Friday, December 19, 2014

Jimi Hendrix Experience -- "Manic Depression" (1967)

Manic depression is a 
Frustrating mess

Instead of déjeuner-ing at one of the many expense-account restaurants in the trendy downtown Washington, DC neighborhood where I work, I usually bring a homemade sandwich to lunch.

I used to read a book at my desk while I ate that sandwich, but recently I've been watching cable-TV series, one episode at a time.  

First, I went through all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad (which I recommend highly).  Next, I went through the first four seasons of Justified and the two extant seasons of House of Cards.

Currently, I'm alternating episodes of Entourage (which I recently wrote about) and Homeland.  

Claire Danes as Homeland's Carrie Mathison
Homeland stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, an intense and dedicated CIA antiterrorist operative who has a big secret: like her father, she suffers from bipolar disorder – a mental illness that used to be called manic depression because it is characterized by mood swings.

Andy Greenwald of Heartland observed that Carrie Mathison breaks a cardinal rule of television, which is that a female character isn't allowed to be a mess.  

Carrie is a real mess when she is going through a manic phase.  The signs and symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder include rapid speech, agitation or irritation, inflated self-esteem, risky behavior, careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol, and promiscuity.

Carrie exhibits all of those behaviors.  In other words, she sound alike the perfect girlfriend! 

The manic Carrie is promiscuous with a capital "P."  Her go-to move is to get into a slinky little dress, slip a phony wedding ring on her left hand, head out to a jazz club, and sip tequila at the bar until Mr. Right comes along and . . . well, you can guess what happens next.

(If you're wondering why she puts on the fake wedding ring, that's so the guys she picks up don't get any ideas about having an actual relationship with her.)

Carrie in disguise
The first time we meet Carrie in Homeland's pilot episode, she is returning to her house early one morning looking a little worse for wear after a one-night stand.  She takes off her slinky little dress, takes off her fake wedding ring, and hurriedly performs her toilette before throwing on a work outfit and heading off to attend a briefing at CIA headquarters.

Carrie's toilette is about as basic as a toilette gets: she deploys an electric toothbrush, then gives her private parts a quick swipe with a wet washcloth.  

(The Brits call that move a "whore's wash," and watching Claire Danes doing that so casually and matter-of-factly is quite startling.)

Good advice!
I almost forgot to mention that Carrie does one other thing while getting ready for work: she scarfs down a clozapine capsule before heading off to the office.  Clozapine is a schizophrenia medication that is sometimes used off-label to treat bipolar disorder.

If you're asking yourself why the CIA would allow someone suffering from bipolar disorder to work on the front lines of the war against terrorism – which is a pressure-cooker job if there ever was one – the answer is THEY DON'T KNOW BECAUSE CARRIE HASN'T TOLD THEM.

Carrie goes completely off the tracks at the end of season one of Homeland, then decides to take drastic measures in hopes of controlling her illness.  We'll talk more about that in the next 2 or 3 lines.

"Manic Depression" was released 1967 on the Jimi Hendrix Experience's startling debut album, Are You Experienced.  Other songs on that album included "Purple Haze," "Hey Joe," "Fire," "Foxy Lady," and the title track -- which technically isn't the title track because its title ends in a question mark while the album title doesn't.
One writer said that Are You Experienced "altered the syntax of music . . . in a way I compare to James Joyce's Ulysses."  Both Are You Experienced and Ulysses are groundbreaking and unique works, but there is one big difference between them: the Hendrix album is fabulous, while Ulysses is – like Carrie Mathison – a mess.

Here's "Manic Depression":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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