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Planned Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon Biopic of Pete Buttigieg Goes Awry

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Following swiftly on the heels of their disastrous would-be CBS series about the Ghost Ship fire, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman have reportedly spiked another project, a planned biopic of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg called Treacliest Way Home.

Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman

Criticized for lacking any real connection to the East Bay artistic community affected by the 2016 disaster, and for partnering with a New York Times journalist whose gosh-wow profile of Max Harris breezily ignored the blaze’s 36 human victims, Chabon and Waldman also took flak for approaching New Republic writer Dale Peck, whose attempted character assassination of Buttigieg stayed online for almost 12 hours earlier this year before good taste prevailed.

In spite of that inauspicious beginning, Buttigieg quickly warmed to the idea of a cinematic collaboration, even offering working titles such as Necktie on the Dance Floor, My Bloodless Centrism Brings All the Boys to the Reading of the Minutes from Last Month’s Oversight and Regulations Subcommittee Meeting, or I, Beta Kappa

That, however, was before his campaign of non-threatening triangulation and probably not knowing who Shangela is began to take off, a campaign spokesperson said. At a private fundraiser in Napa whose lighting fixture was attacked by the anti-chandelier community, Mayor Pete remained mum on the subject. He further declined to tamp down internet chatter that he was considering Sen. Joe Manchin as a running mate, and also rejected a so-called “marijuana cigarette” containing reefer.

Still, negotiations continued apace, generously underwritten by global management-consulting juggernaut McKinsey & Company. A leaked first draft of the screenplay begins with Buttigieg’s years as an analyst for the firm, making a difference in the world by crunching the numbers on health-insurance overhead expenditures. It then flashes back to his native Indiana, specifically his sophomore-year effort to get alma mater St. Joseph’s High School to add a ninth period dedicated to macroeconomics and his first awkward sexual experience in Knights of Malta cosplay, with occasional subtitles for the parts where he’s talking in stilted Norwegian to no one in particular. 

But Buttigieg apparently bristled at the inclusion of certain biographical details, such as how he got a fake ID at age 15 specifically so he could vote in a city council by-election or that his favorite ice cream flavor is green-bean casserole. When talks with the candidate grew particularly heated, Waldman threatened to commit to different projects, such as a remake of Roots with Scarlett Johansson cast in every role. 

Consequently, critics sensed an opening and pounced, ripping into the trio on Twitter with all the ferocity of an Oakland punk Facebook group denouncing John Waters as an irrelevant homophobe for hosting Burger Boogaloo in Mosswood Park again.

“We believe in the healing power of art,” Waldman tweeted in response to vociferous opposition. “And, like Mayor Pete, we also believe in targeted narrowcasting honed by demographically sorted focus groups. When I read his coming-out letter to his parents, which he wrote on the eve of his deployment to a resume-polishing workshop, it really resonated.”

“I, too, know what true sacrifice is,” she added. “Like not getting on a Times list of Notable Books even though I totally outsell that jerkface Marilynne Robinson.”

“Sure, hon,” Chabon said. “Yeah. Mm-hmm. Totally.”                    

Reportedly, there was also a strained discussion of how to deal with Buttigieg’s amiable husband Chasten, who manages a brisk Twitter account but otherwise prefers to stay out of the limelight.

“Chasten’s not so much a flamboyant Gold Star Gay as a Goldstar gay, combing the internet for discount theater tickets,” Buttigieg said of his husband, who he would do literally anything to avoid seeing Hamilton with. “I, however, am a McKinsey Six.”

Ultimately, the Pulitzer-winning Chabon posed a question that derailed the entire project about the Perfect Attendance Award-winning presidential candidate. Speaking on background, someone with intimate knowledge of the discussions paraphrased it as, “Wait, why doesn’t he run for state Senate first?”

It caused a prolonged silence, but every participant strove to maintain a serene public presence amid the fallout. Responding to a query about whether he strongly disapproved of Waldman’s therapeutic practice of microdosing LSD, as was rumored, Buttigieg dodged the question with, “As a 37-year-old gay man, I’m really just staying in this to hear people refer to me as ‘young.’”

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Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane (they/them) is the Communications Manager for San Francisco Pride and a former editor of SF Weekly.