A love letter to Brit Marling
Netflix's The OA is the most batshit crazy, phenomenally interesting, earnestly inspiring piece of work I've interacted with in a long while. As far as long-form film storytelling goes, it’s one of my favorite pieces, ever.
It wasn’t until I binged the OA’s first season multiple times that I began investigating the show’s co-creator and lead actress, Brit Marling, who plays the eponymous OA. I learned that she studied economics in college. Upon her graduation, Brit was hired as a Goldman Sachs financial analyst. She hated the job and soon abandoned it to make films with her college friends.
Art grabs us because we see something familiar in it -- that’s my opinion, at least. Learning Brit’s story, I was reminded of the chaotic freedom I felt when I left my job as an Obama appointee to the U.S. EPA… to become an actress. Neither of those paths fit me, but they helped me find the one that does, at least for the moment.
The OA captured me with its fixation on death, or, near-death. YouTube testimonies of near-death experiences have been a long (semi-secret) obsession of mine. If you’re not familiar with this particular corner of YouTube -- a near-death experience (NDE) is a not uncommon, potentially hallucinatory experience reported by folks who have been near death, or declared clinically dead, and returned to this life claiming to have met God. I find these stories fascinating, and have never really met anyone else who shares this fringe-y interest. Until the OA.
And the show is not particularly about NDEs. The plot of The OA... I'm not even going to try to condense it. It’s a dazzlingly complex, occasionally nonsensical work of unrestrained creativity. It's certainly not for everyone.
I was saddened to learn recently that Netflix decided to cancel the OA after its second season, though I wasn’t terribly surprised. As mentioned, the show is fucking weird. Also, it must have cost an absolute bundle to produce.
Season Two ended on a cliff-hanger (of course it did) that heavily implied inter-dimensional travel. A committed fan such as myself could reasonably speculate that the OA's plot line ran directly to the dimension in which you and I exist.
My friends know me as a magical thinker. I know that the reality I perceive through my human brain is profoundly limited. And I find comfort in that.
I feel sick with dread sometimes -- as though my generation is throwing a big plastic and CO2 rager on the Earth before the climate and the bounty of life it supports fundamentally changes.
The OA recognizes that feeling of slow-moving dread and rejects it, offering the audience a world in which we all exist as limitless different varieties of ourselves. The storytellers ask their audience to jump off a logical cliff. It’s an act of artistic bravery, an act of trust.
Today, Brit held my attention once again -- with an Instagram post, acknowledging the show's cancellation, and thanking fans for their rallying cries against Netflix’s decision. The post is worth reading in its entirety, but I'll excerpt my favorite bit below. She begins by reflecting on the trope of the hero's journey:
“... Perhaps, at this late hour inside the dire circumstances of climate change and an ever-widening gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots, we are hundred of years overdue new mythologies," Brit wrote. "Stories with modes of power outside violence and domination. Stories with goals for human agency outside conquest and colonization. Stories that illustrate the power of collective protagonism, or do away with protagonism entirely to illustrate how real, lasting change often occurs -- anonymously organizing, working together, achieving small feats one day at a time that eventually form movement."
I do know something about movement. I recently recorded the following note to myself:
"Don't let the man get you down. He wants you down."
I will end with a pair of hashtags. I invite and encourage you, my reader, to explore the reality of The OA. #SaveTheOA #TheOAisReal