Evan Morgan Williams’s enthralling piece “Michael Says” deals with perception in several ways. It’s the story of a sort of forest resort, a place where tourists go to get away and relax but seem to have no idea about the communal, free love lifestyle led by the workers. From the point of view of Charlotte, a young woman who has spent several summers working for Michael, we watch the transformation of Jenny, the newcomer. According to Charlotte, “Jenny is sweet and simple, and we love her so much we call her Boxelder Beetle, a dark bug that squishes easily, a meal for a kingbird, a husk by autumn.” Already in this description we see Jenny’s frailty, the naive willingness that Charlotte and the other women will take advantage of later on. Michael—the alluringly mysterious leader of the ranch—has his pick of the women, and Jenny wants her turn. So, Charlotte instructs one of the other women to give Jenny “remarkable eyes” by way of a henna tattoo. Though the ensuing conversation gives the impression that the women want to teach and protect Jenny, they end up using their elder status to sabotage her chances and make her look foolish.
While a number of the pieces in MAKE kept me engaged, I have to say that the true standouts were the works of nonfiction—and I feel like I don’t say that very often. “Notes on Housewives” by Dana Masden juxtaposes scenes from The Real Housewives of Orange County with an honest account of Masden’s own struggles with anxiety and depression, both commenting on and finding solace in the ridiculousness of reality TV.
In “Magic,” Daniel Maidman discusses his attempt to recapture the true purpose of his paintings after losing his artistic footing. And in Regina Drexler’s moving “New Realities,” the author watches dumbstruck as her abusive ex-husband becomes the star of a reality show about newly jailed inmates. Not only does a change occur in that Drexler sees, “in the wide eyes of the person who had terrified [her] for as long as [she] could remember, that he was afraid,” but also that he’s using his fame to make her look as awful as possible.
Directly addressing the camera, he said, “My ex put me in jail.” Hey, I thought, he’s talking about me. He went on to explain that I put him in jail to punish him because he wanted to divorce me, so vindictive because I was so hurt he had left me. My next thought was, that’s not what happened. His new tale was different from his prior, off-the-air story.In the end, Drexler is able to “reclaim the person [she] was.” But, along the way, she has to protect her sons and her own image from a number of TV stations and dreaded Reddit commentators.
As an issue that’s dedicated to visual culture, it’s no surprise that the artwork featured in MAKE is impressive. Kelsey Zigmund’s “TV Dad is Disappointed” shows you exactly that and is so perfectly amusing that it led me to her website (which is filled with other, equally great illustrations). In short, MAKE has something for everyone, and it’s sure to please even the pickiest reader.