Farewell Nanette: Hello World

From incarceration to affirmation: a lesson for all us to learn from.

I don’t particularly have a great sense of humor.  I’m not especially good at telling jokes either. And I certainly have no enthusiasm for comedians, with the exception of Kate McKinnon, and Ellen of course.  Watching repeat episodes of ‘Friends’ is where I get my real belly laughs from.  Other than that I suppose you could say I’m a miserable bugger.

So when a constant thread of feeds and alerts were coming my way about some stand-up comedian in Australia, I ignored them in the same blasé way I would any other comedian promoting a new DVD or tour dates. Not interested, just not my thing man.

But this was everywhere, people I followed, people I didn’t follow; social media was bleating on about how if you don’t watch anything else on Netflix, make sure you watch Hannah Gadsby: Nanette. Even the name was not helping matters and still, I resisted the temptation to watch it.

That is until a friend of mine said she had seen Hannah Gadsby live and that if I don’t watch anything else on Netflix, make sure I watch this, or else!!! High praise indeed from my friend as she rarely gets carried away about much. So I watched it.

I mean it started off amusingly enough, in as much as I expected from my pre-conceived ideas about comedians.  With the usual montage of jokes about oneself; self-depicting stories of how you and others view your life through a homophobic lens.

Nothing new here as the telly from my formative years onwards was full of sit-coms laughing about the queers and/or the foreigners taking over the country. Humour born out of fear and perpetuated by man’s ability and skill to manipulate history and create comedy that is full of untruths. Maybe this is where my disdain for comedy acts stems from; who knows.

And the thing about history and truth as Hannah Gadsby described, is that it is like tofu.  You can make it into anything you want it to be. Much like Trump makes up his own version of the truth with his alternative facts, history is full of distorted stories.  And usually, girls/women and other marginalized groups are the centerpiece.

Moving on into the show, Hannah Gadsby talks about the time she is mistaken for a bloke hitting on a girl at a bus stop, with the girl’s boyfriend upon discovering her gender, allowing the situation to pass. I think I knew at this point we would be returning to this story later on (because these situations rarely pass), but with nervous unrest, I persevered.

And then the turn turned, the narrative changed and the jokes became few and far between for a comedy show.  There was only one way this was headed.  But I was still not prepared for an account of how the world’s very small-mindedness and heinous ways of keeping certain groups in check impact on an individual basis. Certainly not an individual that on the surface appeared to me to be confident and self assured and very witty, and who could joke her way out of any taxing situation, unlike me. I should have been prepared though, as a lesbian.

A lot of what those of us in the LGBTI+ community experience almost daily without exaggeration in some cases, is brought to bear in Hannah’s account; violence, mental and physical abuse and verbal vitriol aka comedy, that is validated because of a set of ideas created and sustained by and large by white, heterosexual men over time.

Why is it that lesbians are universally accused of being a man-hater? Hate is a very strong word. I don’t imagine many lesbians actually hate anyone, any more or any less than anyone else does. What really puzzles me though is why gay men are never accused of hating women. Such a strange dichotomy we have in place here. It is ludicrous to suggest lesbians hate men. We all have fathers, (husbands?), sons, brothers, nephews, and grandfathers in our lives.

Maybe what we lesbians actually hate is the sexism that exists and flourishes amongst some men and systems, and the misogyny that sexism subsequently manifests itself into.  As Hannah admitted herself she is afraid to be in a room full of men.  What does that say about men and mankind?

Similarly, as men have mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, nieces, and grandmothers in their families, it seems inconceivable that any man would intentionally hurt a woman. But some do because they have the means to do so. They hide behind the closed doors of institutionalized sexism and misogyny. Women and especially lesbians have no access to this kind of platform to discriminate on any level, and wouldn’t even if it were possible.

To top it all off it is very unfortunate (an understatement I know) that the leader of the free world is perhaps one of the most blatant misogynists to ever hold office.  A sad indictment of our times and a stark reminder if ever we needed one that everything that has been achieved thus far, can be snuffed out at any given time by a massive lump of orange lard and his like-minded cronies around the world.

So pleased I watched it in the end though and I have learned a lot myself in just over an hour. As such, Hannah Gadsby, I thought I would give you a little feedback of my own.

For me personally, I think you have given more than enough lesbian content and context.  Accomplished, brilliant and pure class and if now is the time to put all of that anger and tension to a different use, then there is no time like the present.

One more thing, if you don’t watch anything else on Netflix, watch Hannah Gadsby: Nanette.  It will help to put into perspective everything that you have felt but couldn’t quite explain away, particularly if you are a white, heterosexual (wo)man.