The new Netflix show has millions of viewers glued to their screens.
At a party thrown for her 36th birthday, Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne)—a wisecracking, two-packs-a-day smoking software engineer—emerges from the bathroom of her friend's apartment to Harry Nilsson's "Gotta Get Up."
She smokes a coke-laced "Israeli joint," takes home a smug professor for a one-night stand, and, a short while later, in pursuit of her runaway cat, is struck by a car and dies. But Nadia has more lives than your average cat, and so, as Nilsson's up-tempo piano intro plays yet again, she finds herself back in the bathroom at the party. From here on, multiple Penrose steps lead to slapstick deaths, bathroom reappearances, and self-examination in the scenes in-between. Along the way, another death-proof drifter, Alan (Charlie Barnett), teams up with Nadia to try and find a way out of their shared predicament. Together, they retrace their interconnected movements before deep-diving into their respective subconscious.
Nadia is a vintage New Yorker with a mouth so fast and funny that she could easily appear in a classic gun-toting gangster film. To her jilted ex-lover, John (Yul Vazquez), Nadia explains, "Me and cocaine are like oil and vinegar. I'm not good at mixing substances." "Or metaphors," says John. Her riposte arrives on the very next beat. "Did I not say like oil and vinegar? Is that not a fucking simile?"
The birthday party, revisited after each death, is a refreshing depiction of women in their thirties who don't have kids. Rather than the commonplace references to ticking clocks and settling down, illegal remedies and "fuck pile" orgies take precedence in the conversation. "Who likes drugs more than me?" Nadia asks her Sikh dealer, War Dog (Waris Ahluwalia). "You," he replies, before confirming that no one likes orgies more than him. While it's made abundantly clear that Nadia can drug-binge most weekend hedonists under the floorboards, there is no finger-wagging here or interventional leanings. Nadia's unapologetic dishevelment doesn't mean she's without a moral compass, as demonstrated by her close relationship with Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley), an old family friend and mother figure. As Nadia's investigation into the cause of her numerous deaths progresses, however, memories, hindsight, and clarity begin to materialize and her party lifestyle takes a backseat.
Russian Doll shifts easily between déjà vu and jamais vu — the familiar and the eerily unfamiliar — and exposes a raw center with a distinct sense of place. The underbelly of the East Village provides the backdrop for black comedy with a touch of horror. The recurring appearances of Horse (Brendan Sexton III), a homeless man who prowls Tompkins Square Park, expand beyond Nadia's peripheral vision until their successive encounters motivate her gradual unlayering (as the show's title suggests) and the urge to right previously unseen wrongs. This, she hopes, will put an end to reliving the same day and dying in it.
Russian Doll is, by degrees, Natasha Lyonne's story, since she co-wrote the series and directed the final episode. Its premise is informed by her personal experience and inspired by a 2014 NBC pilot called Old Soul, concocted by Lyonne and Russian Doll co-creator Amy Poehler that was never picked up. Fortunately, Netflix, the gift that keeps on streaming, allowed Lyonne, Poehler, and their co-creator Leslye Headland free reign to develop eight episodes without interference or modification. Each half-hour episode makes room for an impressive number of plot twists and quick-on-the-draw dialogue that could only be written by genuinely funny people. But, perhaps most important to the show's success, Natasha Lyonne's natural self-assurance makes it hard to guess where Nadia ends and Lyonne begins.
K. Krombie is a writer, reviewer, and incidental performer living in Astoria.
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The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.
Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."
This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality
Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.
But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?
Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?
When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.
After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.
Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.
Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.
Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.
For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.
We're glad they're on our side.
The world is up against a seemingly insurmountable threat, but luckily, we've got a crack team of heroes on the case.
Sure, there's already the girl with super strength, the guy who can fly, and the anthropomorphic, trash-talking animal tailor-made for merchandise. But this is a threat of intergalactic proportions, and we're going to need all the help we can get if we want to survive.
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