Film & Television

“Hillary’: Love Her, Hate Her, Know Her Better

My daughter is a senior at a college in the Midwest. She’s studying business, and much of her curriculum involves group projects. She recently called me to complain about a young man — personable, successful, a strong presenter — who always tries to be in her group because, as she’s come to realize, she does all the real work and then he stands in front of the professor and the class and gets all the glory.

“Welcome to the world,” I told her with a bittersweet laugh. In my career, I can’t count how many men I’ve enabled in the very same way. I may have been the number two at whatever ad agency I was working in, but number one (invariably a man) was getting all the credit and doing none of the work. In fact, it wasn’t until I started my own agency, seventeen years ago, that I was actually able to enjoy the fruits of my labor in any way remotely proportional to my efforts.

This phenomenon is surely not unique to my family. And, if there is anyone who can relate at a much grander scale, it’s Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Early in Nanette Burstein’s meticulous new Hulu documentary series Hillary, the former first lady, senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate, recalls an experience in high school. She ran for president of the student government, a fairly progressive move for a girl in the early 1960s. As expected, she was beaten by a boy, who then asked her to do all his work for him. And, she did.

It’s difficult to name a public figure who has been more polarizing than Clinton, a fact that still perplexes her. “I am the same person I’ve always been,” she insists, and in many ways, this is true. However, she has also tried — with varying degrees of success — to be the person society found acceptable. Even her detractors (and does anyone have more detractors than HRC?) have to admit that her intelligence is astounding. So is her dedication to whatever she perceives to be the right mission. She sees the bigger picture and has been willing to be true not simply to who she is but to who she needs to be to get the job done.

Hillary comprises two distinct types of content, woven so seamlessly together that at times the narrative becomes a bit confusing. The four-hour-long parts are divided into a fairly conventional chronology of her life. But interspersed throughout is behind-the-scenes video of her 2016 presidential campaign. Once you get used to the style, the overall result is powerful and presents a more complete and much more intimate portrait of someone who has the distinction of being at once the most admired and the most vilified woman of our time. For every person who wept during her concession speech three and a half years ago, there was another chanting, “Lock her up!”

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