AOC Shows Us "How You Win Everything" in Netflix's "Knock Down the House"

"For every 10 rejections, you get one acceptance, and that's how you win everything."


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't a socialist icon in Knock Down the House, Netflix's documentary about four female Democrats running for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.

In fact, "socialism" isn't uttered at all in the 1 hour and 26 minutes of Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick's simple feature; because co-producers Lears, Blotnick, and Sarah Olson present the four grassroots candidates as "regular people taking on political machines," as Lears told HuffPost. In an interview during the early days of her campaign, Ocasio-Cortez summed up the filmmakers' stance: "Basically, what political machines do is suppress democracy." Lears and Blotnick use straightforward camerawork to illuminate the unique obstacles facing women of color in politics, the protected elitism of America's political firmament, and the leaps of faith necessary to challenge the status quo.

popdust "knock down the house" aoc Ocasio-Cortez during her waitressing shiftYahoo

In the wake of Donald Trump's 2016 election, former staffers and supporters of Bernie Sanders formed the political action committees Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats. With the goals to reform the Democratic Party and "replace every corporate-backed member of Congress," according to Justice Democrat's website, they supported a record-breaking number of women running for office.

"It's just the reality that in order for one of us to make it through, 100 of us have to try," Ocasio-Cortez tells a tearful Paula Jean Swearengin, the West Virginian who challenged Senator Joe Manchin on the platform against big businesses destroying the health of the working class. Her speeches included the proud proclamation, "I'm a coal miner's daughter, and I'm mad as hell." Swearengin lost her election weeks before New York's 14th congressional district elected Ocasio-Cortez, but footage of all four women detail the year leading up to their election nights. Lears was able to capture the most footage of Ocasio-Cortez, from her early days waitressing and street canvassing for 10,000 signatures in order to get on the ballot to her victory night: a fortuitous circumstance of the filmmaker living in the same city. But each woman was selected by Lears and Blotnick for her charismatic presence, articulation of issues, and soldier-like mindset in the war against corporate interests and self-interested politicians.

In addition to Swearengin and Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela made healthcare her primary issue when she challenged incumbent Steven Horsford in Nevada. In frank interviews, she attributes her motivation to the death of her 22-year-old daughter, who died in 2015 after doctors refused to perform tests that would have saved her life because she couldn't show proof of health insurance. In Missouri, Cori Bush "was not trying to become an activist," but she lived six minutes away from Ferguson, where Mike Brown was murdered in 2014. Bush shared, "Being a woman of color, our image is scrutinized...Basically, you deal with it. The people of my district, this is how we look."

As for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the then-28-year-old reiterates in interviews that the four women's campaigns represent one unified movement for change; she sees herself as being on the "front lines." She says, "I'm from New York, and New York isn't about Democrat vs. Republican. New York is Establishment vs. whatever poor stray cat who thinks you can stand up against them." At one point, she clarifies with her patent directness: "Here's the best part about all of this. We're not running to make a statement; we're not running to pressure the incumbent to the left; we're running to win."

The low budget production is direct and earnest. Aside from well-timed, emotional music cues and a few poignant clips from Vilela and Ocasio-Cortez's home videos, Lears doesn't manipulate the audience. The documentarian also makes the voting public an integral character in the film through powerful close-ups on the faces of concerned community members, the candidates' campaign teams, and anonymous spectators of their speeches. As Ocasio-Cortez shared on Twitter, "At early screenings, even Trump supporters left the film in tears - because it's about the power of everyday people."

Ultimately, Vilela, Bush, and Swearengin share a crushing defeat—one that's immediately tempered by Ocasio-Cortez's victory, which is filmed with organic energy that's somehow lovely, graceless, and ecstatic. Knock Down the House is best described the same way, in that it frankly depicts why tearing down a corrupt political establishment is nearly impossible. Any hope for change is built from the belief that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez shared with her niece in 2017 while they were canvassing on a cold street corner in Queens: "For every 10 rejections, you get one acceptance, and that's how you win everything."

