Movies in the Basement by Mary Valle

Ironing is a really big deal for me. It's not only a chore, it's a discipline. It's a way of life. It's an upcoming bestselling heartwarming book where someone buys the farm early and someone else is super touched remembering what an asshole that person was. It's going to be written by me, about me, and I will somehow narrate it posthumously.

That work will be called The Iron Matron. Buy it for your computer in a few years and never, ever read it.

Ironing, like all serious body/soul endeavors, has certain requirements. 1) There can be no, no! interference from others 2) The TV must be on and 3) Lots of candy must be consumed.

I think I've found my spot to do this important work. The basement, where no one else can possibly stand to be, even the dog. (An important bonus!) I got a Roku box down there, and my ironing board, which I don't even have to put away because no one else wants to be down there even though half of it is finished fairly nicely in a rather pleasant "basement playroom" fashion, no one really buys that. I used to hate the basement myself until I realized that it has its own benefits, being the least popular real estate in the house. The basement is one of "Chuang-Tzu's gnarled and stinky trees. Be like the fetid tree, the Chinese sage advised, and no one will steal your fruit." So I'm super excited 'cos I've got everything Just the Way I Want it To Be and I'm weirdly convinced that when I get the Roku box going there will be a flood of amazing movies and I'll just be having the time of my life down there.

The problem is that they're still the same old movies that everyone else has. And the interface on Netflix and Amazon makes it kind of hard to browse and find something I might possibly like that I haven't already seen. It is, as I have read somewhere else, like being in a video store in 1986.

So, fine. I'm going to watch some Important Movies from Years Past and, stepping away from their moment, try to understand just what it was that made everyone so excited in the first place. I've got a bag of Smarties, which I currently love since they offer a lot of unwrapping and sorting and general sugariness. They come in different colors and are pill-like, which, frankly, I enjoy (I'm off the meds now — Promise! But a girl can dream) and allegedly have different flavors which are merely different food colors. I have a tanker of fountain diet Coke. Aspartame is the devil for sure. But what's it going to do? Give me cancer? Already happened. Moving on.

My first Basement Movie Special is The Queen. This is one of those important movies from years past that I never saw. I know it's important because of its typeface and the big picture of Helen Mirren's heavily powdered face on the movie's rectangelet. I mistakenly think it's going to be a biopic. Boy, am I wrong. It's a tale of what happened when Princess Diana died and Tony Blair had to tell the Queen that she was going to have to show up and acknowledge the suffering of the people since Diana's death triggered, unexpectedly, a mass-grief freakout.

I would have preferred a biopic, but this is OK, too, since recreational grieving is one of my pet topics. Indeed, Diana's death has been cited as one of the first major incidents in the growing field of grief porn studies. The princess, who had been taken on as suitable breeding stock by the Firm, found she didn't like being in a loveless marriage and tossed over her husband in favor of a life of fun, dodgy boyfriends and lots of clothes. She also was a pretty good mom by all accounts and liked to used her princess superpowers to bring comfort to those in bad situations. Fair enough. The Queen, who saw Diana as no longer being part of the royal family, didn't understand what all the fuss was about, and absconded to a country retreat with the boys in order to privately grieve. Meanwhile, in London, people freaked out more and more each day, as tons of flowers piled up and people camped in front of the palace and cried, openly, railing against the Queen all the while. All I can think is: yuck. All those plastic-wrapped flowers just piling up and going moldy and someone's going to have to come along and cart them to a landfill before rats move in.

Blair, being a younger, British Clinton-lite, accurately gauged the "mood of the people" (not hard, given that they had four or five daily tabloids that spelled it out in gigantic letters every day) had to gently poke and prod the Queen and her attendants until she finally relented, packed everyone up, shewed herself in London, assented to a state funeral, and flew the flag at half-mast.

The film closes with Tony and Her Majesty touring a garden, Corgis trailing behind.

In retrospect, I'm with the Queen. It *was* a private family matter. The English were freaking out for other reasons, mostly due to England's continuing loss of self. Diana came to symbolize much for everyone — like all great celebrities, she served as a slate for all kinds of projections. At this remove, I don't quite feel the magic. Not that the royals or their Firm are all that great — as an aside, it's totally weird that they have to be together all the time — but Diana really wasn't all that amazing. She was actually rather average, which is its own kind of greatness, I suppose. I wanted to see more about the unexpected grief explosion and its aftermath but that's a different movie, for sure. I'd like to see interviews with some of the most afflicted and see if they care any more, or if they've moved on to recreationally grieve elsewhere. The Queen's distaste for the national rending of garments was seen as a sign of being old-fashioned or out of touch, but she was ultimately right. The griefsplosion was unseemly and silly and only set a bad precedent for more like it to come. In fact, the Queen needs to go on TV right now and say "Come now, Earth. We must stop crying like ninnies about things that don't have anything to do with us. There are more important things to do with our lives. Like live them!"

Mary Valle lives and writes in Baltimore. Follow her at @marykvallePhotograph by Ame Laeyendecker.