Sunday, March 2, 2014

Maybe the meme hottie isn't suing anybody either

    The Internet is a calliope of error. You don't need me to tell you that. The off-key tootings of untruth are most obvious when it comes to politics. Those locked in endless cathexis of Barack Obama find themselves improvising fantasy to feed their hunger to continually castigate the president, warbling  fresh misdeeds when the fact-based world is tardy about serving up new blunders.
     And much deception grows like a coral reef around social issues — a false rumor cooked up by somebody a decade ago is endlessly passed around by those too excited to have something feed their bias to wonder whether something is so outlandish that it can't be true.
     Politics and culture wars have such a lock on error, that it can be a shock to see something as light as entertainment news also be wrong, the result of not malice, but simple ignorance or laziness. Like this Celebrity.Answers.com post about actress Hilary Swank,  one of "10 Academy Award Winners Who've Just Disappeared."
     Not my usual fare, true. I was reading a story on the New York Post site, "Meme hottie sues site over mug shot."  Embarrassing, yes, but I had seen the picture of this attractive gal, and it was interesting to learn about the real world person, one Meagan Simmons, behind that of those endlessly traded online photos. Suing the mug shot web site that vended her portrait, apparently. At the bottom of the Post page was "YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE" with the 10 obscure Oscar winners front and center.  
     Curious, I clicked on it for the reason people click on these. Torpor. Boredom. I'm battling the flu that's going around and didn't want to think. So this list. Four of the first six were women —Geena Davis, Renee Zellweger, Mira Sorvino, Kim Basinger—and it struck me that the career arc Celebrity.Answers.com is defining—famous for a decade then less famous—probably holds true for most actresses whether they won the Academy Award or not, just because of Hollywood's cruel demand for constant freshness and beauty unruffled by time.
    Then we got to No. 7, Hilary Swank.
    "Hilary Swank took home an Academy Award in 1999 for 'Boys Don't Cry,'" it reads. "She also hasn't managed to maintain her success as the decade turned and the 2000s began. She had a spot in 2006's "The Black Dahlia," which was a flop."
    The post ends: "Swank could have seen a comeback in 2009 with 'Amelia,' but it wasn't a favorite among critics."
     What it doesn't mention is that Swank won a second Oscar in 2004 as Best Actress for "Milllion Dollar Baby," a wonderful movie, and a big hit, co-starring Clint Eastwood, who also directed. That is not "just disappeared" in the standard definition of the term.
     An oversight. Though a pretty big one. You would think that anyone —and there's no byline on lists such as these—purporting to write about the careers of actors would either know this detail, or think to check and find out. You would assume that Celebrity.Answers.com would have heard about its gaffe many times over, and just doesn't care to correct it. I asked them why they didn't fix it -- they invite questions. No answer yet.
      I suppose the problem here is how these posts are written—churned out piecework by home sweatshop drudges paid minimum wage, if that, speed typing keyword clusters designed to hook some algorithm—the Academy Awards are tonight, so no doubt that is the lure. What the jumble of electrons say, whether they are true or false, is secondary, if that.
    I'm biased, being a professional writer, but hope that, beyond self-interest, there is an actual value in being accurate and caring about such things. Or maybe times have changed, and the frisson of seeing something catty about Hilary Swank is the important thing here, and the fact that the item is completely wrong, a fine point, a detail of interest only to a small and dwindling band of aging nit-pickers. I sure hope not.

12 comments:

  1. Whatever happened to that Todd Hanks guy?

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    1. Their later dismissal of Helen Hunt overlooks "Castaway" too.

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    2. There's a brother named Jim Hanks who was in a couple of soft core porn flicks that showed up on Skinemax a number of years ago.

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    3. You must have had too much time on your hands that day, grin.

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    4. Never cared for Oprah or the fools that followed her advice or reading lists. No, it's not due to race. What bugged me is how someone who was a hs dropout makes all that money while the more educated have to scrape by. Same goes for film stars, musicians and athletes.

      So Rauner met with the rapper? what a joke

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    5. B. Rush must be looking for attention if he invited Trump.

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  2. Aging Nitpickers would be a good name for a band. But not with the hyphen.

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  3. Only slightly off topic, I find myself annoyed that the notion of Chicago as "the murder capital of the nation," has become burned into the public consciousness, something your newspaper has had a hand in. Chicagoans do kill each other more than people in most European cities, but by American standards its rate of murders per 100,000 is middling. Still I came across the phrase in a Sun-Times column (not yours) just a few weeks ago.

    For an interesting take on historical "urban legends," read "The Daughter of Time, " Josephine Tey's last mystery. Her detective amuses himself while laid up in a hospital bed by encouraging a young visitor to investigate the crimes of Richard III, one of the oldest of cold cases. The young man builds a case for Richard's innocence of the crimes he was accused of by Tudor propagandists like Sir Thomas More and Bill Shakespeare. When he wonders how such libels could have become publicly accepted, the Inspector cites a number of historical events that either never happened or have been completely misrepresented in public memory.

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  4. @Thomas. When you say that the concept has become burned into the public consciousness, it makes me wonder, "how do you know?" What is that suggestion based on?

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    1. That's great about you learning Russian. That alphabet must be hard.

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  5. My burn meter tells me. I check it every morning. I was, of course, guilty of indulging in a speculation that even if Emanuel and McCarthy manage to get murder rates down to, say, UK levels, a future public opinion poll asking the question "what city is the murder capital of the U.S.?" would elicit a large vote for our town. What I found objectionable was that during the spike in murders two years ago all the major news outlets, including the Sun-Times ran "murder capital of the nation" headlines and leaders without making it clear that the "nation" they were talking about consisted only of major metropolitan areas i. e. Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. No mention of New Orleans, Detroit, Saint Louis, Atlanta, many sizeable U.S. cities with much higer homicide rates. Then, of course, it became a useful talking point for GOP politicians as a feature of that awful place the Black guy in the White House came from. I'm perhaps making too much of it, but you have to admit it's a bell that will be hard to unring.

    By the way, what do you have against robots?

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    1. I'm not sure that's a valid qualm, Tom. If Podunk, population 50, has a murder, then its murder rate dwarfs Chicago's. But it is not the murder capital -- "Murder Capital" is a meaningless tabloid term anyway. I don't think it's worth agonizing over.

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.