A Love Letter To The Meanness Of VEEP
(Out of respect for those of you who haven't yet finished the game-changing third season, I'll keep this spoiler-free.)
I'm in a weird headspace lately. I'm shouting a lot and I have no patience for stupidity. I blame Veep. I've been mainlining the show, and now I'm bereft that there are no more new episodes for me to watch until April. Where will I get my daily dose of hostility?
Jesus Christ, let's talk about how good Veep is.
The writing, first of all, is incisive. This show is mean. It's so mean. Creator Armando Iannucci - also responsible for The Thick of It and In The Loop - has very little respect for our nation's politicians and administrators, and you know, I'm okay with that. The humor is relentless, and while the stakes can be stressful, there's a sort of nihilistic undercurrent to every looming catastrophe that reminds us that none of this matters. Vice-President Selina Meyer's office is a supernova of calamity, and it's filled with awful people doing dreadful things to honest Americans, but it doesn't matter. That's D.C. for you. People are dirt and fiascos blow over. The government will remain as such until the fall of democracy, and in the end, none of it will matter.
That sounds bleak, doesn't it? But it's also freeing. There's a liberty to the nihilism, to the sort of democratic atheism that runs beneath Pennsylvania Avenue. It frees us to laugh at disaster. To shrug off cruelty. As a person who spends far too much time fretting over things I can't control, feeling guilty for things I didn't even do, I feel emancipated from worry and regret when I watch Veep. It's the knowledge that, yes, everything will get worse, and that is okay. Because these people deserve it.
So much of that freedom flows directly from Julia Louis-Dreyfus' ferocious performance. She's like nothing else here. She's turbulent and fearless and completely bonkers. She is hilarious. What's singular about Selina as a character, and about Louis-Dreyfus' performance in particular, is that she is both great and terrible. Like Oz. Selina is brilliant, indisputably so. She thinks nearly everyone around her is an idiot and she doesn't hesitate to tell them. She thinks on her feet and darts her way out of disaster with style and savvy more often than not. She's an unrepentantly sexual person, a single woman sort of-kind of running the country and looking incredible doing it. But she's also bad at life, at humans. She's a terrible mother, but mostly because she's just a terrible person. She's foul-mouthed as fuck. Her integrity, such as it is, is up for grabs. She doesn't have to be a positive representation of a woman in politics - she's more than a symbol. She's a goddamn tsunami.
And she has precisely zero qualms about flouting her power, what small power this office gives her. She's the Vice-President of the United States, you stupid little fuckers!
But she (and here I mean both Selina Meyer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is nothing without her team. Anna Chlumsky's Amy Brookheimer is coldly competent and tourniquet-tight. She's wired like Tessla's lab and keyed like a grand piano. She doesn't suffer fools, and she doesn't need a life. She's like Selina Light, if Selina didn't care about having sex because she spent all of her time taking care of another Selina. Dan Egan (Reid Scott) is ruthless and morally insolvent, a robot with that "5% that needs to be loved." Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) is frosty, efficient and impossible to impress, and she doesn't have time for any of this shit.
Those are the assholes - but we also have the idiots. Timothy Simons' Jonah is the long, tall face of doom, this amazingly pathetic waste that can unite the Veep's office in loathing like nothing else can. Matt Walsh as Mike McLintock often gets the biggest laughs out of me, with his ho-hum, lackadaisical ineptitude never failing to inspire Selina's wrath. And then we have Tony Hale as Gary, poor, sweet Gary. He's the only person in the office who truly understands Selina, who knows what she needs when she needs it. He's the only one she has even an ounce of real affection for, and it's really just an ounce. Not an ounce more.
And it's something of a miracle that I've spent three paragraphs praising the cast of Veep without even getting to Gary Cole's Kent and Kevin Dunn's Ben. Embedding is disabled on this video, but I promise you it's worth clicking the link.
The final few episodes of Veep's Season 3 shift circumstances in a major way, but in a more lasting way, nothing has really changed at all. Because Selina, wherever she is and whatever she's doing, will still be fighting her ceaseless battle against the stupidity and sexism of the nation, surrounded by yes men that she treats like garbage and desperately needs. She'll still be ruining things and fixing things in equal parts, saying words upon words that mean nothing, making enormous mistakes and brilliant schemes in the same breath. And whatever happens to this fictional America with its fictional government that I sometimes imagine can't be much worse than the real one - it will be hilarious and devastating, and none of it will matter.