I just finished watching Season 1 of HBO’s Enlightened, starring Laura Dern and recently released on DVD. It’s an ambitious show that attempts to tackle the complexities of the inner landscape, and what happens when we are in the process of re-shaping core beliefs.
The main character, Amy, has just returned from a stay at a treatment facility following an emotional breakdown in the workplace. At Open Air she learned a variety of meditation and positive thinking techniques which were presented as coping strategies for life’s difficulties. Now thrust back into the real world, with a smattering of new age thinking, she faces the challenge of navigating her “new” life.
For starters, she’s been demoted. And she’s not especially well-liked at work. She also lives under the same roof as her mother. She has a complicated relationship with her ex-husband. Further, with her effusiveness and new age-isms she quickly alienates quite a few people.
To me, the most interesting aspect of this show is the portrayal of someone starting on a spiritual journey. Amy has all of the intensity and excitement of a new practitioner. She wants to share her newfound knowledge with everyone she meets. The trouble is, not everyone is interested. But Amy’s not self-aware enough to see that she’s offending people.
Moreover, she has trouble staying in the mindset because her core beliefs haven’t yet changed. She is in the stage of “talking the talk.” She has this veneer of kindness and acceptance covering up a lot of anger and resentment; she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of letting go. She’s also in the process of learning that it’s not always possible to “follow your heart,” especially since most of the non-profit jobs she applies for don’t pay a living wage.
While I do wonder if the show will appeal to a wider audience, I applaud HBO for attempting to deal with such subtleties, as the screen doesn’t lend itself well to complex relationships and inner dialogue. Those interested in the process of spiritual awakening will likely find the show both heartbreaking and entertaining.