The role of the modern day hoax has evolved past mere trickery. It has become a giant with the potential to incite mass uproar, offend millions, and draw on an obliviousness that seems to be more and more prevalent in our technologically advanced times. Even such innocent things, such small tricks, can result in an onslaught of backlash.
J.T. Leroy was a great example of this tomfoolery that people seem to have less than a grand opinion of. Savanah Knoop had gotten roped into posing as the author J.T. Leroy, who was actually her sister-in-law, Laura Albert. As J.T. she gained some notoriety, and became somewhat of a public figure. When it was revealed that this he was actually a she, the public was, in short, pissed.
Now playing the part of a character does not, to me, seem like something deserving of the amount of flack that it received. After all, no one is hating of Nathan Fillion in his portrayals of Richard Castle on book tours. Then again, there seems to be a finely drawn line between these two types of character playing.
At what point does a hoax become something that people will get pissy about once it is revealed as a hoax, and not a truth?
If I see a photograph of the supposed Loch Ness monster, and then find out a week later it was actually some Irish Granny’s thumb in front of the camera lens, I’m not going feel particularly affronted.
|Robert Kenneth Wilson, Darragh Farrelly|
If I were sitting and watching my Oprah Show (as I tend to do), bawling my eyes out because she had just said the most beautiful thing that could ever be said, suddenly my entire outlook on life, and the outlook of millions of people ages 25 to 54, would be altered and we felt like benevolent gods.
Then, a week later, we all discover that her beautiful and life changing words were actually written by a combination of Oompa Loompa slaves, SNL writers, and that guy from those commercials who has no arms but never gives up and types with his feet. I would be rip-shit. Millions of viewers would be in the very same rage filled ocean of attack-mode as I, and Oprah’s downfall would come in the form of angry fans storming her studio like it’s the beach at Normandy
Because Oprah is secretly just trying to rule the world...okay, not so secretly...
This is where that switch over happens: If someone hoaxes us, and the hoax makes us feel angry, or blasé, or mildly incompetent, we just accept that. That video where someone tricked a ton of people to try charging their IPods with Gatorade and vegetables? They probably felt pretty silly, but there is no ocean of rage to fall upon them.
Conversely, if someone hoaxed us and, before we discover that it is a lie, it makes us feel happier, lighter, more purposeful, more motivated, if it touches those soft, squishy, ticklish parts of our souls, what do we do? We get mad.
Why is this? Is it simply because Oprah is, not so secretly, the embodiment of the mother each and every person wishes they had in their life? Back up, son.
It is because she has made us feel something positive. Something that has caused change in us. As soon as someone feels joy, happiness, pleasure, etc… about something, if they find out that it was a lie, they become angry. Why? Because all of that joyousness they had felt is now being, symbolically, nullified. If they had felt saddened by the hoax, then the opposite would be true. By having their sadness symbolically nullified, they can let go of it and move on to things that make them happy.
In short: Take away someone’s reason for sadness, you get a Gold Star. Take away their reason for happiness, and you will be thrown into that special pit of shame normally reserved for Westboro Baptist Church members and whoever thought it was a good idea to make a Super Mario Bros live-action movie.
Remember this? Yeah you do. That memory smells like anger.
I do wonder, however, if this taking of happiness and sadness is the only motivation for less than savory reactions. While the reasons are likely more far reaching, could this motivation be the more talented driver of these forces? The Gymkhana of motivations, so to speak? What other motivations for these levels of hatred could there be, and could any of them have as much of an effect as the taking, or giving, of emotionally embedded happiness, or pain?