Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nick Lowe – "Cracking Up" (1979)

No pills that I can take
This is too real and there ain't no escape

The protagonist of the Homeland television series, Carrie Mathison, is just your everyday smart and obsessive CIA antiterrorism specialist – except for one thing.

Carrie (who is portrayed by Claire Danes) has bipolar disorder, or what we used to call manic depression.

Manic-depressives suffer from mood swings.  At times, they will exhibit extreme elation and be very energetic.  At other times, they may be severely depressed.   In between manic-depressive episodes, they may feel and act perfectly normal.

Here's a collage of Carrie's crazier moments:

Carrie Mathison cries a lot, and for good reason.  When she cries, her face scrunches up, and her lower lip sticks out, and she completely dissolves.  It's not a pretty sight:

Claire Danes is a gifted actress.  (She has the reviews and the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild awards to prove it.)  Like Sir Peter Lely's portrait of Oliver Cromwell, Claire Danes's compelling portrayal of the multifaceted Carrie Mathison – who TV critic Emily Nussbaum describes as "a vulnerable, seductive bully" – includes Carrie's "warts and all."  

And Carrie Mathison has plenty of moral warts.  Nussbaum wrote in the New Yorker that one of Homeland's strengths is that it takes "an unsentimental view of its heroine's worst behavior."  

But despite her failings, Carrie Mathison always fully engages the audience's interest and sympathy.  We never don't care about Carrie.  

Claire Danes is as effortlessly beautiful as any woman I've ever seen on television or in the movies.  But she has little in common with the Hollywood bombshells who are regularly splayed on the pages of lad magazines like Maxim and FHM.  

Nonetheless, her Carrie Mathison is an incredibly seductive character.  There's a look she gives a guy in a bar in the very first episode of Homeland that I don't think any straight man alive could resist.

To quote our old friends Gary Puckett and the Union Gap:

A woman wears a certain look
When she is on the move
And a man can always tell what's on her mind
I hate to have to say it
But that look's all over you

(It certainly is, Carrie Mathison . . .)

But Carrie's dominant characteristic is her bipolar disorder.  Claire Danes prepared for her role by thoroughly researching manic depression, and that preparation shows at the end of season one of the series, when Carrie has the mother of all manic episodes.

She takes clozapine, an antipsychotic drug that is used to treat bipolar disorder.  But her pills aren't powerful enough to prevent Carrie from descending into madness – a descent that concludes with Carrie receiving electroconvulsive therapy (formerly known as shock treatment):

It's painful to watch the psychological disintegration of the smart and intense Carrie Mathison.  But when her character becomes convinced that she has utterly misjudged the man who she believes to be a dangerous terrorist, she changes from someone you can't take your eyes off into someone it is hard to watch without averting your gaze.

Here's "Cracking Up," which Nick Lowe released on his 1979 album, Labour of Lust

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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