Cynical Gutsy flatters Hillary the Conqueror once again [Apple TV+ review] | Cult of Mac

Cynical Gutsy flatters Hillary the Conqueror once again [Apple TV+ review]

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Gutsy review Apple TV+: Gutsy women Hillary Clinton, Amy Schumer and Chelsea Clinton.☆☆☆☆
Gutsy women Hillary Clinton, Amy Schumer and Chelsea Clinton.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s Gutsy, a deeply cynical PR stunt from former first lady Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, attempts to preach to a very specific choir while celebrating everything human about someone who at this point couldn’t be less relatable to the American public.

Gutsy is an expensive, self-aggrandizing road trip shared by women who were never really like the rest of us and now never will be. The series, which premiered Friday on Apple TV+, is replete with jaw-dropping guest stars, rehearsed banter, and about as much “fun” as an orientation day skit at college.

Basically, Gutsy is the unappealing answer to the question, “What do you give the woman who has everything?”

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Gutsy season one review

Gutsy is ostensibly a show about the different forms that feminism and activism can take in public life but this, dear readers, is a ruse. Two-time presidential campaign loser Hillary Clinton and her daughter speak to comedians, singers, rappers, writers, activists, environmentalists, drag queens and whatever Kim Kardashian is to get the scoop on how these women all navigate the world and what makes them so brave and bold and fierce, etc.

The trouble is that Hillary Clinton stopped being an inspirational figure the minute she voted for the Iraq War, but there has long been little but a cold, calculating alienness to her that not even a show like this can thaw.

I will not soft-pedal this. There is so much wrong with this show at every level (conception, execution, you name it) the following may read like a smear piece or some final form of a lifelong grudge. But let me be clear: The Clintons have won.

The Clinton machine

Sure, she lost the presidency, and former President Bill Clinton’s name is all over the Jeffrey Epstein flight logs. The couple are a national laughingstock and a perpetual ass ache to everyone who doesn’t have a Notorious RBG coffee mug. But nothing now is going to take them from the throne upon which they sit.

You could try to indict Bill Clinton for all the stuff he’s done and it wouldn’t stick. (He isn’t on this show, in case you were curious — can’t imagine why they forgot to invite him.) He’s got better lawyers than you and, for the most part, former presidents are off-limits (unless you mess with “norms,” which was Donald Trump’s mistake). Just look at George W. Bush, who’s about to launch his very own Master Class, presumably about painting like an infant or not going to the Hague for war crimes.

If I have a problem with the Clintons, it’s that they refuse to stop living public lives. They continue begging for us to see them as human beings as well as wealthy and powerful oligarchs who make more money in a day than you will this year.

Gutsy is a hugely embarrassing attempt to launder their public image in case Chelsea decides to run for office or whatever, but also to make passive income by having famous friends and being well-known. I’m not a fan of the Obamas, but at least when they made documentaries for Netflix, they were about social issues and not about who Michelle was lunching with.

Hoo boy…

The first episode is passive-aggressively entitled “Gutsy Women Have the Last Laugh” (so you see it’s actually good that she lost the election, because she’s actually laughing). It takes Hillary and Chelsea to Paris to see some stage comedy and to reminisce about the many times they’ve made each other laugh over the years.

Perhaps tellingly, Chelsea’s first instinct is to remember laughing at simple jokes her parents told her when she was a kid, rather than any time in the last 30 years. Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine Hillary Clinton making a joke, or really having an organic response to much at all these days.

Her laughter rings like a cellphone, like she’s making sure you hear that she’s enjoyed herself before cutting it off. They talk at one point, in what absolutely feels like a hallucination, to an ancient French clown who — while actively expiring in front of us — talks in his emphysema voice about how some naughty girls want to grow up to be monstrous clowns.

I swear this happens. It is … insane. Hillary gets him to say that it’s actually very important to flop and fail. Are you sensing a pattern yet?

Chelsea Clinton: Not funny

During a meeting with some comedians, someone asks Chelsea if she’s ever done stand-up, which is funnier than anything in the episode. It’s obviously a tee-up so she can complain about having been roasted by comics most of her life. But it’s also a perfect bit of subterfuge, because it’s supposed to make us think she’s funny enough to have done stand-up.

She then whiffs even harder than the setup could possibly imply. She says that when Saturday Night Live made fun of her when she was a kid, it taught her that comedy wasn’t good. If some writers somewhere can make fun of a kid, then should anyone ever make a joke about anything? Slippery slope, I think we can all agree. When they ask her what comics Chelsea listens to, she has no answer. A great start to an episode about comedy.

Then they go meet Amy Schumer, another person allergic to not being on camera, for tea at Alice’s Tea Cup in New York City. Full disclosure: I worked as a busser at Alice’s Tea Cup for about three years. I cleaned up the half-eaten cake and spilled tea of the moneyed denizens of the East Side every week for minimum wage. I used to shove untouched leftovers in my face because the staff meals were never enough to get you through the shifts. (There were plenty of leftovers, by the way. Most people go to Alice’s to take Instagram pictures of the food, not eat it. And who could blame them? Most of it was awful and cost more than a membership to the Whitney.)

Oh so relatable …

Once more proving how relatable she is, Chelsea orders a coffee at this place famous for its tea. I’ve stood in the back and made that coffee. I used to drink it five times a week. It sucks. It’s terrible. Bitter and disgusting. To my knowledge, Alice’s never once bought more than $5 cans of coffee.

