It was a rested and relaxed Hillary Clinton that graced the stage at the Television Critics Association Winter 2020 press tour, ready and willing to delve into her own backstory in promotion of the Hulu four-part documentary series exploring her life.
‘Hillary’: Hulu Documentary Looks at a Historic Life, as Secretary Clinton Warns Voters
Hillary Clinton Warns Voters to Take 2020 Election Seriously, Opens Up in New Hulu Documentary
Joining Clinton on-stage was “Hillary” director Nanette Burstein, who explained why what began as a campaign documentary ended up as so much more.
“It was so remarkably emblematic of our history over the last 40 years, particularly when it comes to women’s rights,” Burstein said. “The way that [Clinton] has been the tip of the spear in various ways and how it overlapped with these various, huge historical moments.”
“More than anything, I wanted people to understand that this is a historical figure who is incredibly polarizing and why,” she continued. “When you actually get to know her and really understand the intimate moments of her life […] you realize how misguided we can be in the way that we understand history and media. That is the beauty of documentary filmmaking: that you get to know the personal and the intimate and the details, and that sort of washes all of this other stuff away.”
Set to premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary utilizes around 35 hours of interviews between Clinton and Burnstein, giving the former Secretary of State plenty of time to reflect upon why she became such a cultural flashpoint and what, exactly, makes her so divisive, both politically and otherwise.
“I became a kind of Rorschach Test for women and women’s roles as soon as I burst onto the public scene when Bill was running for president,” Clinton reflected, admitting that she’d lived for more than 40 years at that point and had no understanding of what living your life into the brightest spotlight would entail.
“For example, when Bill asked me to lead our efforts on universal healthcare, it seemed pretty standard to me because I had done similar things in Arkansas on education,” she continued. “Little did I know that it would create the most extraordinary backlash that the First Lady would be involved in trying to make sure everybody had quality, affordable healthcare in our country.
There was so much backlash, actually, that Burnstein found footage of her being burned in effigy, all for wanting affordable healthcare for the entire country.
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“Part of it was the timing that I came on the national scene,” she said, describing her actions in the White House as “extremely controversial.” In a way, Clinton explained, she was the “first First Lady” of her generation, someone who had been toiling in the professional workforce since she was a young woman.”
To that end, Clinton appeared to understand that she was not blameless when it came to the public’s feelings towards her, a realization made all the more clear after watching the documentary.
“There were a lot of humbling moments,” she said. “One was the recognition that I have been often, in my view, obviously, mischaracterized, misperceived, and I have to bear a lot of the responsibility for that. That whatever the combination of reasons might be, I certainly didn’t do a good enough job to break through a lot of the perceptions that were out there.
“It was quite common for people who knew me, who worked with me, worked for me, were colleagues of all sorts, to shake their heads at the way I was portrayed. And I would just kind of blow it off, brush it off, and not think about it. But this process, which was so intense — I mean, 35 hours is a lot of time to spend with somebody — and to realize that I’m not any different than I was, but perhaps I could have and should have found ways to better present myself or deal with some of the misperceptions were out there.”
Of course, as a private citizen, Clinton can spend far less time worrying about what the general public thinks of her and more advocating for the very soul of the country. Key to righting the ship that has drifted so far off course comes down to a few simple seeming tasks: Vote. And hold fast to the truth.
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“It’s going to be up to every voter, not only people who vote in Democratic primaries, to recognize this is no ordinary time. This is an election that will have such profound impact,” Clinton said. “So take your vote seriously, and for the Democratic voters, try to vote for the person you think is most likely to win because at the end of the day, that is what will matter.”
“And not just the popular vote,” she painfully, but necessarily, added, “but the Electoral College, as we’ve learned.”
“We’ve got to somehow understand that you can’t make good decisions in a democracy if we can’t even agree on basic facts,” Clinton continued, “if we can’t have some understanding of what the evidence is on which we base our decision making.”
“I hope that voters, citizens, activists, everybody who knows you have a stake — which is everybody — in the kind of future we should build together, does speak out, does use whatever platform you have to say, “Wait a minute.” You can disagree with the facts, but there are facts. You can choose not to vaccinate your children, but there are facts. You can choose not to believe in climate change, but there are facts. And somehow, we’ve got to shoulder that responsibility, not only at the political leadership level, but literally at the citizen, activist, concerned human being level.”
“Hillary” premieres on March 6 — three days after Super Tuesday — on Hulu. Check out the first trailer for the documentary series below.