Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Civic engagement.

I’m fascinated by the sparring that occurs in the subtext here. Watch both entrepreneur Jeff Jeans and House Speaker Paul Ryan throughout this exchange. Jeans carefully structured his story to appeal to Ryan’s partisanship first–I’m a Republican, like you, and when the ACA was passed I dug my heels in and refused to accept it. Ryan, you can tell, knows within moments exactly which way this story is going to go; he’s heard more than one like it and he’s made it his job to remain unaffected by them. He knows by now enough about this tactic to be aware that the twist–“Obamacare saved my life”–will be directed at him as an accusation, and so he’s ready with the answers he needs. “We ARE going to replace it, with something better.”

But here’s why Paul Ryan is and has remained dangerous–before Jeans has the opportunity to process “something better” and respond with a basic follow-up question like “What, exactly?” Ryan says this:

“First of all, I’m glad you’re standing here.”

Expressing casual empathy might seem like a typical political trick, but think about how many other politicians would have bowled right past the opportunity, itching instead to defend their position and shut down the person who dared to speak to them with such insolence. “You’re wrong, and Obama has been a disaster for this country. Next.”

“First of all, I’m glad you’re standing here.” Applause from the audience, which is ostensibly for Jeans but which also carries with it approval of Ryan’s words. It’s the mark of a gifted politician to manufacture and then absorb applause without in fact being the one to earn it.

But it doesn’t end there. Jeans has awareness that his thrust has been parried, and that Ryan has effectively stopped his momentum, and he takes an alternate tack. He knows he’s on national television and he knows that he’s onscreen with Paul Ryan, and he takes the moment to give credit directly to “President Obama,” and to state in no uncertain terms that he owes his most important possession–his life–to him. Jeans stands in the presence of Paul Ryan and forces him to come up with some form of gracious physical reaction to being named, backhandedly, as distant and lacking from a man he considers great. “I’m alive because of President Obama, and you deserve none of the applause for my survival.”

The tight-lipped nod from Ryan is not “yes, I agree,” it’s “yes, you played that well.”

This analysis brought to you courtesy of both quality education and professional experience in the performing arts, because no matter what anybody else might tell you it’s worth a great goddamn deal in the quote unquote real world.

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This entry was posted on January 13, 2017 by in Critique, Essay, Politics, Theatre.
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