Friday, January 13, 2012


Have you seen Enlightened?  I caught it on HBO over the weekend and while I was happy to find a show that is not about doctors, lawyers, and cops and forensics (which seems to be the majority of entertainment options these days), I'm not sure if I like Enlightened or not.  Laura Dern is always wonderful to watch, she's such a good actor.  I also really like Luke Wilson who plays her drug addicted ex-husband.  Actually, all the performances in this show are well done.  But the characters--not that likable.

In fact the protagonist is at times so annoying, if it weren't for Dern's sensitive portrayal, I don't know if I would have continued to watch.  She plays a corporate exec who has a breakdown and heads off for a retreat to get better. She comes back refreshed and focused on healing herself and everyone around her.  It makes for some humor, but it's black humor--this stuff is dark, almost depressing.  I like black comedy, but this often veers too far into drama territory for me.  Enlightened seems to really be taking jabs at environmentalists by playing on the outdated stereotype that environmentalists are hippies and newagers.

There is a particularly annoying episode where she is visited by a friend from the treatment center played by Robin Wright.  Her character also tries to fix everyone around her and makes a mockery of healthy living.  These women are portrayed as irrational and self centered, even their focus on helping others comes off as self serving and manic.

While I do appreciate flawed layered characters, I am weary of this cliche of the healthy food eating environmentalist as whackadoo.   I was really hoping for a more "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" situation as opposed to the perpetuation of that old stereotype.  There is a scene where Dern's character is giving a presentation to the corporate heads, attempting to educate them on what is happening behind the scenes, informing them that their company is responsible for toxic waste and that their products contain carcinogens, she's trying to rally and come up with solutions.  She's doing this, by the way, against a backdrop of a bee mural (colony collapse disorder?) in a room and building where the decor is deceptively green with photographs of nature and all the appearances of being safe and clean.

I realize they are also taking a jab at corporate corruption, but the execs come off as reasonable and sane while the lead is potentially on the verge of another breakdown.  Which, while maybe that's accurate, it sure isn't inspiring.  This show is up for an Emmy and is returning for another season.  You can't help but root for someone with such good intentions as this protagonist, but I really hope she returns with more self awareness and potency.