21 July 2010

Some Crazy Shit Is Going On Around Here

Toni Collette playing T, one of her six or seven
alter-egos in United States of Tara
Last night, I finished my United States of Tara marathon, which has about two seasons out already. The series is written by Diablo Cody, who got her biggest break doing the film Juno.

You know that song from Alanis Morissette which goes --- ♬ I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint...♬?? This applies so much to what is going through Tara's head. Being a lunatic can't even begin to describe how her thought process goes.

Tara has DID or Dissociative Identity Disorder, otherwise known as MPD or Multiple-Personality Disorder. She has, so far, exhibited seven personalities, including her real self ---

  • T - is her 16 year old alter, a rebellious, sexually starved, pot-smoking, potty-mouthed personality. We find out later, T, has been the name everyone used to call Tara at boarding school.
  • Buck - is her beer-loving alter, who believes he used to be a war veteran as much as he believes he has a penis.
  • Alice - is her Stepford-wife alter. We find out later that Tara has patterned this after a "foster parent". Why she and her sister had to live in foster care for a while had something to do with why all these personalities appear in her head.
  • Gimme - is her freakiest alter. Tara herself describes it as an "evil, rabid squirrel" and seems to come out only when Tara's super frustrated and her emotions cannot handle it.
  • Shoshana - appeared in the middle of the second season as this psychedelic therapist. I'd like to think that of all of Tara's personalities, this is the one that truly understands what is going on in her head. 
  • Chicken - came out during the last two episodes of Season 2 and is Tara's very cute 5 year old alter-ego.

In Season 1, it was believed Tara had developed DID after getting raped in boarding school. But as it turns out, her mental problems were deeply rooted.

Season 2 explored a lot more of these secrets as Tara keeps getting all these dreams and flashbacks from her childhood. Tara has blocked a lot of the trauma from her memory. But in order to cure herself, saving her family and her marriage, she has to find the answers.

This finally happened when, in a very emotional season 2 finale, her mother revealed that Tara's disorder was a defense mechanism against an abusive half-brother (Bryce) who had come to live them for a while. Tara and her sister, Charmaine, were 5 and 4 year old kids, respectively that time. When Tara told her parents what Bryce had been doing to her, and fearing that Charmaine would be subjected to the same abuse, the two girls had been sent to foster care.

It is so poignant to think that with all the crazy shit going on in Tara's family --- like her son's sexual experiments as a gay guy or her daughter's misguided direction into adulthood ---  the craziest characters in this series aren't Tara and her alters, or even her sister, Charmaine, who also exhibits a lot of emotional scars. The craziest characters, to me, are actually Tara's parents!  What kind of people would hide this fact from their very distraught daughter, all these years?  And as Tara so strongly conveyed to her mom, angered upon knowing that they knew all along why she had gone mental --- "A mother has to protect her daughter!" --- Her mother didn't.

It would be interesting to see what's going to happen in the third season. Bryce's existence has yet to be fully explored. Is he alive? Is he well or miserable? Is he remorseful or not sorry at all? Will he continue to be a threat if he ever sees Tara and Charmaine again? Will his re-appearance trigger another alter to come out? Will one of Tara's alters eventually kill him? Or will Max, Tara's husband, do that for her?

Ahhh, Max, Tara's husband. At the end of the second season, and putting up with a lot of the mess that went on, Tara had to ask --- how did he get to be so perfect???

I was watching Tara with my own husband and at one point I had to ask him whether he would stick up for a wife this crazy. The realistic reply would be that --- no husband can't. But then again, this is make-believe TV and Max, the "perfect" husband that he is, stayed married to this woman for eighteen years (and still counting!), not knowing sometimes if he would wake up next to his wife or one of her alters. Tara admits to cheating on Max about 33-35 times, when her alters take over her body. Max, however, doesn't come without flaws. He's no saint and he does break apart and gets frustrated with Tara, too. But at the end of the day, he stays married to all of Tara. It takes a real man to put up with that kind of shit.

United States of Tara also stars John Corbett as Max (husband), Rosemarie Dewitt as Charmaine (sister), Brie Larson as Kate (daughter) and Kiel Gilchrist as Marshall (son).

Toni Collette has won an Emmy for Best Actress for this show last year. She is once again nominated for the same award this year.  If she would win come August, it should be no surprise.