Review: Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ Won’t Leave Our Conscience Alone
You're stuck in a room with no windows. That is how it has always been. At first, it seemed like you would pull through. You tried to laugh it off and distract yourself. There were long stretches when you would vacantly look into the decrepit mirror, the only piece of furniture in the musty room.
But now, you’re getting shifty. You are pacing back and forth, you are wringing your fingers in restlessness.
You want to get out.
Now, let’s set things straight.
You were only IMAGINING all of this.
What about those LIVING it every single day?
“I identify as... tired,” remarks comedian Hannah Gadsby on her Netflix special Nanette. She has short, cropped hair that accentuates her jawline and a smile that seems cyclic. She lets her face break into it every minute or so. In hindsight, you realize that she smiles while setting up a joke, not while delivering a punchline.
She lets the tension linger.
Gadsby came out of the closet a long time back, but life is still a struggle for her. She recounts incidents from her past with hair-raising candour.
The time she was quite close to getting beaten up at the bus stop, the time she came out to her mother, the time a member of the audience walked up to her after a show and complained about the “lack of lesbian content’’ on the show... the anecdotes are narrated with the same smile, mechanical and weary.
When you are living in the fringes, self-deprecatory humour is “not humility. It is humiliation,’’ she exclaims.
While watching her perform, you can’t afford to get distracted. She does not allow you that privilege. Because privilege is based on choice, and her very existence, as a queer woman, is a constant struggle to be afforded that choice.
“Where are the quiet gays supposed to go?’’
What happens to people from the community who aren’t on the streets, waving the Pride Flag and shouting out slogans? Can activism be boxed into a formulaic mode of resistance, she makes you wonder.
Gadsby makes you realise that there is something very comforting about being ‘normal’. Normalcy brings forth, agreeability, consensus, unity and... safety. The second our noses sniff out the faintest whiff of ‘not-normal’, we do what we we have done for centuries:
So what happens when one stomps out of the box, picks an outfit not draped on a hanger in the assigned closet, walks over to you with much pride and tells you that they love differently too?
We freak out and cast them aside. We label them ‘weird’.
“You know what is weird?’’ she asks. Head-bands on bald babies. That is what is weird, not her, not you, not me.
Life doesn’t need to be reduced to a punchline when there is SO much at stake. Because when you laugh along, you perpetuate stereotypes, you further instill debilitating prejudices.
If you haven't been walking a straight line, (You know, the one drawn by those of us outside the room?)
If you don’t look the same,
dress the same,
talk the same,
and love the same as those outside the room...
Watch Nanette, even if it is the only thing you do this week.