Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump, a criminal who would be even more dangerous if he was remotely competent, performed another installment in their long-running production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? last night at the State of the Union. Mike Pence was also there, miscast and underwhelming as Honey.
As expected, Trump's speech was a quixotic mashup of misapplied patriotism, literal apocalypse, and Rush Limbaugh pretending to be shocked. It was like the finale of a reality show called "This Is It America: We Really Mean It This Time: Extreme Edition." If you didn't watch it, perhaps you'll consider finding a YouTube video of an America flag waving while "Flight of the Valkyries" blasts on a Casio keyboard in the background. That will give you the general gist of it.
Suffice it to say, if you're into that kind of thing—big "hyena parade from The Lion King" energy—then you loved it. But if you're not into it, well...
In a pre-recycling bin action heard round the internet, Pelosi—who had been snubbed when offering Trump a handshake prior to his speech—rose at the end of the State of the Union and tore a text copy of the president's remarks in half. Nancy Pelosi saw Little Women and came away thinking "Amy March made some points!" In a gesture so theatrical I can't believe it's not being performed by Patti LuPone at Royal Albert Hall in front of a French children's chorus dressed as mimes who keep making Brechtian interjections, Pelosi gripped the computer-printed pages, stared at them menacingly, and then obliterated them, to the delight of millions.
Nancy Pelosi: (rips paper)
The Entire Internet:
Pelosi brought all of the imperiousness of a parent who has had it up to here with all these Cs and Ds on your report card. She was like "You're going to come into my joint session of Congress with this see-me-after-class mess and your impeached ass and expect me to applaud?! Tuh!"
Personally, I love Pelosi's fraught relationship with paper at State of the Union speeches. She goes on a whole stationery journey using only the expressions on her face and the movement of her hands.
First, she is bemused by it:
This is the face of every editor upon receiving a first draft. I'm like "Here's a masterpiece" and she's like "here's something!"
Next, Pelosi is perplexed:
This is me looking at my W-2 like "Oh, wow, looks like I've been identity thefted again! Who spent all this money and how do I press charges against them?"
Then, Pelosi is suspicious:
This is that thing when everyone in the group chat is gassing up your friend's terrible decisions and you're just sitting there reading them like "Oh, everybody is showing their asses today. I see."
After that, Pelosi is just openly over it:
She's like "To quote our Founding Fathers 'What the shit is this?!'"
"To quote our Founding Mother, Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, 'How do you think I feel? Betrayed. Bewildered.'"
Finally, she is disgusted by it:
This is 10,000 percent that thing where you take your mom out to dinner and she sees things on the menu like "Deconstructed BLT" and "Foie Gras Foam" and she's like "This is what you waste all that fancy New York money on? I just want to know if they have French dressing. Is that too much to ask for?"
Honestly, no shade to Laura Dern and Jennifer Lopez, but we have to give Nancy Pelosi the Best Supporting Oscar this year. She is performing a wordless monologue of bone-deep contempt in multiple stages. Noah Baumbach is just watching this and weeping, tears streaming down his face, handing punching the wall, cradling a squid in one arm and a whale in the other, screaming at the screen: "NOW THIS IS LIVING!"
As the speech came to a climax, like Bill Pullman's speech from Independence Day if it were delivered by the aliens, Pelosi was ready to let it rip and give Noah Baumbach what he paid for:
So focused! This is like a papier-mâché YouTube tutorial filmed by Bree Van De Camp after an argument with Lynette.
On one hand, I've never seen anything like this in the halls of power. On the other hand, I see stuff like this every week on Drag Race. So, like the paper and Natalie Imbruglia, I'm torn.
Sure, it's rude, but anyone who is offended on behalf of bloviating troll Donald J. Trump can't possibly be serious. This is a move that speaks Trump's language flawlessly. And sure, it's dramatic, a final gesture in an evening that is long on gestures and short of substance. What else, if not a theatrical gesture, is all the hand-shaking, the standing up and applauding, the presenting known bigots with Medals of Freedom in the audience like it's an episode of Oprah's Least Favorite Things? This is all theater; it's all for the cameras. Pelosi's performance was appropriate for the occasion and the feckless monsters in Trump's thrall.
So, what do we get from this? Well, first of all, after Pelosi is done ripping, we get confetti, so already this is a win. And we get a viral moment. And we get an argument for switching to tablets, which would be more eco-friendly and also: can you imagine Nancy Pelosi slamming a tablet on the ground at the end of the SOTU like a pissed off Moses? Now that's something to look forward to!
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