PRINT Summer 2018


Enlightened, 2011–13, production still from a TV show on HBO. Season 2, episode 8, “Agent of Change.” Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern).

THE ENLIGHTENMENT was over when bohemians and yuppies both started calling themselves enlightened. No tragedy there: Born two centuries earlier, it had had a good life. The New Age wasn’t as inauspicious as it sounded, either. Enlightened is in fact, happily, the title of a very original series on HBO about a spiritualized woman named Amy, played with thrilling sensitivity by Laura Dern, who yearns to speak with her “true voice . . . without bitterness or fear.” That Amy has never heard of parrhesia is not her problem. That Amy’s “true voice” can only be heard in her head, i.e., in her calmly delusional voice-overs, is our problem with her. These solipsistic utterances are too encompassing to be either self-serving or relatable, so vague or huge that they cheapen the rationale of capitalized Enlightenment: “If [my ex-husband] can change,” she says dreamily, “anything is possible.”

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