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.
Thanks for getting Heather and Ree’s collective back. This is why I read all three of you.
Well, Dearie, I ,LOVE your blog just as it is. I am entertained, educated, and inspired by it. I look forward to each new entry. I also read Ms G and thought that was a wonderful “Starbucks” story. It could very well be true. Her reaction to that woman was perfect whether real or imagined..I am always a day late and a latte short for coming up with the “perfect comeback” myself so it felt good to read her response. (I wish I had a John The Baptist and a Jesus to help me keep up with my tiny bit of acreage… can we clone them do you think?)
thanks. Keep up the great work!
I missed the whole mess and I think I’m glad. I don’t care if any of the stories you write are true. I don’t care if your a 23 year old pimply faced young man. I enjoy your stories and most especially the things I learn here.
Would you mind commenting on my blog? I’m curious to know what local eateries you recommend. Not the famous, touristy ones. Something that the locals enjoy. That’s what I’m looking for. Thanks.
Its amazing how up in arms people get about what someone writes on their blog. I actually find myself being careful about how much I share about our life because I don’t want to deal with the freaks
You know, I don’t really care if the blogger gives the entire truth. I read the blogs for snippets of wisdom and entertainment. For inspiration. I enjoy The Pioneer Woman. I enjoy yours. I take from it what is applicable to me and ignore the rest. Bloggers are free to give me a snapshot of their life, even if it is not strictly representational.
Now from my RL friends I expect a higher standard. That is the difference between reading blogs and having coffee/tea/wine and discussing our mutual lives in person.
In fact, my more succinct comment is “enjoy blogs for what they are …. and get a life.”
We all wear different masks for different people and situations. I am not the same person when watching a football game with friends as the one who is attending a business meeting. Building a set of assumptions based on one dimly revealed aspect of a person’s life and using that to denounce that person reveals more about the accuser than the accused.
I try to keep foul language off my blog, but if you heard me talk at certain unfortunate times, you’d find I am not above cursing. So, does that make me a hypocrite? Probably in the strictest sense. I’m not keeping the language clean online to make anyone think better of me – I was raised to be polite and well spoken in public, and that cursing was a poor way to express yourself. Plus, it’s against my religion. But, I am a sinner as well.
I haven’t managed to have the same face for everyone, and neither has anyone else I’ve ever encountered. Too bad there are so many who haven’t figured that out yet, and realized they are major hypocrites themselves.
Glad to see you stopping by, Jeffro. I was thinking of you this week when I picked up my new shotgun and tried it out for the first time. I will be strictly observing your Four Rules. In fact, I’m going to incorporate them into tomorrow’s blog post.
Great. I just spent the last 40 minutes investigating this “dust up” that I was completely in the dark about!! Very intriguing. I guess I didn’t see the harshest comments because those that I read on the PW post didn’t seem that much worse than I would have expected about a “semi controversial” topic. Shame that she resigned from continuing to post at PW…I see her point, but I would have figured she’d stand up to those who were trying to bully her and no let them “win.” I guess it was mainly over PW not standing up for her…
But what do I know…..
Thanks for tying up my evening 😉
The dust-up and what really happened were well and thoroughly discussed on The Women’s Colony and my post here was on a tangential subject. But in short, the whole thing went very ugly very quickly with the trolls heading over the the Women’s Colony and posting hateful comments on that site. Then they started CALLING Mrs. G at home and even posting hateful stuff to her kids’ Facebook pages. PW did a good job of scrubbing out the comments on her site, (which we know she did as the hateful comments went up, then disappeared). Of course, she has the right to moderate as she sees fit. The problem was she then used her scrubbed site as “proof” that she didn’t need to step in and call off the radical fringe of her fandom. And we all know a short post or intro from PW saying, “I will not tolerate this behavior and will block you” would have deflected most of the trolls.
To those of us who emailed her and politely asked if she would step in as the situation was becoming very frightening, she privately emailed us “Aw Shucks, ain’t nothin’ happenin’ here” messages, then opted out of the whole thing. Which was very disingenious, since she commissioned the article, paid for it, edited it and approved it before posting. That makes her — separate and apart from her Internet persona — an employer and a publisher, a role many of us felt does certainly mandate an ethical responsibility to protect her contributor.
But then again, my point in this post is that she has the right, in her Internet persona, to be any damn thing she pleases.
Very good points you make here. I’ve often wondered that about the new phenomenon, Sleep Talkin Man. (Heard of it? If not, it’s pretty funny stuff) When you become that well known, there is a lot of pressure to maintain the same level of attraction that drew people in. I agree that creative license is acceptable, within limits. Interesting points….