Quick review: Patriot (Amazon Prime)

Review of Patriot, an Amazon program where an American spy is tasked on an international mission and messes up at every steps because his depression always comes in the way. An original writing and interesting directing choices makes it a show well worth seeing.

With the release of the season 2 of Patriot (that I have thoroughly binge-watched this weekend), I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about this astonishing program that came well under the radar but is full of awesome ideas. It’s one of the best depictions of depression that I know, and you can’t fail to understand how the character thinks and feels after seeing it.

The story is about John Tavner, an American spy who is tasked by his boss (who is also his father) to give money to help the presidential campaign of an Iranian politician. To do that, he has to get hired under a fake identity in a construction company, and get sent to Luxembourg to meet a man who will in turn bring the money where it needs to go.

But John hate his job, although he can’t quit. Why, you might think? John feels his job is too important to be done wrong, or at least the job is more important than himself, and he has a duty to his father. So he has to do it. And he has to do things that makes him fall every time deeper in depression, especially when he messes up. And he messes up, a lot. Essentially because he is depressed. And nobody notices. NOBODY! Well, until his wife, to whom he can’t say a thing about his job, and his brother, start to see that he isn’t “pretty good”.

One interesting thing about the writing is the atmosphere that gets even more absurd as the story goes. The script doesn’t care about a specific credibility of events. The point is not to make the investigation or the situations realistic, or to have logical dialogues between background characters, but to show that John goes more into madness as he commits crimes. But somehow he retains some form of sanity, he has this drive to see his mission to the end, even if the absurdity of the situation overwhelms him completely. Will he see the light in the darkness? Will his wife come to save him from his mission and his father?

So, if you have some time to kill and a Prime subscription, I would really recommend seeing this series, especially if you like some dark humour. Plus the main actor is incredibly good.

Quick review of queer mangas

Review of two book: Claudine, a 1978 manga about a transgender man facing bullying; and My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, the true account of a young homosexual woman who had to face depression and social expectations.

After I saw a post on twitter about Claudine, a Japanese comic book about a transgender man that was supposedly very good (for its time), I set out to buy it, and added in my shopping cart a couple of other mangas dealing with LGBT issues: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, and The Bride Was a Boy.

15,29,344,374.299194

So here are the reviews in the reading order.

Claudine, by Ryoko Ikeda:

Claudine is by far the weakest of the three. I was expecting a very powerful art work about trans issues, but instead, I got shallow characters, empty plot and a poor understanding of the subject. Now, it was made in 1978, and it is probably the reflection of the stereotypes of that time, but there are points in this book that make it really not interesting as a story.

And the biggest problem is the main character. He has no other definition than being transgender. We don’t know anything about him. The story is told from the accounts of his psychiatrist who, you’d think would talk about more things than just his struggle with gender identity. But we never know a single thing about Claudine but that she is from a rich family. I think it kills the story entirely, because it is impossible to relate to a character who’s just an empty shell. And the psychiatrist, who is ultimately the voice of the author, kills the whole open-mindedness by saying a very transphobic “Even a true man couldn’t love a woman so utterly” (1).

Then, the plot revolves almost uniquely around a girl who is in love with Claudine and sets out to sabotage every single relationship he (Claudine) has with other girls. And the whole story is like that. Claudine is rather passive. Things happen to her, it’s all about how people react to her, but not much how she reacts. She is like the MacGuffin of her own story.

I can’t really talk about the art form, because I am not used to the manga style, but I was surprised that Claudine was drawn in a very different style than the other characters. Maybe the author wanted him to stand out from the crowd, but for me, it just reinforces the MacGuffin effect, his shallowness, that he is not human, as opposed to all the other characters.

Finally, although there are some good ideas, the book, even by the 70’s standards, this story lacks character development, which was a real turn off to me. I couldn’t see a real person in Claudine, and it was a huge drawback in my opinion.

 

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, by Nagata Kabi:

This book is a breath of fresh air. It’s powerful, moving and relatable. It’s not a graphic novel. It’s more like an illustrated essay. Every strip is narrated by the author, who tells her own story. A story of feeling like an outcast, because she doesn’t see herself in the expectations of others. And still she tries to meet these expectations, which drives her to be even more miserable, and not knowing why.

It is a powerful tale of getting to know yourself and the cause of your sickness, instead of finding ways to ignore it or inflicting physical pain to oneself to know why it hurts. It touched so close to home on so many occasion, I wanted to cry during most of the book. It’s quite surely a good read to anyone who faced depression and had a hard time recognising the cause, or to people who never had such an experience but would like to understand how oppressing and terrifying this situation is.

It is well crafted; although it’s a real story, the author makes the effort of giving it a pace and a structure, and every act offers to show a real change in her mindset and relationship with her illness (2) until she understands the cause and ultimately gets better by living the life that suits her, instead of trying to get her parents approval on everything (3). Her illustrations are really doing a good work of explaining how her depression worked and how she was feeling most of the time. I think that even someone who’s never had depression and doesn’t understand the concept can have a pretty good idea at how it must feel for people who are afflicted.

And of course, it’s also a story of a lesbian woman in a country that is still very conservative on sexuality, and who ultimately tries to be herself despite social barriers. Just read it people.

 

The Bride Was a Boy, by Chii:

I have a lot to say about this one, so here is a page dedicated to this review.

 

(1) Let’s hope it’s a translation mistake, which is totally possible, seeing how disastrous the translation is. Full of typos, grammar errors, inconsistencies, I had to read some lines several times to make sure I understood.

(2) I shouldn’t have to explain that, but in case anyone misinterpret what I wrote: her illness is not her homosexuality, obviously. It’s the depression that comes from the inability to recognise that she is homosexual and trying to fit into societal expectations.

(3) Yes, I’m spoiling the end, but that was that or killing herself. So since she is writing this book, we can only assume it’s not really a surprise. The whole point of the story is to see how she navigates her depression and heals.