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Writer, director Caitlin FitzGerald makes a case for optimism

January 16, 2018

• Caitlin FitzGerald

 

1. Express your thoughts about 2017 in an image, GIF, or noise.

 

 

 

 

 

2. What did you take for granted in 2016 that you’re extremely grateful for in 2018?

 

My female friends. They are a network, and a safety net, that stretches from coast to coast—and across continents. They are my coven, my sisters-in-arms, my creative collaborators, my biggest laughter, my most expansive love, and my chosen family. The day after the election, in a steady flow, I received one phone call after another from these women in my life. Each call began with us asking the other, "How are you?” in a tone usually reserved for funerals. Indeed, it felt like the choice America had made would prove to be a tragedy that needed mourning. And it was. And together we mourned it, and together we looked forward to how we could fight back and rise up. I don't know if men can fully appreciate the feeling women (well, those who voted for Hillary, anyway) had when she, the most qualified person ever to run for president, lost to this (among his other horrific qualities) nightmarish embodiment of a toxic patriarchy that we, as women, have been up against, to greater and lesser degrees, our whole lives. Discussing the election on a trip to London recently, a Brit said to me, "And I thought on that day, 'My God, that's how much America hates its women.'" Yes. That's precisely how it felt when Donald Trump was elected. And without this courageous, loud, fierce and fiercely loving cadre of women in my life, I think it would have been enough to sink me for a long, long time.

 

 

 

 

 

3. What piece of art—film, book, album, performance, painting, whatevs—restores your faith in humanity?

 

There were so many inspiring things in 2017, but in terms of art, what particularly comes to mind is an exhibit at the Whitney called "An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney's Collection, 1940-2017."

 

 

It was an important reminder to me that art can be (and increasingly, I believe, should be) a form of protest—a container and a platform for those voices that refuse to be repressed. I was particularly struck by a series of letters in the exhibit that were written to the Whitney by artists who were pulling their work from the museum in protest of the Vietnam War. How comforting it was to stand in an institution that believes so fully in the power and importance of art as protest that it would even make room for material critical of the institution itself. The exhibit felt like a bulwark against the onslaught of this President, and his censorial approach to anything and anyone who doesn’t agree with him. I am so grateful for the reminder of the long legacy of artists courageously using their art to speak up and speak out.

 

 

 

 

4. What happened in 2017 that actually made the world a better place?

 

I appreciate that this is a highly privileged thing to get to say, but Donald Trump may, strangely, impossibly, be a (somewhat) positive thing to have happened to this country. Certainly, I'm not the first to say this. But he has definitely shaken us all out of our collective complacency, and forced us to re-evaluate what we take for granted in terms of our democracy, our rights, and our responsibility as citizens. The Women’s March last January was one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I have ever participated in, and it laid the foundation, I think, for the #MeToo phenomenon that's ousted so many monsters from our institutions. Without Donald Trump, there may not have been the anger and frustration needed to fuel what feels to me like a real shift in the culture, a fissure through which we may just push a new image of America. Pending nuclear war, obviously.

 

 

 

 

5. What are you determined to do—or make or change—in 2018?

 

 

In the wake of all that has been transpiring in Hollywood, I've been thinking a lot about what it is to be an actress, and all the very gendered expectations that come along with the job. This year I've found it increasingly hard to just be a vehicle for someone else’s story and words. It has become increasingly hard to be directed by men. To be directed at all, in fact. I finally realized that the frustration I've felt on set, recently, is the frustration of wanting to be the subject rather than the object, the maker instead of the one who is made. And if I'm going to be totally honest, this terrifies me. Because there's a certain comfort for me in being the one who just stands where one is told, and says lines one has been given. There is a certain comfort for me in being a woman whose relation to men exists, at least professionally, in the well-worn power-dynamic of they-choose-me—and not the other way around. I'm very well-trained in this dynamic. But this comfort is wearing thin. In fact, I'm no longer finding it comfortable at all. I don’t exactly know what this means for me going forward, but I feel so grateful again to the women in my life, and to female artists everywhere who show me time and again that there are other ways of living, other paths to take. Going into 2018, I feel scared, angry, excited, inspired, and very, very much alive. I think it’s going to be a good year.

Feeling inspired? Create and share your Case for Optimism, and join us in 100 Days of Optimism by building an audience, raising funds and being eligible for career-changing prizes. Get the deets.

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Caitlin FitzGerald

Caitlin FitzGerald is an actress and occasional writer and want-to-be director living in New York City with her small dog Charlie. Despite being real macho, Charlie is also a feminist who despises Donald Trump. (Editor's note: She also the star of the upcoming season of UnREAL; she's just too modest to mention it).

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