Last year, former Ruffin’ It punchline Ricky Gervais made a pretty god-awful movie called “The Invention of Lying.” The film posits a world in which the very concept of lying has not yet been discovered. Essentially, it was a setup for maybe a three-minute long standup bit, flayed, stretched and tanned over the yawing skeleton of a situational comedy for 94 freaking minutes.
In it, a waiter tells Gervais’ character that he has no chance of getting laid with his date, played by Jennifer Garner. I can’t tell whether this is devastating or relieving to Gervais because, though he reminds me of what a hyena would look like as a play-dough mold, Jennifer Garner sort of looks like an old man’s throat. Also, his character, in what will go down as one of the great inverse meta-jokes, refers to something as “The greatest film ever made.” Somewhere, Gervais’ elderly nursemaid is completing her 95th bicep curl, so that when time machines are invented, she can go back and shake him harder.
Positing the transposition of almost any film to real life is something any sane person would advise against, and though I’m not quite sane, I’d follow suit. The reason is obvious: movies themselves are too simple, and in two different ways: 1) We generally know who the good guys are, who the bad guys are and what motivates each side. We are flies on the wall during group strategy meetings, situation rooms and even internal monologues, thusly made to understand these individuals so that we can root for or against them. Of course it’s cool if Batman turns Gotham City into one giant Patriot Act money shot; he’s trying to stop the Joker, who’s trying to explode innocent people. You can’t be against that. 2) It’s a movie. Invested as we are in the outcome of the film and the fate of its characters, there is a failsafe murmur that continues to remind (most of) us that this is not real. And that’s fine. Even with social commentary accounted for, this is still pretend.
Even so, as the presidential race slogs along, I find myself wishing more and more that politicians would just say what they mean. It’s one of the reasons I like Joe Biden so much. I know, I know — his “Romney’s going to put y’all back in chains” line to black voters was, let’s say, a little much, but everyone — writers and politicians especially — know how to wield hyperbole, and I believe in this case that Biden’s so-called “gaffe” was merely hyperbolic of a truth: that the Romney/Ryan plan would sacrifice the well-being of poorer Americans to prop up the continued prosperity of the super-rich.
Also, when you get down to it, Biden is the main reason that President Obama has publicly come out in support of gay marriage: he ran his mouth in an interview, plainly spoke his mind and a great positive was realized. Shortly afterward, the Democratic Party made same-sex rights a key plank of their platform.
Which brings me to Todd Akin, a cross-pollinated hybrid of Kelsey Grammar and Ross Perot genetically engineered to be a spokesman for tanning bed corporations. A few days ago, when asked about his stance on abortion in cases of rape, Akin opened his mouth and this impossible statement dribbled out (if you’re hearing about this for the first time, I swear I didn’t edit this): “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.”
I’m not going to bury you under the literal tons of research that disprove that statement. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, you can’t address something that ridiculously ignorant or horrendous directly. Your brain will revolt against you for forcing it to bother, and the most you’ll be physically able to say is “Hwaaah?” Sane people — and those of you who didn’t share a crib with demons — are, in this case, out of luck.
Ironically, Akin didn’t have to say this, and it’s his pussyfooting around that got him into trouble — for f***’s sake, Karl Rove pulled his financial support, and Karl Rove would buy a deluxe birdhouse for a pigeon if it took a shit on Madonna’s limo. No, if Akin had just said “I am against abortion in all cases, bar none,” then few of us outside his home state of Missouri would be talking about it, because a good many Republicans hold that same viewpoint. His mistake came when he tried to legitimize an unquantifiable statement.
It works the other way around, too: people will throw their weight behind a public figure who consistently, staunchly supports some gratuitously horrible things. Rewind a few months: Rick Santorum reiterated the assertion he made a couple of years ago that same-sex relationships were equal to bestiality and pedophilia. Didn’t try to hide it, just up and said, “Yep, all gays are animals and pederasts.” And a good percentage of social conservatives were okay with that, because he almost beat Mitt Romney, despite being outspent nearly Fort Knox-to-one.
And speaking of Romney: he and bro-dude VP Paul Ryan’s team released a couple of separate statements after Akin’s comment went viral. The first was in a similar vein as Romney’s “not the language I would have used” response to Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a whore:
“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape” (campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg).
“[Akin’s comments were] insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.”…“Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”
And you can bet that Romney/Ryan is pissed as all hell at Akin for forcing this complication on them, as both candidates have in the past expressed full support for a bill banning abortions, in all cases, nationwide. It’s not a policy that’s cost them much credibility with conservative voters, but when someone just comes right out and says the kind of outlandish things Akin said, a savvy politician — or at least a savvy campaign manager — knows you have to release a statement refuting them. See that first one up there? That’s indicative of a major policy change within the Romney-Ryan camp. Will they follow through on it? I hope we never have to find out.
When I was in graduate school for poetry, the best advice I ever got from my advisor was to “write what you see, and say what you mean.” Since then, I’ve written better poems. The problem is that a poem’s strength is predicated on its ability to present a truth. In new, exciting and possibly ciphered ways, but a truth nonetheless. In politics, absolute truth is obscured by fervent partisan sentiment, and manipulation of certain demographics’ fears for little more than the self-perpetuation of power and authority.
The final sad thing is this: skirting the truth is easy. It’s skirting your own skewed perception of truth that gets you into trouble.You Might Also Like: