Michael Shannon is Your Key to Sanity

Evan McGarvey explains the path to enlightenment via Michael Shannon.
By    February 1, 2018

Evan McGarvey knows Midnight Special—not Stranger Things—is the new E.T.

Since the Sunkist-colored Constitutional Crisis took office, I’ve felt a foggy blend of anger, grief, and Cassandra-esque “can’t we [other whites] see what we’ve allowed to happen!” ire. Shabby and privileged as my emotions may be, they remain.

So while I’m dubious about the idea of white men seeking out self-care, I have allowed myself one consistent source of spiritual nourishment. Everyday I make time to turn my eyes to the most committed, most urgent white man around: Michael Shannon.

I take the clip of him melting down in Take Shelter like a Milanese banker takes espresso: a double at 7 AM to steel oneself for the day’s demands. In the evening, I watch the end of Midnight Special as a digestif. Dealing with a crap colleague? Summon a GIF of Nelson Van Alden from Boardwalk Empire.  Excessively milquetoast friend? Shannon reading the riot act to Leo and Kate in Revolutionary Road.  

Maybe it’s not quite self-care. Maybe it’s closer to the ripple of effort and energy that some find at the gym. Michael Shannon is a bit like watching peak Tony Allen guarding Austin Rivers (in this metaphor, as in life, Austin Rivers represents all things blithely spoiled). Akin to DMX snapping “you think it’s a game?” Evocative of Pizza Rat fighting a hawk at the top of a burning factory. In short, Michael Shannon is not here for your bullshit.

In an era of both-sides drivel, he afflicts. Crummy political journalists in rimless glasses fritter over Why Does This Suburb Love Trump? essays as our wilderness is sold off and families are being destroyed by Boss Hogg ICE agents. In contrast, Michael Shannon said that Trump voters are “ready for the urn” and that “We’re going to need a lot of vengeance movies in the next four years.” In public! He says these things in public while promoting movies! The least you can do is put a little verbal pressure on that colleague who “hates how political the Grammy’s/ football/the ongoing American Experiment has gotten!” Shannon’s wild Book of Numbers energy blesses all that it touches.

When the very dumb fish sex movie received a bunch of Oscar nominations last week, I knew who got it there. In it, Shannon plays an evil military guy out to control the Dover sole miracle dude and eliminate the saintly disabled lady who loves him. He’s the film’s engine and the only thing that’s not an airless attempt at transcendence. 

I’ve now watched two episodes of the new Waco miniseries and I can report that it is timely, well cast, and more respectable than it is gripping. Shannon plays the chief FBI negotiator. He chews through the piddling expository dialogue. He’s the man in the middle for both the characters and the actors’ performances. He gives us a stew of frustration and confusion and teeth-grinding attempts at patience all mingled together. He’s the last good federal law enforcement officer in Texas and you believe him.

Why? Because it’s Michael Shannon and you can feel each rock-ribbed emotion rise even when he’s forced to tamp it down around his wife or his bureau superiors. Maybe there’s a lesson in that too. As much as I’ve used anger for fuel these last twelve months, my patron saint might be showing me another way. I don’t have to have anger be my only fuel. There’s justice in restraint. Moderation in all things, they tell me, even in anger.