I don’t know about you but my brain hurts when I try to figure out what’s real and not real these days. Or at least true. But I force myself to soldier on because somehow it feels important not to put my head in the sand and live an uninformed life. Except when I’m on vacation or watching “Dexter,” the latter because I know that somewhere there is a benevolent serial killer stalking and murdering all the horrible people ready to murder my family and yours and not feel guilty about it. So there is that.
This all came to mind late one night last weekend when I turned on the television and there were three Mark Zuckerbergs on my TV screen. Which one was the real thing as I know him? I have no idea.
Jesse Eisenberg, who stars as Mark Zuckerberg in “Social Network,” doing his host “Saturday Night Live” monologue was confronted by Andy Samberg/SNL’’s fake Mark Zuckerberg and both seemed reasonable facsimiles of the recent megabillionaire when the real Mark Zuckerberg showed up unannounced onstage and bantered awkwardly with prepared lines that made him seem less like Mark Zuckerberg than the other two. Are you with me? Unless, of course, this is what Mark Zuckerberg is like, but somehow I doubt that the real personality of someone who founded Facebook would be so obedient, essentially reading bad dialogue that a cue card told him to read. Even if that cue card was planned and he was in on it, did it represent him?
Well, maybe so, you say. He’s not comfortable in front of people. Away from his computer. He’s certainly not a performer. He’s a nerd, a brilliant one at that, but still, deep in his soul, a nerd.
That’s what I think, too. But then it occurred to me – how do we KNOW that? We don’t. And that’s just about a guy who’s worth $60 billion. What about stuff in Washington, DC, Egypt and Afghanistan or the rest of the Middle East? Oy. My head hurts again.
We have information we read and see and make an intellectual assumption or empirical conclusion. But how reliable is that information? What are the sources? How much research do we have to do to get to the truth? How many sources? Do we do any research at all?
Once upon a time when I was coming of age in the seventies there was this law called “The Fairness Doctrine.” In essence, it required the public airwaves to present the opposing point of view for any current events story. Actually, any story. These days we have a lot more information, tons of it, but I’m stumped and my synapses start to explode when I try to figure out what is real and what isn’t because the people who write and speak these darn things are, to varying degrees, so freakin’ crafty. Often I give up and give in to irony – which is very popular, “in” and au courant right now. You know the drill. It all sucks, it’s all phony, spoon-fed, so let’s make fun of it. Right? Wrong. I love Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert but they are playing characters. But aren’t Brian Williams and Katie Couric characters, too? Sort of. I mean, I’ve never met them in real life so they could be. Why should I take them any more seriously than Stewart and Colbert – or Glenn Beck, for that matter – who has a funny blackboard. Or Bill O’Reilly or Ann Coulter, who sell millions of books that many people think are scathingly funny. Because it sounds right, damn it, and I agree with him/her/them (pick your choice).
The real irony is with so much information out there, we are now farther from the truth than we’ve ever been. Okay, news and politics are one thing – but can’t I just go to the movies and have fun, you ask?
But when I see “Social Network” my mind thinks I’m getting the real story of Facebook. I was positive “The King’s Speech” was an inspirational story of a royal who overcame his stutter to become a great leader until I read Chistopher Hitchens piece pointing out countless historical inaccuracies in the portrayals in the movie. I wrote a film years ago about my compulsive gambler Dad who stole his screen son’s bar-mitzvah money out of its hiding place in the freezer and when my real Dad appeared on the movie set everyone looked at him with awe and disdain for having done such a thing. Of course, he didn’t do it in real life. But no one really believed me. Not only does my brain hurt but now I feel incredibly guilty for what I should have seen was an emerging trend back then.
The truth is we all must actively now more than ever seek out what’s real and true, if for no other reason than the fact that “Dexter” can’t go it alone. There are bad guys (and gals) out there. And as my Aunt Nan once told me, “When you assume, you make an a—out of you and me.”