland fans know, Carrie’s backstory is that she’s bipolar.
But with all due respect, and with failed attempt at being sensitive and abject apologies for being insensitive, isn’t there supposed to be an upside to the bipolar downside? Isn’t the manic part supposed to be a lot of fun even if too much so?
If so, Homeland writers, please let Carrie go to a happy place, even for one episode, even if it threatens the nation, democracy and humanity. Just for me, a late follower, to relieve my stress.
Aside from not watching Homeland, I wonder about other ways to reduce needless stress.
Instead, stay home, move to a walkable community (a Wawa a walk away on a highway shoulder counts), and take the kids out of sports they can’t do.
Also demand telecommuting privileges, which lets you fake work (lowering stress), shop online all day (fun so also lowering stress) and spend quality time with pets (which studies prove lowers stress) and kids (balancing off the pet stress reduction), all in the comfort of home and long un-laundered athleisure outfits while your supportive colleagues pick up the slack and you take credit for their work.
Stop dining out.
It’s supposed to be fun and relaxing, but restaurant menus have gotten too complicated to enjoy or order. Even at the free Super 8 motel breakfast bar featuring more selections than Cheerios.
The waiter walking through the specials and menu with food items and ingredients nobody, even the chef or the dictionary, has ever heard of, start any meal on a stressful note.
I mean, c’mon, French’s yellow mustard? Maybe a bit pretentious?
At a recent dining experience at a Cracker Barrel in West Virginia, the waiter suggested starting with the soupe d’artichaut à la truffe noire, followed by the brioche feuillellée aux champignons et truffles and then onto the ballotine en brodo with guanciale and shiso in gougère with yuzu, completing with the locavore Cap’n Crunch topping a hand-churned sensitively raised vanilla Groger-branded sorbet paired with a soupçon of small-batch Smirnoff Kissed Caramel.
Yes, congrats, you noticed, the waiter flipped the script by closing with the amuse bouche.
Ok, I’ll admit, the Cracker Barrel experience was sublime and memorable, and cleared the alimentary and home plumbing system for several days (if you know what I mean). But the waiter acted all high-brow just because he had a tee shirt saying he survived spring break at the Culinary Institute of Applebees. Who needs the stress of being condescended when you just want to tie on the ol’ feedbag?
Stop following sports.
For the love of god, really, who gives a good goddamn, two shits and a farthing? If your college team wins or loses, blowing up your pride and bracket, or your multi-millionaire or billionaire pro team owner or manager or star players exceed expectations or fall short, how is that your own personal win, loss, triumph or tragedy?
“We won!” No, you didn’t. They did.
Yes, I get the thrill and thrall in sports, and why ESPN has so many channels (ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNNews, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, but not ESPN8 “The Ocho” that was invented for the movie Dodgeball).
But you might be stressing your team’s trials and travails more personally than the team is stressing your own. Truth: You’re giving much more than you get. Any decent therapist would say: Toxic relationship. Let go.
All that said, I look forward to Carrie’s next episode.
Her stresses are much more interesting than mine ever will be.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer