The best show on television right now is HBO’s Enlightened (so few people are watching it that I feel obliged to use hyperbole). Created by Mike White – a vegan whose best-known work is probably the movie School of Rock – the show centers on Amy Jellicoe, a self-destructive executive played by Laura Dern. Below, a preview:
Though the trailer is reminiscent of something Lifetime might churn out, the show itself is considerably more nuanced. Amy’s problem is that her efforts to effect change, both in her own life and in the world around her, tend to go astray; which is something White certainly seems to understand: in one interview he described himself an “erstwhile vegan.”
I challenged myself at the beginning of this blog to become vegan, but that process remains a work in progress. Still, blogging has encouraged me to continue eliminating meat byproducts from my diet.
In addition to Enlightened, White wrote and directed one of my favorite movies – the little-seen Year of the Dog. That film also begins with a breakdown: Peggy (the inimitable Molly Shannon) loses it when her dog dies from toxic poisoning. Again, a preview:
What I love about this film is how it deals with Peggy’s transition to a meatless lifestyle. Though she is in turmoil throughout much of the film, Peggy finds a bit of clarity when she learns about veganism, saying: “It's nice to have a word that can describe you. I've never had that before.”
The people in her life aren’t very accepting of her new diet, viewing it as an extension of her breakdown. Still, at the end of the film she comes to the realization that anyone’s lifestyle can be derided as ridiculous or lacking, and yet that doesn’t make her's any less worthwhile.
In an email to her friends and family she expands on her 'aha' moment:
There are so many kinds of life in this life. So many things to love. The love for a husband or a wife, a boyfriend or girlfriend. The love for children. The love for yourself. And even material things. This is my love. It is mine. And it fills me and defines me. And it compels me on.
Declaring yourself vegan can incite a surprising amount of consternation at the dinner table, but if it makes sense for you, embrace it.