Throughout Hillary, which premiered yesterday on Hulu, Burstein splices archival clips from Clinton’s career with footage from her 2016 campaign. “I was the one who didn’t figure it out… I have to take responsibility.” This is a Clinton less guarded, showing her pain—and her pride. “I realize that young women today come from a different mentality.” Clinton grew up in an era when women rarely appeared in politics, she explained, and as much as that’s changed, the women’s movement requires longevity to succeed. “I am the most investigated innocent person in America,” she jokingly laments at one point. As Clinton talks about how she saw her loss “as the really historic turning point that lit the fuse” for women, a montage plays, showing clips of notable female politicians (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Abigail Spanberger, Donna Shalala) and Democratic presidential candidates, including Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. These moments provide a stark contrast to the Clinton seen in archival footage, who trained herself to temper her reactions in public after early mishaps drew backlash. It’s a call-and-response—here’s a scene from her 2016 run; now here’s what informed it—and it’s effective in its straightforward presentation. No one has shattered the glass ceiling she cracked. “A woman candidate? She weaves together proof of hatred (a clip of her being burned in effigy for pushing health-care reform as first lady in 1994) and of ardent adoration (news footage of women walking 13 hours to see her in India when she visited in 1995)—sequences that paint a picture of Clinton as a public figure who inspires visceral reactions. These contrasting snapshots accentuate Burstein’s point: that Clinton’s gender both helped and hindered her in unpredictable ways. As a veteran of telling stories about controversial subjects, Burstein knew a documentary about one of the most prominent modern political figures would likely be short on revelations. But only one woman—Tulsi Gabbard, who doesn’t appear in the montage—remains in the race. And that’s going to be the contest.”. She was scrutinized because of it, policed because of it, loved for it, hated for it. Those videos—culled from about 1,700 hours documenting the former presidential candidate on the road—had originally been shot by Clinton’s team in the hopes of making a retrospective film about her bid for office. (A network’s slate preview doesn’t usually feature guests who come with a Secret Service presence.) Hillary frames the Clinton of yesteryear as a woman who learned that to be taken seriously as a lawmaker, she’d have to wear a mask. She also spoke with journalists who covered Clinton closely and the Republican former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. “[Nanette] had really mastered my life,” Clinton marveled, adding that Burstein spent a year studying her before turning the camera on. “I was totally emotionally wrecked. She wasn’t informed of the list of sources Burstein had reached out to, or whether the footage would be turned into a film or a series, or whether anything she said in her 35 hours of interviews—“marathons,” as she put it—would be useful. I felt like I let everybody down,” she says in the final episode. To Burstein, that fascination—positive or negative—with Clinton made for the perfect gateway to explore her own interests in the docuseries. “This is the first time she hasn’t had to be careful,” Burstein said. History tends to repeat itself, after all. “I really wanted more Republicans in it, but it was hard to get them to do that,” she told me. The fake news propaganda, especially with Facebook not reining in false ads—that will help people who spread false information.’” She added, “So the press has to be more vigilant; voters have to be more vigilant; social media should take more responsibility, which apparently only some will do, not all. Hillary is a history lesson and a biopic, a celebration of and an elegy for a long political career, and most of all, a warning and an appeal to finish a job. “They called me, and they told me I had inspired them to run.”. I’ve tried to make a difference and to promote causes that I believe in.”, Today, she’s passionate about changing the judgmental attitudes toward female politicians, to pave the way for the next Hillary Clinton. As she spoke, she waved her arms to demonstrate, her bangles jangling as she mimicked her male opponents. I just want everybody to understand that.”. When Clinton agreed to participate in Hillary, she wasn’t quite sure what she was in for. When reflecting on her attempts to reform health care as the first lady, she admits that she made “a mistake.” When talking about her 2016 primary opponent and current presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, she calls him a “career politician” who “got nothing done,” to the consternation of Sanders’s supporters. Even with her exclusive access to Hillary Clinton and an array of her friends and staffers, the director understood that she’d be covering the same bases as Clinton’s own memoirs. Burstein, heard in a few scenes but never appears on camera, encourages her subject to explain why she’s been asked to answer for the same things year after year and why she’s the topic of such fervent debate—a subject Clinton has thought about endlessly. She’d hoped her extensive research would help Clinton process her past more deeply and openly when the time came for their interviews. There’s no guarantee that any of these rights that have been won and barriers that have been crossed won’t be pushed back on. Her voice rises, and somehow that’s over a line.” An ever-shifting one, apparently. And when she discusses her loss to Donald Trump, she’s forthright. Clinton’s bluntness emerges throughout the docuseries. Burstein laughed after sharing the anecdote. “As I got deeper into [studying Clinton], I really felt like, well, this is an opportunity to understand some of the things I most care about, which is the history of contemporary feminism in the United States, and the history of partisan politics and how that works,” she told me. “Because none of that is secure. The docuseries ends on the same cautiously optimistic note. Burstein makes the case that until a female politician can be seen as simply a politician, little will change. “It will be, ‘Oh, this is too fluffy,’ or ‘This is too critical. It was all over the place.”. But Burstein had hoped to have more conservatives go on the record. Despite the title, Hillary isn’t really about Hillary. Burstein and I spoke in January in Pasadena, California, shortly after she introduced the docuseries as part of Hulu’s presentation for the Television Critics Association press tour.
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