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7 September 2022

Gutsy: this “feminist” series from Hillary and Chelsea Clinton is risible and bizarre

Whether they are meeting feminist superstars, farting clowns or Goldie Hawn, Hils and Chels sound like they hardly know one another.

By Rachel Cooke

In their new series Gutsy, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton criss-cross America in search of inspirational women just like (it is strongly implied) themselves. Some of these women are “rebel hearts”, others are “forces of nature”; one is Goldie Hawn. In the first episode, however, the women in question are only hoping to make people laugh, which isn’t very easy in the case of Clinton Jr.

Poor Chelsea. She says it’s because Saturday Night Live took the piss out of her when she was a little girl that she doesn’t like comedy. But I think it’s just that she has no sense of humour. Sure, faced with a finely honed, vaguely filthy, feminist stand-up routine, she honks with the best of them. But in all the wrong places, and so loudly even her mother looks alarmed.

I said the Clintons traverse America. Actually, they begin in that great foreign city, Paris, where accordions play 24/7, every chair is made of rattan and the thoughts of desperate TV producers turn wildly, but somehow inevitably, to clowns. Yes, in Gay Paree, the two of them enrol at clown school, and because this is France, no one makes the obvious joke (this would involve admitting – “merde, les bellicistes!” – that you’d recognised them).

Why do Hils and Chels submit to this, sitting quietly in their red noses while they watch, with utmost seriousness, a young woman – a real-life clown, actually from Paris, France! – unzip her boots in a way that suggests she’s simultaneously emitting a prolonged fart? Truly, I don’t know. All I can tell you is that by the time said “fart” trumpeted, I was crying with laughter. If the woman had belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” while Hillary pressed her hand to her chest, it couldn’t have been funnier. They should have called it Gusty.

[see also: JK Rowling’s The Ink Black Heart is confusing, insular and far too long]

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Safely back in the US, Hillary and Chelsea, also for no reason I could fathom, go bowling with the comedian Wanda Sykes, who calls her post-menopausal belly “Esther”. Then they have lunch with Amy Schumer, who tells them how unfair it is that while chewable Viagra is a thing for guys, girls just get Xanax for everything. Hils laughs darkly at this – the chewable Viagra – though her attention, we notice, is mostly on a giant scone she’s spied in the middle of the table. “Wow!” she says, taking it carefully in her hand, as if it were something Neil Armstrong had brought back from the moon. Her tone is always the same, whether she’s meeting a feminist superstar such as Gloria Steinem or fondling freshly baked goods. Even stranger, she and Chelsea sound like they hardly know one another, their faces, in conversation, as enamelled as a pair of Goop cocottes.

Steinem, by the way, isn’t in the comedy episode. She arrives later – I watched four of eight, mostly so you don’t have to – in the one about marriage (again, weird: Steinem has always been vocally anti-marriage). First, she and Hillary pretend to go to the cinema together so they can talk, for a nanosecond, of Audrey Hepburn. Then they visit a jeweller who helps them to make rings of… wax. Again, I cannot explain this, though it’s highly possible I missed something. I was by now deeply distracted by thoughts of what Hillary might reveal about her own marriage. (Photos of the young Bill and Hill kept appearing every five minutes and basically they were once Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw in Love Story, give or take the odd poncho and her Coke-bottle specs.)

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Alas, when the subject finally came up, prompted by the “inspirational” pastor to whom she was then chatting, all Hillary would say was that poor Bill was so “embarrassed and ashamed” about you-know-what. Oh dear. Somehow, Chelsea’s fallback position – love is hard, she and her luxuriant plait mournfully noted – didn’t cut it for me.

But then, none of it did, or does. The mind boggles. Here is the woman I sincerely hoped would be the 45th president of the United States of America trapped like some ebullient mother-of-the-bride in an endless rehearsal dinner where all the speeches comprise nothing but self-help woo-woo and minor-celebrity gossip. Where is her dignity? What has happened to her intellect? How much did Apple spend on this drivel, and what on Earth was her cut?

[See also: House of the Dragon: sex, violence and top notes of incest]

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This article appears in the 07 Sep 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Liz Truss Unchained