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Friday, June 3, 2016

The Nanny Diaries (FILM review)



There are too many mixed metaphors here: Is she the modern Mary Poppins? Or, is she - as her name suggests - an updated Lil Orphan Annie?
Neither, I'm afraid.

ALSO, why is she pouting?


     The initial hook to film is a grabber because I love museums and portraying the child rearing habits of various cultures (read: black) in horrifying dioramas is adorably American. Initially Annie/Nanny begins well. She has a list of potential role models that may prove helpful, a literal "Field Guide to New York Women". And do you know how many she considers? Two.
Yep. Two. 

One is a lawyer and one is a "textile designer" who looks like an off-duty runway model. Both are castrating amazons. Those are the only two options available in her pretend book before she stumbles on a third option: Park Avenue Moms. It's great to know that as a college grad Annie's choices are limitless, her options boundless. There's some feminist rhetoric in there but you've heard it all before.

Park Avenue Moms are white women who have sold themselves into a type of human bondage to ensure they receive money for the rest of their lives. The requirements include staying young and beautiful (impossible) and the potential risk is that she gets nothing should he divorce her or go to prison (entirely probable). 

Enter Mrs. X
Mrs. X is very aware how the game is played. She is reminded all the time. To change the rules and suddenly demand love and respect is simply bad business. With her snarling feral dog of a husband Mrs. X should know better, and does. Mrs. X is a survivor in ways Annie/Nanny could never be. What is really interesting is that Annie/Nanny can tell the men off at the drop of a hat - potential meal tickets all, mind you- but allows Mrs.X to mercilessly abuse her daily, almost hourly. Please note, in Mary Poppins this character was framed as a ditzy suffragette. A card-carrying-capital-F Feminist, people!

And to go down the rabbit hole still further, Annie/Nanny discourages the advances of an eligible bachelor at the tacit encouragement of a high strung sexless unhappily married WASP (i.e. Mrs. X). She's a fresh college grad taking life advice from a truly detestable human being. Does this seem plausible?
Does this seem like a modern story?
Why would she not turn to her support system?

Well I'm glad you asked, Dear Reader. 

Because no one in this situation is listening to Annie/Nanny; not her know-it-all superior "best friend" and not her mother, who, despite raising her daughter has no idea who she is and shows absolutely NO support for her daughter's desire to cut out after graduation rather than chain herself to a corporate America that is (in 2008, the time of this film's release) about to implode. The epicenter for that financial tsunami being, of course, the very company for which her mother buys her an ill-fitting polyester suit jacket.

The best friend character is supposed to be on the right path but she's kinda slutty, embedding herself in a degree program she may never be able to pay off and is some how artificially immune to stress because she operates as both the "magical negro" dispensing valuable spiritual guidance AND lives the manic pixie dream girl fantasy: New York Edition, even encouraging Annie/Nanny to waste time with old boyfriends, when, as a potential "shrink" she should fucking know better. 

I suppose we are to understand that Annie/Nanny is looking for a strong female role model who wears expensive shoes. She finds it in a Level 10 WASP sociopath; in contrast to her white shoe-wearing nurse mother (read: Mother Theresa) who ALSO begrudges her life and the burden of raising a child. (Is this the orphan part?) Given the dearth of options, no one can fault Annie/Nanny for that. Basically Annie/Nanny chooses - by her own admission - to be a Chanel purse rather than an ill-fitting suit, because being a person is clearly off the table.

The job ends when Mr. X makes some sort of greasy pass at Annie/Nanny and Mrs. X blames her for it. She says you "stupid girl, as if you know anything about my life, or the real world. " This is 100% true. Annie/Nanny is an idiot and remains so at the end of the film because she never learns coping skills or setting healthy boundaries. Leading us to...as Annie Nanny says in her own words: 

"The most significant confrontation of my life. With a teddy bear. "
- Annie/Nanny, smart college grad

     Surprise, surprise Mom! College didn't give this girl any actual life experience or coping skills. And does momma-do-gooder take any of the blame for putting unreasonable expectations on her weak-willed daughter? Expectations that a Jersey girl from Montclair with middling arts grades could actually compete for an executive finance internship against Harvard grads. Who are male. 
NO. None. 
And mom never lets go of the following pipe dreams: 
-That working in finance means a rewarding career. 
-That money equals happiness. 
-That her daughter has a long way to go before she finds herself.

Who's the real idiot?

     The mother is projecting here. To walk away from this situation - where her daughter was virtually enslaved, sexually assaulted in the workplace and psychologically tortured - and to learn the square-root-of-fuckall from it is an epic exercise in denial. But it's cool, because Annie/Nanny is white so she can "opt out" of a paying job any time she wants to. If Annie/Nanny had been any other color this would be considered for an Oscar. But the characters white, so it's actually hilarious for women to cat fight each other for the privilege of giving oral sex to men who will ultimately die of syphilis and diabetes. If you say so, Hollywood

So, Dear Reader, how do we leave things?

Annie/Nanny gets a boyfriend. In flip flops. This is treated as some sort of accomplishment. Please note: No promised trips "to the cape", no engagement ring. Just pizza and beer night in a bad part of town. Yet Annie dreams of more.

Annie dreams of ...a masters degree in Anthropology with crippling student debt. Getting yet more education in a degree that has no plausible application in modern society and thereby saddling her with an incomprehensible debt load is irresponsible and wholly narcissistic. Mary Poppins would not do this because she was *already* practically perfect in every way.

And Annie/Nanny's mother... is still castrating and pinch-faced, openly telling her daughter that she's making a mistake going to grad school. The mom is probably right but would she have been more supportive if she knew the nanny gig was in support of a graduate degree? Maybe. She seems the type to only respect work you have to belittle yourself for. How's that for a trope?

Back on the upper west?east?idontcareaboutNYCsorry w/e/ast side Mrs.X and "Greyer" make amends - as if five years of parental neglect followed by a messy divorce can ever be fixed. Nope, this kid is for sure going to do time in a minimum security prison for crimes that a black man would receive a death sentence. What a fairytale! 

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