How Mandy Patinkin's Family Twitter Became a Vehicle for Change

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March, many adults returned to their parents’ houses to flee lonely city apartments or sheltering in place with prickly roommates. Gideon Grody-Patinkin, 34, was one of them — but instead of regressing in his childhood bedroom and sniping at Mom and Dad, he helped his father, actor Mandy Patinkin, launch an extremely popular Twitter presence featuring his parents… being parents: fighting, joking, telling stories and being completely clueless about pop culture. Not content to just amuse, however, Patinkin and his actress wife Kathryn Grody soon turned the feed into a full-blown voting initiative.

“The biggest comments we get are, ‘Will you adopt me?’ and ‘They’re exactly like my parents except they’re not black or Indian or…’ I thought every Jewish parent in the world was exactly the same but it’s more universal than that,” Gideon tells Rolling Stone, explaining how the first video he shot was his parents walking down a country road, discussing their first date — April 16th. When the video got a huge response — it currently has more than 400,000 views — they kept posting: Patinkin deleting his wife’s spam email, the duo trying to floss and Grody thrashing Patinkin again and again while playing Gideon’s “Pop Culture Quizzes.” Grody-Patinkin says he has more than 55 hours of his parents’ stories on his phone but doesn’t plan on using the footage for anything aside from Twitter as of now.

Patinkin, who launched his Twitter in 2017, has been a vocal supporter of the International Rescue Committee, so the family decided to use their new platform to support that organization — until the anti-police brutality protests broke out following George Floyd’s death. The election was drawing near and chaos reigned. “Gideon’s notion was twofold then,” Grody said. “One was to comfort people in a strange way, distract them: We’re normal, we look like crap, I look just like my dog. Then we started educating ourselves on these incredible grassroots organizations that are doing such amazing work.”

The pair started a letter-writing campaign via their Twitter, asking followers to write letters to voters and get them registered to vote via VoteForward. They also shared videos in which they wrote their own letters. “We simply say, please vote, make sure you vote,” Patinkin says. “We’re trying to save our democracy, our climate, bring science back to the forefront. I just want everyone to know: You don’t need to be a newspaper writer or a celebrity or a rich person to have power in this country. Right now you are the most powerful individual in the United States. If you are a citizen and do not exercise that power to vote, I am not exaggerating, that is a crime against humanity.”

At first, the pair were a bit wary about social media and Twitter; Grody admits that she wasn’t previously familiar with the concept of “streaming” and Patinkin is proud to say he just learned to reply to tweets without Gideon’s help (“I’m going to be awarded a Senior Post Ability Prize!” he jokes) but have slowly come around to the power of the platform. (Although Patinkin says he’s loath to use Twitter too much lest to delete the whole thing.)

“I’m part of the generation that focused on the negative power of social media,” Grody says. “Some 16-year-olds talking about makeup and cupcakes? Having 16 million followers and being an influencer, to me, was just a sign of superficiality and commercialism — much less the disinformation. The QAnon insanity and all that. But I have been educated about how it works both ways and now I’m really moved by the millennials. A lot of old progressives like myself who came of age during the civil rights movement and Vietnam and the beginning of climate change had a kind of arrogance about our activism. And the fact is we didn’t do enough.”

The family’s latest voting effort involves Patinkin’s most famous role: Inigo Montoya from 1987’s The Princess Bride, based on William Goldman’s 1973 novel. The cast plans to reunite on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET for a virtual table read in support of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Cary Elwes organized the event, which also features Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane, the film’s director Rob Reiner and “special guests.” (Grody-Patinkin, of course, will help his father set up the stream.)

Texas Senator — and Princess Bride fan — Ted Cruz recently expressed disappointment that the stream will be supporting the Democratic party in a swing state. “Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father,” Cruz wrote on Twitter, quoting Patinkin’s character. “Every Princess Bride fan who wants to see that perfect movie preserved from Hollywood politics makes it now.”

“Well, first of all, Senator Cruz, were you not politicizing it when you use this family favorite to win votes?” Patinkin says in response. “You quote every line in the movie at political events to win favor and get applause and make people laugh. I will ask him for the umpteenth time to read the final words that Inigo Montoya says in the Princess Bride: ‘You know, it’s strange. I have been in the revenge business so long now that it’s over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.’ And we in this country and Senator Cruz have been living in a revenge mentality. In a greedful, hateful, revengeful, restricting refugees, materialist [society when] our country was based on welcome.”

He continues: “When I go out and sing, I’ve often said, I’m not the artist. I’m just a mailman. I’m the mailman for the geniuses who wrote down what they wished for themselves and often could not realize in their lifetime, but those wishes were preserved forever. Goldman repeatedly says in the Princess Bride — to the last moment, when the grandfather leaves the room, he has him say to the boy, ‘As you wish.’ And these are wishes that need to be heard — that artists leave us forever. And Senator Cruz should realize that nothing’s being politicized. A wish is being expressed in a variety of ways. And he should hear the wishes for true love from every corner of the universe, for every human being in the universe, whatever color or race or creed or religion or home you come from. And that’s what I wish for: for Senator Cruz to start embracing true love like the Princess Bride and the definition of true love.”

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