A fitting fable: Scorpion asked Frog if he would carry him across the river. Frog, afraid of being stung by Scorpion, hesitated.
“Never fear,” Scorpion said. “For if I stung you, we would both drown.”
This placated Frog, and Scorpion climbed on his back for transport across the river. But, halfway through their journey, Scorpion stung Frog.
“You idiot!” Frog cried as paralysis overtook his body. “Now we’ll both drown. Why did you do that?”
“It’s my nature,” Scorpion replied as he and Frog sank.
The fact that former New York representative and one-time NYC mayoral candidate holds this story close to his heart — even offering it as an explanation for his failure — says a lot about Anthony Weiner. He knows what it’s like to be that frog, and he accepts it. If all the world’s a stage and we are merely players, how can you be mad at someone for simply playing their role?
That is the crux behind Weiner, the all-access documentary about the congressman’s rise and resignation due to a sexting scandal and his subsequent mayoral campaign, also derailed by a sexting scandal.
Directed by Josh Kriegman — Weiner’s former chief of staff — and Elyse Steinberg, the documentary is a peek behind the curtain of Weiner’s political career; a career that, if not for a couple of lewd photos, surely would have amounted to one of significance.
Known for his ferocity and gift with rhetoric, Weiner was wildly popular with his constituency as he slammed his colleagues for ludicrous hypocrisy and disgraceful wishy-washy behavior. He married Huma Abedin — top advisor to Hillary Clinton — and was placed on the fast track to the White House. That was, until the sexting scandal broke.
A few unsavory, but not entirely pornographic, pictures cast enough doubt on the seven-term congressman’s validity and in 2011, Weiner resigned. Two years later, he came back, with Abedin by his side, and ran for mayor of New York City. And on July 23, 2013, a mere two months after announcing his candidacy, more Weiner sex chats were leaked to the press and America laughed at the idea of Carlos Danger — Weiner’s alleged sexting pseudonym — for mayor of NYC.
Weiner is a picture of a man against a system that does not want him to succeed. Weiner wanted to be a public figure, and for his sins we made him one. The film portrays Weiner as never having harassed an employee, male or female. It claims he didn’t commit adultery or break up a home. In fact, it points out he never even laid a hand on the women he sent photos to. So according to the filmmakers, in the realm of political sex scandals, Weiner’s sexting was positively adolescent.
But as most of us can still recall, Weiner was accused of sending unsolicited sexting photos to several women who did not ask for them and who had no idea that he was capable of such an act. Those women were victims to be sure, even though the filmmakers were more concerned with how the scandal was portrayed in the public discourse, rather than what Weiner did.
Weiner is a nuanced man in a 72-point Bodoni world, and his actions must be reduced — that is the nature of mainstream political journalism.
The timing for Weiner’s release couldn’t be better. Here is the perfect example of what happens when all players, including the voters, behave according to their nature. If only someone stopped playing that game, broke free of the rules and, just once, made it across that river without drowning. Wouldn’t that be nice?
On the Bill: Weiner. July 27–30, The Boedecker Theater, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7825, thedairy.org.