So it brings me a little joy to see this woman drinking the worst coffee in all of New York City because she didn’t feel like going with the bit and just drinking some fancy tea at the place named after a teacup.

Anecdotally, the owners of Alice’s were the children of millionaires, but none of us got paid more than the bare minimum. And one of the three Alice’s locations had to close for a week because apparently there were so many rats on the second story they could not possibly kill them all in one day. Who’s laughing now!?

Anyway, that’s episode one. Episode two sees Hillary and Chelsea canoeing with a former Nazi. Episode four is about how Hillary was right to stay married to Bill. (Gloria Steinem is the guest, though I’d love to know if she was informed that she was on the pro-marriage episode.)

I wish like hell I was kidding.

Madeleine Albright, comedy master

At one point, Hillary talks about the sly forms of protest of famous comedienne … lemme check my notes here … ah yes, Madeleine Albright. The U.S. secretary of state who said the death toll of Iraqi civilians was worth it after the Gulf War. Remember how funny she was? Remember her special at the Apollo? Remember her early sketch work with Bill Weld?

Yeah, me neither.

All of this to say: If you’re filming yourself on a trip to Paris talking about how funny Madeleine Albright was, and how she really stuck it to that Saddam Hussein, whose country her State Department turned to dust and who was hung by an illegal kangaroo court after we came back to finish the job … you definitely don’t ever laugh at anything funny but also maybe you haven’t really taken enough stock of your life.

Is it all not enough? Is your wealth not enough? Is your fame, your power, your many homes, your place in history books — is none of this enough? You can’t just be happy, you have to go on this glorified victory lap? You have to film yourself filming cheaply cynical reaction shots of you thoughtfully pondering things women are saying to you that you could not give less of a dollar-store fuck about?

Why can’t you just admit that you won? Why does it matter so much that we know that you think it’s actually better that you kept losing your humiliating presidential bids?

What Gutsy is really about

Gutsy review Apple TV+: So brave, so funny ...
So brave, so funny, so relatable …
Photo: Apple TV+

This whole show is about how important it is that the Clintons (and the rest of their famous guests) have stood up to people telling them how to live their lives. Which is a fun way of saying that they did everything right — that just by existing as a millionaire with her own TV show, Hillary’s being a powerful figure against hate and cowardice.

That would mean something if the sum total of your output in the last several years was more than running a foundation staffed with rampantly corrupt opportunists (including Chelsea’s husband Marc Mezvinsky, who allegedly used Clinton Foundation connections to build his hedge fund) and now hiding behind and hijacking conversations with Gloria Steinem and Megan Thee Stallion (whom Hillary Clinton 100% did not know about before that day’s shoot — you cannot tell me otherwise).

Hillary Clinton has maintained for years that it doesn’t matter what her voting record says. The mere fact that she’s alive and public-facing means she’s a force for political good. So, $3 billion for border patrol guards and fencing, $40 billion for Homeland Security, $603.03 billion for the Defense Department — none of that matters because people are rude to her and she never buckles.

Under what pressure? What is it that she’s standing up for now? I’m genuinely asking. She’s retired now, but she still gives quotes about the fact that progressives are sinking the Democratic Party whenever a reporter calls. And now she’s making TV to flatter her wounded ego after years of being a useless public servant.

Danger: Weapons-grade narcissism ahead

There’s cluelessness, and then there’s this weapons-grade narcissism. Gutsy is eight interminable, forty-minute episodes of TV that say over and over again that it’s OK that Hillary Clinton is a huge loser.

On this show, every argument becomes a new coat of paint on the rusting armor Clinton wears against attacks that clearly still weigh on her worse than anything in her political career. It’s a TV show where she exploits the death of Heather Hayer by talking to her mother as if that has anything to do with Hillary Clinton.

In fact, Clinton was a dogged supporter of the police during the period in which Black Lives Matter was founded, and Hayer died at a Black Lives Matter protest! And no space is afforded to consider the idea that maybe having all this happen on a show where Kim Kardashian is treated like a serious person might cheapen the impact of talking to the bereaved mother of a woman who wanted better for her country?

For Hillary Clinton, everything is never enough

Why is it never enough to have everything? Why do you also need people to like you? I feel like America has said to Hillary Clinton over and over and over again, in the words of August Wilson: “Like you? What law is there sayin’ I got to like you?” And every single time, she ignores this and presents herself once more as if the world couldn’t possibly carry on unless she’s in the center of all things representing the sensible position.

U.S. neoliberals have been saying to Americans that their version of the world — that this much and no more — is plenty. We should be grateful for the fleeting glimpses of better lives we’re not living whenever they pass half-measures and mock us for wanting more. And it’s supposed to be enough because, in their view, the alternatives — right-wing totalitarianism or actual progressive policies — are worse.

The incessant message: Be happy you have what you have. Be happy that Hillary Clinton is on your TV, be happy that she has all this information about what you’re supposed to laugh at and not laugh at, be happy that Chelsea Clinton took Kanye West off her playlists, be happy that Kim Kardashian hasn’t worked a day in her life and gets to control the universe like the Clintons.

These are important things! They must be, right!!? This has to be important, because Hillary Clinton lived her whole life in pursuit of something that never happened and now has to be happy with her lot in life — and now we do, too. And she’ll keep making appearances until we do.

☆☆☆☆

Watch Gutsy on Apple TV+

You can watch all eight episodes of Gutsy season one on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.