This article has some content you might find disturbing!Reason Verbal descriptions of school shootings; verbatim quotes from victims of homophobic bullying.
Ranking The Most Tear-Inducing Moments Of The Latest American Crime
Everyone's dealing with the fallout from Taylor's actions by coming apart at the seams, making power plays, leaving town, and deciding enough is enough and it's time to fight back.
This week's episode has left me spent; I'm out of hosannas and am now tripping over myself to come up with new ways to talk about its brilliance. So let's play The Crying Game and count down the moments that made me bawl, from "not at all" to "wailing like a Russian widow at the grave."
8. The Bullshit Encomium For Wes Baxter
Let's speak ill of the dead, okay? He was a bully who picked on, tormented, and assaulted a gay boy of a lesser social and physical stature. I am not mourning this kid.
Coach Sullivan's words -- "We lost a part of ourselves. For me, it was like I lost a child" -- fall on deaf ears. And Coach, you are not winning the parent of the year award -- your stellar work raising drug dealer/borderline brain-dead Becca is really paying dividends -- so these utterances are virtually meaningless. And nothing in his speech gives any indication that Leyland is acknowledging its role in this mess.
Tear Count: Zero.
7. Leslie, Without Armor And War Paint, Is Falling Apart
Leslie is someone who's valued the institution over the individual, and now it's come back to seriously bite her in the ass, because that's the career path she took: power move after power move, always about the school. At some point, though, you have to have a shred of humanity, and it's clear she's allowed constant bullying to go unchecked at Leyland for years and hasn't given a shit because it's never impacted her profits or losses. Until now.
So when Leslie's enemies sense blood in the water and prime for an attack, it's hard to feel much sympathy. But I'm not made of stone, and I do start break when she confides in Sullivan: "I'm scared....I can't manage this situation; I don't even understand it."
Sullivan's parting shot is enough to take the skin off your bones: "And you wonder why Taylor stole the gun and came here looking for you." Ouch, bro. Match point: Coach.
When you hire the best, you get the best: watching Huffman and Hutton squaring off is an acting master class.
Tear Count: Minor residual tears.
6. Life's A Gas With The Tanner Family!
Just kidding! It's a disaster. Jesus, how damaged are these people?
Lillah Tanner is in fucking meltdown; she's sold all her shit and wants to split town with Peter to get Eric away from Peter's father -- who, she heavily implies, molested Eric: "Your father happened to him." How do you put that on your kid? It actually makes me sorry for Peter. Serious kudos to Emily Bergl and Ty Doran for making this horrendous scene work.
Later, when Peter's father confronts Eric over cruising on websites, it goes someplace with the question that I can't parse: "But if you want something else, I'm here, same as always. I'm here." The look on Eric's face is heartbreaking. Let's hash this out in the comments, because I'm not sure what just happened there.
Tear Count: Watery eyes.
5. Taylor, Incarcerated, Communicates Openly For The First Time
It's the one time this season he's answered the question "Can you tell me what happened?," and does so honestly and articulately enough to leave me choked up. But it's the moment he lifts his hands to his head, revealing his restraints, that sets me off.
And Connor Jessup? Homeboy, if I ever see you walking around Toronto, I'll buy you a pint just to say thanks for what you're doing here: being an integral part of show that proves art doesn't have to be easy, or nice, or accessible -- that life is hard and good, decent, confused people get Fucked. Over.
And again with the extraordinary close-ups in this show, which you can really only get away with when you have a company of actors of this caliber. I can't remember where I read or heard that there's no greater special effect in film than a close-up on an actor changing his or her mind, but this show gives us moments like that every week, and it's especially powerful later when the lawyer asks Anne to take the plea deal -- "There are a lot of people in this state who have some backward views on gays" -- and it's written all over her face that she can't do it.
Tear Count: Welling up.
4. The Real Teachers' Testimonials
"And I say all that, and I still love Dylan"? I gasped out loud: "Oh my god, she means Dylan Klebold." And then burst into tears.
It's very powerful for the show to interview these teachers, drawing parallels between the findings that bullying was rife at Columbine High School, and setting us up for the same observations on Leyland and what happened to Taylor there: a kid on assistance trying to fit in, bullied and persecuted by students who viewed him as less than, and then spat out by the institution. The fact that this still happens to gay kids in schools is an abject disgrace.
Tear Count: Falling down my face.
3. "My Name Is Sheryl Moore, And I Am The Mother Of A.J. Betts."
And if you want to burst a blood vessel in one of your eyes from crying so hard, look at a picture of that beautiful boy on the internet. I did just to make sure I had his name spelled correctly and promptly lost it again.
I'd like to think that anyone who's ever bullied a gay kid -- who's ever called someone a "faggot" or stood by and done nothing as little drops of insidious comments filled a cup to overflowing -- would listen to these words and just reflect on his bullshit.
"'I can't go to this school anymore because people are hurting my feelings and making me cry every day because I'm gay....I'm pretty sure it's not okay to be gay anywhere.' Those were the last words my son said to me before he took his life."
Tear Count: Falling down my face.
2. The Speech From The Survivor Of Homophobic Bullying
I want to quote it in full because it's beyond incredible that this was broadcast on network TV, and I want to thank ABC for it and take the opportunity to say that everyone there, and all those involved in the show, should be very proud of this work. If we're lucky we get something this good once every five years.
I hope any person in pain right now can take strength from these words. Know that if you're being bullied at school, as hard as that is to face -- and trust me, I know -- a rainy day will break, and there will be light, and you have allies. If it's your Smiths records, or art house European films, or novels, or that one person who stands beside you through an onslaught: hold on. Because living well is the best revenge, and as Trevor Jackson posted on Facebook, the reason people talk behind your back is because they're behind you.
Here's the testimony:
"My experiences with homophobia, racism, and sexism: they all subconsciously met up with me at twenty in the bathroom right before I was about to hang myself. It was a cry for help. And I realized that I didn't want to be reduced to that moment, reduced to the girl who committed suicide."
"I feel so comfortable saying that I am a gender-nonconforming black person, and living in that truth has saved my life."
Tear Count: Gut-wrenching sobs.
1. Team SebastiANNE, Activate!
I swear to every deity known to man that if this is in any way a setup to harm Anne, I will riot. I know it isn't, but just in case: gauntlet thrown. Of all the scenes in this episode -- and, actually, all the scenes this season -- this is the one that broke me emotionally, because it's the first time someone shows genuine concern and tenderness for Anne.
I have two close friends who were single mothers. And watching them raise their children and do it so brilliantly is one of the great privileges of my life. All Anne has ever wanted was the best for Taylor: making sure he's safe while she deals with her health; sending him to the best school to get into a good college. Remember her look of joy and pride when he mentioned Notre Dame?
Now Anne's been systematically bullied by the system: exposed with pictures, texts, emails, medical records; as Sebastian says, "They were trying to attack you."
Both performers are gorgeous here. Richard Cabral is a beautiful actor, and his passion brings out softness in Anne, a respite on her face. Of Lili Taylor, what can I say? Other than that, in two hundred years' time, a civilization will find footage of this show and worship her as a goddess. I mean, seriously.
But it's this line that makes me lose it completely: "I'm just an activist, Miss Blaine. Twenty years ago, I would have been standing on the street corner holding up a sign to support you."
Anne and Sebastian collaborate on going after the school: "If you're going to stand up for what's right, sometimes you have to stand apart."
Tear Count: Sobbing so hard I was stumbling around knocking things over in my apartment. I mean, it wasn't quite Glenn Close on a rampage at the end of Dangerous Liaisons, but almost.