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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Netflix's "Ted Bundy Tapes" Leaves Viewers Scared and Confused

The docuseries avoids possible pitfalls of covering America's best known serial killer by deconstructing the culture, politics, and female "groupies" that cultivated the Bundy Effect™.

The Daily World

The most surprising takeaway from Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is how many women still find America's favorite murderer attractive.

Netflix released its latest true crime docuseries on Thursday, January 24: the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution in Florida. The series' main draw is Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth's previously unreleased interviews with Bundy, which were conducted while he was on death row in 1980. The journalists recall their interactions with the sexually sadistic killer during their 150 hours of interviewing him for their 1989 book. "Ted stands out because he was quite an enigma: clean-cut, articulate, very intelligent, just a handsome, young, mild-mannered law student," Michaud says. "He didn't look like anybody's notion of someone who would tear apart young girls."

The Ted Bundy Tapes is a self-aware docuseries. Joe Berlinger is clearly conscious of the fact that Bundy is probably the most well-known and exhaustively covered subject in the true crime genre. The basics of the Ted Bundy cautionary tale are now almost cliche: the least likely suspects can turn out to be the worst monsters. As Berlinger noted, "He taps into our most primal fear: That you don't know, and can't trust, the person sleeping next to you. People want to think those who do evil are easily identifiable. Bundy tells us that those who do evil are those who often people we know and trust the most." So in addition to being well-produced, the angle of the four episodes is to deconstruct that signature Bundy Effect™ that altered 80s media, the criminal investigation, and the American psyche.

When a 22-year-old named Lynda Ann Healy disappeared in 1974, the term "serial killer" didn't exist in the American vernacular. By the time two college students were murdered in Florida State University's Chi Omega sorority house in 1978, criminal investigators had identified a pattern to the string of brutal murders that had spanned over seven states. The Ted Bundy Tapes combines archival news footage and interviews with investigators to convey the mass fear that disrupted the 1970s' wave of female empowerment and autonomy. At the same time, class mobility and Republican politics created a decade that was "perfect for [Bundy] because he [didn't] have to be real," as Berlinger pointed out.

Park Record

Despite claiming to be innocent on Death Row, Bundy finally confessed to Michaud and Aynesworth in their exclusive audio recordings. After listening to the excerpts, the erratic confession could've been another one of Bundy's manic, illogical plans to misdirect attention (and postpone execution) by focusing on his 30 victims. He begins the interviews with the same egomaniacal enthusiasm that characterized his court appearance and press conferences: "It is a little after nine o'clock in the evening. My name is Ted Bundy. I've never spoken to anybody about this. I am looking for an opportunity to tell the story as best I can. I'm not an animal and I'm not crazy. I don't have a split personality. I mean, I'm just a normal individual."

But there's another bizarre element to the Bundy Effect™ that's been repeated in cases like the recent family murderer, Chris Watts. Some women who were well aware of Bundy's homicidal and necrophilic urges still swooned over the man. The Ted Bundy Tapes also touches on the strange phenomenon of "serial killer groupies," including Bundy's wife, Carol Ann Boone. Footage of the killer proposing to her while she was testifying at his trial demonstrates her disturbing devotion, which she later proved by "somehow" having sex with Bundy during a prison visit and later giving birth to their daughter. Aside from calling him "kind, warm, and patient," Boone also said in archival footage, "Let me put it this way, I don't think that Ted belongs in jail. I don't think they had reason to charge Ted Bundy with murder."

The Telegraph

In fact, while Netflix summed up the public's 30-year-long fascination with Bundy in a tweet describing him as "charming, good-looking, and one of the most dangerous serial killers that ever existed in America," the most disturbing effect of the docuseries may be a resurgence in women who find him appealing. After its release, "Ted Bundy" became a trending topic on Twitter, with users debating the serial killer's attractiveness. One user called him "the most beautiful psychopath in the world," while another said he looked like "the Joker minus the makeup."

With Zac Efron set to inhabit Bundy in the upcoming film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, the world might have to confront the weird equation of 70s beauty standards and institutional failures that made Ted Bundy a criminal celebrity.

Zac Efron (Left) and Ted Bundy (Right)People

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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