The biggest fight I ever had with my mom was on a winter afternoon in high school when she tried to convince me that I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker when I grew up. For some reason, I was completely averse to this idea and absolutely furious that she would try to force me down a path of writing, directing, discovering, creating…doesn’t that sound miserable? The fight is particularly ironic now, since there is nothing I love more than an esoteric documentary about weird people doing something that is, in one way or another, totally fascinating.
“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” showcases one of my favorite fascinations: important people fucking up. When the Spitzer scandal broke, I was definitely a hater. Democratic politics aside, I didn’t know much about his time as New York’s Attorney General, he gave a terrible graduation speech at my alma mater in 2006, and he slept with prostitutes while a doting wife and three daughers waited at home. That was about all I needed to know.
“Client 9” left me humming a different tune. I thought I knew the story about Spitzer’s downfall, but it turns out I didn’t: as a bit of a conspiracy theorist, this documentary left me reeling about the double standards that run rampant in Washington, in the media, and it turns out in my own head. Spitzer himself gives a lengthy interview in the film, and one part of his questioning stuck with me. The interviewer asks, “Why pay for sex? Why get involved with the prostitution ring?” Spitzer responds by explaining that he thought having sex with a prostitute seemed better and less damaging than actually having a relationship with someone — and as he was talking, I completely agreed with him. The way he explains it, and the way the documentary depicts the Emperor’s Club services, the prostitute part didn’t really seem to bother me at all, and I found myself wondering why he isn’t still the Governor of New York. Even now I am wondering why.
I understand that Eliot Spitzer’s actions were unjustifiable and wrong, and the hypocrisy of it all made the scandal that much worse. But the documentary “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” made me question how wrong, and if the scandal was worthy of complete disgrace.