Netflix’s The Watcher Taps Art World’s Class-Anxious Caricatures – | Catch My Job


In 2018, a story by Reeves Wiedemann New York The magazine detailed the haunting account of a couple who, after buying an overpriced home in suburban New Jersey, became the targets of an anonymous stalker. Taunting Derek and Maria Broaddus through anonymous letters, “The Watcher,” the author makes eerie references to their three children and specifics about their domestic life, gathering in the drive-by home.

A fictionalized version of the story is featured in a new Netflix limited series produced by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan. It follows the descent of a married couple, Dean and Nora Brannock (Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts), as they save up their lives to buy a historic mansion outside of New York City. The Brannocks find themselves unable to sell it to avoid anonymous threats. Further threatening the couple’s polished lifestyle throughout the series is an increasingly dire financial situation.

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The Andy Warhol Diaries.  No.  Andy Warhol;  Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

The series presents a cautionary tale about the excesses of the upper middle class and contains a myriad of subtexts of contemporary predicament: financial insecurity, market uncertainty, class warfare, generational strife and paranoia.

More stoking is Murphy and Brennan’s riffs on class tension over the metropolitan elite: The producers draw on a subplot that taps into art world caricatures that usher in some of the show’s campiest moments.

Delivering most of the series’ memorable lines is Karen, a real-estate agent and art school-grad played by Jennifer Coolidge (the actress has gained a recent cult following for her cheap anti-heroine portrayals). As the listing agent for the sprawling estate, Karen runs into Nora at an open house, recognizing each other from their days at RISD. Nora Tribeca talks about her first major show at a new gallery for which she appeared in Tribeca. times.

Throughout the seven episodes of the series, Coolidge reminisces about the concerns of the classically embattled art forms congregating in urban hubs. “I never pictured you ending up in the suburbs,” he tells Nora, a ceramicist on the verge of a mid-career breakout. “You were so curly.”

In the first episode of the series, the two women congratulate each other on getting rich, while lamenting the abandonment of their early-career fantasy of living as grungy artists. Karen tells Nora, “You’re doing it. “I’m not. I think, painting, I’ll just marry rich. That way it’s easier.” These comments play on a lingering image of a beleaguered MFA industry with a reputation for matriculating unskilled graduates and enabling the entitlements of the creative class.

Increasingly in popular culture, writers have begun to embrace commercial art world types as suitable players for plot-lines that draw on dystopian themes. Cate Blanchett and Jake Gyllenhaal have played characters in such projects Manifesto (2015) and Velvet Buzz (2019) The gatekeepers of the art world have to tap into the causal elitism. Julian Rosefeldt’s multiscreen video installation augmented the former characters and surveyed the canon of art history; The latter played a conflicted critic who succumbs to a murderous force while haunted by a dead artist. (Murphy’s most recent art-focused campaign was created by The Andy Warhol Diaries.)

Other economic forces specific to the industrial world come into play in later phases. While the reality of Brannock’s financial situation worsened, Nora’s career flourished in the New York gallery scene. Invited to editions of Art Basel in Miami and Geneva (the latter of which doesn’t actually exist), his dealer invited him to another solo show the following month, selling out a pottery show.

It’s a scene reminiscent of the mid-pandemic climate of the art world. Embracing the decorative, the market for commercial art continued to flourish despite economic hardships without real reason. Nora rose to the unlikely position of being able to support the high-brow lifestyle of a family of four by selling ceramics alone.

The Winslows in “The Watcher.” Courtesy Netflix.

Murphy and his team make an aggressive gesture toward the zeitgeist of the pandemic era. That the security, both financial and material, promised by fleeing to suburban havens is a thing of the country’s past. The show presents a humorous nod to those burdens — it refuses to take them too seriously.

Re-enter the coolies to echo art world clichés “You’re probably thinking, oh, you’re an artist, because you should live in discomfort,” his characters remark to Nora at a country-club lunch. “This is the life they want, it’s all. You shouldn’t feel guilty.”

The Broncos are sometimes seen as the incarnation of the American creative class as envisioned by political commentator David Brooks A consumer class flocked to urban areas whose bohemian values, he argued, were essentially functionalist. Riding high from her solo show, Nora was relieved of earlier worries that if she ever left New York, her career would “just go with it.”

Although it comes up as a theme in several instances starting early in the series, the specter of class tension dominates other scenes as the Broncos are introduced to a band of strange neighbors. Local preservationist Pearl Winslow (played by horror-genre darling Mia Farrow) and her disabled brother Jasper often make random appearances to warn about preserving the house’s historic status.

Throughout various scenes, the Winslow pair are lifted from Grant Wood’s widely parodied 1930 painting American Gothic. The comparisons aren’t exactly subtle: Farrow’s character is an interesting middle-part, with a menacing stare and portrait pendant around his neck, while Jasper is reminiscent of a Depression-era farmer and appears in multiple cameos as the pair confront them carrying a rake. Neighbors (Wood’s character famously holds a three-pronged pitchfork).

Widely seen as a satirical take on a modernizing country and Midwesterners out of touch with rural values, the work is a fitting reference. Throughout the series, the Winslows act as tintypes frozen in the past, positioned as vanguards of local culture. They’re at war with their urban-expat neighbors, whom Pearl describes as a “terrible yuppie couple,” ready to shell out the residence’s antiques with custom updates. “I can see what you think about American history,” Pearl commented. “Total negligence.”


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