Thursday, June 07, 2007

What we pretend to be

Some of Tony's recent posts reminded me of this quote I saw on the AV Club a few months ago when Kurt Vonnegut died...
"We must be careful about what we pretend to be."

In Mother Night, apolitical expatriate American playwright Howard W. Campbell, Jr. refashions himself as a Nazi propagandist in order to pass coded messages on to the U.S. generals and preserve his marriage to a German woman—their "nation of two," as he calls it. But in serving multiple masters, Campbell ends up ruining his life and becoming an unwitting inspiration to bigots. In his 1966 introduction to the paperback edition, Vonnegut underlines Mother Night's moral: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." That lesson springs to mind every time a comedian whose shtick relies on hoaxes and audience-baiting—or a political pundit who traffics in shock and hyperbole—gets hauled in front of the court of public opinion for pushing the act too far. Why can't people just say what they mean?
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  1. Eh. Yes and no.

    The H.W. Campbell example you give is an extreme one. That is total immersion with the possibility of death if exposed.

    That's a bit different from a blogger wrapping him/herself in a persona for the purpose of entertaining, enlightening or generating a dialogue.

  2. Let's see. I'll pretend to be nice, intelligent, funny, sexy, young & skinny! OMG! This is too funny!

  3. XO- Yes, I think that's the point that Vonnegut was trying to make. Tony, if he pushes it a bit too far, risks loss of credibility and relevance.

    It was no big deal when he was anonymous and nobody knew who he was. But as he does more and more interviews on the radio and newspapers etc., it may become difficult for people to separate his online persona from his real-life one.

    Kind of like an actor being typecast as bad guy or a dufus or an extra at a drive-in restaurant.

    At least, that's how I see it.

  4. I'm Batman.

  5. This is a really awesome quote and I feel ashamed that it didn't come to mind earlier given that I'm a fan of Vonnegut.

    I like XO's reasoning and Spyder made me laugh.

    I wish I had an answer that was as insightful as the post . . . Really, I got nothing here but I have to note that you got me thinking . . . Especially about typecasting. God Bless Mark Hamill. However, I can't say I'd be that unpleased if I ended up with a career like Erich von Stroheim.

    Also, it's about time I made this blog a favorite . . . If you have a 150x150 jpeg, please send it my way if your interested.

  6. Tony,

    I still enjoy reading your remarks and I'll continue to. I try not to take any of it too seriously and I think you feel the same.

    As for von Stroheim, it's one thin to be thought of as a villainous hun. That I could take. I'd just hate for you to become thought of as the Ann Coulter of Kansas City.


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