This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
My heartburn medication ended the day before Election Day. (That sentence just said, “Hi, I’m in my thirties.”) I had to laugh, but this development actually seemed appropriate to the mood of this week. Not only would the days ahead be unpleasant and stress-inducing in every way, it was going to be impossible not to feel the pain of it.
My job is, when you oversimplify it, to watch TV, yet I still have never watched this much TV. And, outside of planning my dream wedding to Steve Kornacki in a fit of 3 a.m. delirium, I have never hated watching TV this much.
It’s been election maps, no answers, and constant anxiety, over and over blasted from my TV like the Oscar-winning score of a war movie.
No matter how altered your whiskey-and-Xanax-blurred existence has been since Tuesday, a crazed man’s all-caps tweets about the vote count somehow amounting to election fraud blasts through the fog and sobers you right up.
As the paint in your living room starts to shrivel from the toxic cloud of wine burps and stress farts, you wonder, how can this be the situation? You count yourself a sane person in a sane world, but every sign you’ve observed in these last days has contradicted that assumption entirely.
This column was written on Thursday afternoon, so who knows what the news will be by the time it’s published and lands in people’s inboxes Friday morning. While watching the election results has been a miserable experience by every account, with cable pundits preaching patience while hypocritically micro-analyzing outcomes that, by their own admission, shouldn’t be discussed yet, there was one firm conclusion: Among nearly half of American voters, there was no repudiation of Donald Trump and everything he stands for.
It’s an ugly truth we would be forced to wear like a rotting cape on our backs as we floated through the next days of unease and malaise, its putrid stench making us gag. Try as you might to be normal—sign in to work in the morning, dial into that conference call that’s been on the calendar for weeks, attempt to work out, make a salad for lunch instead of indulgent grief food, even change the channel from cable news to a distracting show—it is impossible to feel sane.
Election Day was its own descent into madness, emceed by Rachel Maddow.
There was no information. We were being told to have patience by the same people testing it, every misleading ballot that trickled in treated as apocalyptic breaking news, even as the anchors tried to deliver context for why their own assessments were meaningless. On the one hand, if I never have to hear about Broward County again, it will be too soon. On the other hand, we were all begging to be pandered to—spend three hours talking about Broward County! I will watch it all!
It’s been heartbreak in slow motion. Not a shattering with one forceful blow, but torn from top to bottom with a painful, meticulous slowness.
After four years of each day seeming like you’ve been apparated into a different alternative universe more surreal and hellacious than the last, this election week has proven that there’s no conditioning for disorientation.
You don’t get used to wondering how we got here, how something so blatantly bad can’t be fixed, and, more, how so many people don’t seem to recognize it as bad. How many times were we warned that this would take longer than Election Night to settle, that he would cry fraud and go to the courts, that it would be confusing and slow? It turns out you can’t brace for a world that intangibly doesn’t feel like your own anymore.
Friends and family check in on each other. On social media, people live-update their own anxiety spirals. But for all the comfort of that support, there’s still the naked truth. As instinctive as it seems to wallow and be angry, nearly half the country still wants Trump.
There’s a lot of well-meaning talk about what to watch for comfort food and what pop culture pleasures we deserve to delight in right now, lists of shows and movies that could cheer you up. It’s understandable, but strange. The Crown screeners I had to watch in the latter half of this week didn’t do the trick. Neither did catching up on Real Housewives, cueing up my favorite episodes of Sex and the City, or even turning to my North Star, national treasure Guy Fieri.
The only way to make myself feel less insane was to drive myself more insane, watching countless hours of the news as literally nothing happened, feeling the veins in my eyes morph into a tectonic map of red lines as I scrolled through Twitter, texting a link to all of his tweets to my group chats: “WTF do people really believe this?!?”
The truth is that, for many Americans, normal life goes on even in outrageous circumstances. There are emails to send, children to take to school, dogs to walk, dishes to be done, bills to pay, dinner dates to attend. But “normal” has come to mean a backdrop of unease, disgust, fury, and fear—and, maybe more than all of that, exhaustion. That is now undeniable, too.
Even the good news is bad news, the hope is tinged with resignation, the encouragement is counteracted with despair. It’s like being told pizza is on the way but when it arrives it’s a Hawaiian pie—except, you know, it’s the future of our country, not Dominos, that has the gall to tarnish something good with pineapple and ham.