Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Need to Believe

NPR had the scoop: LonelyGirl is fictional. The 15 year-old video blogger, intellectually stifled by her parents, is the concoction of a pair of amateur screenwriter/filmmakers, as interpreted by actress Jessica Rose.

Just another Gotcha from the culture that brought you James Frey, John Karr, and Chapacubras of Maine.

We do love a good story, especially a too-good-to-be-true story. We speak of people being "in character," "acting out," "editorializing." We "enter into dialogue." And more than anything, we want "closure, " which the Journal of Nervous Mental Disease recently defined as “the desire for a definite answer on some topic, any answer compared with confusion and ambiguity.” (I can link you to that article, but you won't really read it) Perhaps the Journal could get the delusion-prone together with the pathological liars and they could form a salon.

"There I was: surrounded."

I've been thinking about this need to believe since viewing The Night Listener, a new film based on Armistead Maupin's book of the same name. This story of a man desparate to prove a lie, and terrified of succeeding at it, may itself be a lie -- as Maupin claims it happened (or is "inspired" by something that happened) to him. In an important scene in the center of the story, the lead character finds how easy it is to fabricate one's story, and how good it feels to give a listener something they want to hear.

James Frey claims that when he submitted the manuscript of A Million Little Pieces as a novel, publishers were uninterested. When he resubmitted the material as his memoir, it got immediate attention. He presents this as a "what-ya-gonna-do" apology, but he certainly enjoyed the marketing campaign and book tour that came with it.

But he picked the wrong victim when he hoaxed Oprah -- quite the storyteller in her own right.

Now John Karr may fit the JNMD profile when he simply scarificed himself to provide the closure we all needed (or maybe just him) to the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder. When he first confessed, I almost posted a piece called, "I was wrong about you, Patsy." But I took too long. Now I can go back to thinking it was her again. Fewer plot holes.

It's interesting how quickly we embrace the original story, then immediately reject it when the truth comes out... but we only fall for that once. That is, if the hoax is itself revealed to be a hoax (he did not have sexual relations with that woman) we just won't buy it.

Deep Throat really should have been George Bush. Or even Diane Sawyer. Much more interesting. Having Mark Felt walk in out of nowhere was like those expository last 15 minutes of every Mystery! episode where it's not even the butler who did it, but a footman who only had one line in the opening credits, when the camera lingered on his gloves.

Speaking of expository writing, I find I have no conclusion to this post. No closure, if you will. No summary, no Jerry Springer parting thoughts, no benediction. But I'll keep typing until it looks like I do.

Let me close with the reminder that everything on the Internet is absolutely true.
like this maybe
or this
or, I certainly do hope this. Because that's a great story.

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