April 12, 2004

blog intrigue

I followed Dianeís link to Rance today. (No, Diane, I hadnít heard about him either.) An anonymous celebrity blogger. Not just any old celeb, either, but the kind that ends up on magazine covers and gets award nominations and has paparazzi swarms follow him on occasion. A movie star, in other words. A self-reflective, appropriately ironic one who writes well. Not bad reading.

The question pops into your head immediately, doesnít it? Is this guy for real or is he just someone in the biz who can fake the talk and fudge the walk? Itís clear from his blog that he runs into this skepticism all the time. He seems amused by it. Which strikes me as the appropriate response.

It comes up a lot, I find. Is this person for real or is this another Kaycee Nicole, faking a dramatic life for the attention it garners? It came up last week on Teresa Nielson Haydenís blog, a discussion about another intriguingly positioned blogger and whether she was the real McCoy. Maybe itís the nature of blogs and online journals, that we can create ourselves however we choose, our words are all you have to judge us by Ė not our faces, not our voices, not our parents or even our pets. If I put up a picture of my cats, say, whoís to say that's not a shot I lifted from somewhere in an effort to have sexier felines and therefore seem hipper/cooler/dorkier myself?

I remember a wonderful writer, Acanit, who posted an online journal in 2001 as a former TV journalist, an Iranian living in America. The photos on her site showed she was a knockout. That right there made people suspicious, I think. And she wrote about difficult things and also about sex (which of course garners attention). Her stories were almost too perfect, some people said. As if they were written rather than lived. Created from someoneís imagination. And then one day she pulled her site down and she was gone. She had reasons, a love affair she didnít want to talk about, but a lot of people said her cover was about to blow and so she got out quick.

I always wondered. They all seemed so certain, her critics. But what if they were wrong? How would you feel to have your existence doubted? And why? People get so passionate, so intent on debunking bloggers/journallers they think are making it all up. And yes, itís important to know if youíre going to enter into a friendship with that person, if, in the case of Kaycee Nicole, you're going to send care packages and cry at a manufactured death. But in this case? If Rance isnít really a movie star, who does that hurt? He tells a good story, he gives an intriguing glimpse into that life. We want to see. If heís imagining instead of living the life of a movie star, itís still a fun read. No harm done.

But thatís not quite true, is it? Because people would feel Ė as people have felt Ė duped. Tricked. Even betrayed, as silly as that seems. Nobody wants to be the brunt of a joke. And when you read a bloggerís account of his life, you feel a kind of intimacy that feels real for all that itís virtual. If it turns out to be a fake, youíre left with nothing. And so people analyze word choices, suss out authenticity in the choice of story material, and try to protect their hearts or at least their dignity. I understand that, I do. But I think sometimes, as with this guy Rance, you just have to shrug, smile, and go along for the ride.

And thatís okay too.

Posted by Tamar at April 12, 2004 11:10 PM

This is one of those really sticky issues...not so much with someone like Rance, because you can just read his blog and it doesn't really matter if it is real or not. I tend to wonder if that is because he's a man...or because he's talking about what's going on in his life, but it's not the intimate type of sharing that I tend to see more often in women's blogs and journals. I'm mostly a reader of these blogs and rarely do I interact with the creator, but I get sucked into their stories...their infertility, adoptions, infidelity of their spouse, etc.

It's hard for me to really understand how people can misrepresent themselves online because I don't do it myself...or do I? I don't use my real name...it's close and if I get to know you well, I'll tell you my name, but I quit using my real name because I didn't much like what showed up on my Google search.

I think that's what separates the potential misrepresentation of Rance from the real betrayal of something like the Kaycee Nicole saga...

Posted by: Rachel at April 13, 2004 12:02 PM

Hmm. You could be right. I know there's a qualitative difference in how people interacted with Kaycee and how they interact with someone like Rance, who, by the nature of his site, keeps people at arm's length.

Personally, it just seems like too much work to create a new persona for my online self. Easier to talk about my life than to make up a life. Also more rewarding.

Posted by: Tamar at April 13, 2004 09:31 PM

I agree...there's no way I could do all that work to make up a life! I get tired just thinking about it, and anyway, my whole reason for blogging is to talk about my life...the one I'm living.

Have you seen Karen Hall's blog? It's been interesting to see someone who's "known" in LA blogging as herself and being pretty open about stuff that's happening in the business, although I've noticed that anything that's very open stays up for about a day and then gets deleted...

Posted by: Rachel at April 14, 2004 07:13 AM