In the stories of New York millennial writer Tao Lin, an almost perfect cross between Samuel Beckett and the first Douglas Coupland and Bret Easton Ellis, the protagonists do not advance, they remain trapped in the quicksand of their gigantic egos. Self-destructing and yet expanding egos. They think more than they should, and that paralyzes them. So engrossed are they in their indecipherable complex selves that their relationships end up in endless tennis matches in which the ball is always on the way to the other’s field, because they have enough, as extraordinarily sensitive as they are, as Bret Easton Ellis says in his recent White, with themselves.
Something similar occurs in Feel Good (Netflix), the brave confession and self-reflection of Mae Martin, small celebrity of the Canadian monologue, regarding her own life, or an episode, epicenter, of it. Mae, also in monologue fiction, does not like herself, and perhaps that is why she does not understand why George (Charlotte Ritchie) has fallen in love with her, and is convinced that: 1) she is ashamed of her (which, at first, It is true), 2) I would rather date a boy and 3) is not only addicted to cocaine and, in general, other drugs, that addicts are addicted to everything, especially things that hurt them. Yes, Martin had drug problems, was in rehab, and has dated boys and girls.
At the same time scriptwriter, actress and director (task, the latter, which he shares with Joe Hampson), Martin exorcises demons, or tries to do it – the conclusion is not clear, life is a time bomb and hell sometimes is not the others, but you can be yourself and be forever – in six painfully sharp episodes of a dramedy that can be considered 97% drama. A drama in which, to the excess of self-analysis, and on many occasions, as Ellis points out in his first book of essays, millennial self-victimization, must be added the prognostic disorientation – gender fluidity – and, of course, the addiction, in fact, true protagonist of the story.
Lisa Kudrow – the endearing Phoebe from Friends – reappears in the role of Mae’s long-suffering mother. His suffering is silent, his suffering is rage. It has been used, it is being used, but can it be avoided? He loves his daughter, he doesn’t know how to treat her. Her daughter is a hedgehog that she refuses to hug for fear that it hurts too much. His role is functional – the character only manages to qualify at the end – but fundamental. As is also the conclusion that Martin immediately reaches: that the addict exchanges one addiction for another. Something that hurts you for something else that hurts you. In your case, that other thing is George.
The last thing someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with who they are – “I’m not a boy, I’m not a girl, I’m a failed version of both,” says Martin – is a straight girlfriend who hides her from the world as she hides what we are ashamed. Although at times excessively self-flagellating and repetitive — after all, we’re exploring the obsessive mind of an addict and her precarious little world — Feel Good teaches a lesson in not keeping quiet. Especially, what we do not like, to refuse to be what others want us to be, and start looking for ourselves from there, from a productive solitude that allows us to like ourselves once and for all.
Because, as Martin’s character stumbles from one anonymous narcotics gathering to another, he takes the stage and falls into childish traps – he follows advice that may be good but does not come at the right time or leave the right person – George breaks with their psychopathic family and social environment. It stands. Decide that it’s okay to let go and be what others expect. Become aware. Not that he can like women if he wants to but that his friends have never really been and are not even aware that they have not. Curious is the way in which the paralysis in which Martin seems submerged invites George to move.
But it seems that Martin was already there. That this, that of others, was never his problem. Her problem was always with herself. Thus, a parallelism of discomfort is established between the two characters in the face of the intimate and the social that can completely nullify your freedom and plunge you into a deep abyss of, sometimes, apparent slight symptoms – insomnia – that can go much further. “When the present is intolerable, we do whatever it takes to try to run away from it,” says one of the characters at one point. And since the present is “only in your head”, as another says, the first thing is to bring order to it. Here is the moral of Feel Good.