Amazon is really creating a complex mixture of capitalist revulsion and artistic excitement today: in a vow to monopolize yet another industry, the company announced a $13.7 billion deal to take over already-shittily-“beyond union” behemoth-with-an-excellent-cheese-section Whole Foods. The conduct of its parent company can make it hard to see Amazon’s engagement with art via Amazon Studios — with its prestigious, wonderful, artful, and often socially nuanced work (Transparent! I Love Dick!) — as more than a forward-thinking mask on the ugly face of a corporation that seeks to own every aspect of American life.
And, erm, that mask just got even more awesome! Squee!/ugh!/capitalism is emotionally confusing! The Hollywood Reporter announced this morning that “Sea Oak,” one of George Saunders’ best short stories, is being adapted as a TV pilot (starring Glenn Close) for Amazon’s streaming service. The short story centered on a poor family living in a rundown neighborhood, in a fictional low income housing development called Sea Oak. The narrator of the story is a male stripper, and when his Aunt Bernie — the unmarried woman who’s served as the family’s matriarch, and spent her whole life supporting them with her job at DrugTown — dies, her body doesn’t want to stay put. It shows up at the house, and suddenly zombie-Aunt Bernie is a much harsher family leader: “You, mister, are going to start showing your cock,” she instructs her nephew, so that he can make enough money to go to community college. Her dictatorial zombie body starts decaying, but she continues to give sexualized advice about how to make it out of poverty in America.
George Saunders wrote the pilot adaptation of his story, as well — and Close will star as the decaying zombie aunt. If it gets picked up to series following the pilot (Saunders + Close = it’d be crazy if it weren’t), it’d be Close’s first series regular role since Damages. If the series lasts long enough, maybe there’ll be a plotline where the Sea Oak housing project gets demolished and Whole Foods gets to replace it!