There was a recent dust-up over here involving The Pioneer Woman, the enormously successful cookin’, photographin’, homeschoolin’ Oklahoma blogger who’s built her brand as an Aw-Shucks country girl wife of a cattle rancher. I’m not going to weigh in on the controversy. Enough’s been said about that. But what struck me, in the course of the fall-out, was that the usual criticism of successful bloggers was thrown out on the table — “Her life isn’t really the way she portrays it. She’s not exactly the person she projects herself to be.”
My response? Of course not! It’s the InterWebs. The late great Quentin Crisp once said, “Movies are life with the boring bits taken out.” I’d say that goes double for a blog where you are trying to feed the damn thing nearly every day, hold on to readers and maybe attract some new ones. If Pioneer Woman or Dooce or any other successful blogger detailed their lives in excruciatingly mundane detail — who would read? Okay, some would say PW and Dooce do just that. But I’d wager they actually cherrypick just one or two things that happened to them in the course of a day. Those things that have the ability — maybe with some embellishment and a little Photoshopping — to serve up some entertainment value. That’s life with the boring bits taken out.
I readily accept that the Internet Pioneer Woman and the Internet Dooce might not be the same people recognizable to their closest friends. Same way I accept that the “character” of Ben Franklin in The Autobiography of Ben Franklin was the wiley old Founding Father’s created public persona, the one he wanted posterity to remember. Winston Churchill got it when he said, “History will treat me kindly. For I shall write it.”
Okay, I’m drawing the line at outright fraud and lies such as the whole A Million Little Pieces debacle. I’m with Oprah on that. And I certainly wouldn’t want any bloggers to check their ethics, morals and responsibilities at the door when putting on their “Internet faces”. But hey, it’s Show Biz! That’s the land where serial killer Aileen Wuronos, who looked like 20,000 miles of bad road, is played by Glamazon Charlize Theron. You see where I stand. I’m not one of those people who devour those glossy magazine photo spreads with “Stars. They’re just like us” articles. I don’t want to see my stars spilling lattes on themselves, looking frumpy at Trader Joe’s or splitting the seams of their ill-fitting sweatpants. I can see that in my own life, thank you. Nope, I want entertainment. And if they, or a blogger, stops providing it, I tune out.
For example, one of my favorite bloggers, Mrs. G over at The Women’s Colony, recently told a great story about a near smackdown she had at Starbucks with a rude and abusive woman. It was a great catharsis for those of us who have been on the receiving end of public bad behavior, yet have been too taken aback for action. However, the genius detail that had me on the floor was that Mrs. G perpetrated this smackdown wearing an I [heart] Books T-shirt. Okay, what if that was an embellishment? What if she wasn’t wearing that T-shirt on that particular day? What if, in fact, she doesn’t even own such a T-shirt? Heck, what if the scene was only played out in her mind as what she should have done in hindsight and if she’d not been so nonplussed? I say “no harm, no foul”. No names were mentioned, no descriptions were given. If it was fiction or part fiction or just “enhanced”, it was a heck of a story, great writing and gave me my laugh of the day.
Isak Dineson, she of Out of Africa fame, wrote how the Kikuyu tribespeople on her farm were culturally uncomfortable with the direct questions of Europeans. If Dineson said, “How many cows do you have?”, they’d most likely look away and say something to the tune of “As many as I told you yesterday.” Her conclusion: “They were not strictly truthful, but, in a grand manner, sincere.” That’s all I’m asking of the bloggers I read.
So now I’ve probably cast doubt on the goings on here at Two Terrier Vineyards. I believe I’ve openly stated my position in my How Did We Get Back to the Land page. I quoted the words of fictional Huckleberry Finn when Mark Twain “asked” him to review the book named after him: “Most of it were true, but some of it were stretched.”
Or as John the Baptist — our most excellent trails builder, protector of local flora and forest spirit — says “I like being a character on your blog.”
See, he gets it.