I know a lot of you come to this website intrigued by its title, lovingly cribbed from Ira Glass and This American Life. You browse through the posts, check out the “about” page and leave more confused than when you entered. “What does this have to do with This American Life? What is this site for?”
First, this site has nothing to do with This American Life other than we all went to school in Chicago and mental-bated to the radio show’s uncanny way with words. Second, this site is about too much to coherently articulate. We can tell you one thing this site is specifically against, however: mean-spiritedness. The web is full of gossip rags and partisan vitriol celebrating the petty over the profound. Our tiny contribution to the infinite world of CSS, blogs and Facebook is a sense of honest, reasoned discussion. We’ll be the first to admit we know nothing, and we’ll never pretend like we do.
That being said, we take this moment to just bro the fuck down. Today’s object of affection? Van Wilder, himself, Ryan Reynolds.
We all know Ryan Reynolds from TV, movies and the gossip game. He’s dating Alanis Morrisette, no wait he’s dating Scarlett Johansson, no wait he’s engaged to Scarlett Johansson. You might care, you might not. What’s ironically rare, though, in this “celebreal” culture of ours is an actual insight into who these people over whom we obsess really are. Pictures can be misleading and even interviews are distorted through the press junket filter of media corporations and magazines. The only way to know these people is through their words and that seems more difficult than it should be from a group of people who make their living in the public speaking on a screen.
Fortunately for us, all of us, Ryan Reynolds has given us a peak behind that facade US Weekly and TMZ would have us believe is the end-all-be-all of a celebrity’s substance. Today Reynolds had a featured article on the Huffington Post discussing his decision to participate in this year’s New York City Marathon. Like you probably do now, we thought this would be another self-aggrandizing piece from an over-privileged actor who thinks his opinion on the mundane matters. But the thing is it’s Ryan Reynolds. Since we saw him lurking in the shadows on New York’s Lower East Side almost exactly a year ago this month in full beard, dapper over coat and cap, Reynolds has held a special place in our hearts. One out of three of us thought he may suck, but all of us could tell we only knew half the story.
We think the piece is well written, simultaneously funny and heart-felt – a straighter, more sincere David Sedaris. But what we think doesn’t matter. The power of his prose is the realization that you, me, we are ass holes. His story of his father and his choice to do the most selfless thing imaginable, endure months of torture on a daily basis, opens up that magical division between expectation and reality that Robert McKee locates as the transcendent power of story. There’s probably nothing more trite than gushing over the discovered humanity of an actor, but after a day spent reading about political attacks and catty, snarky comments it’s enlightening, albeit pathetically, to read something that keeps you mentally in check.
You see, New York corrodes you. It’s culture is gossip, envy, irony and anger. That’s why the tabloids are based here; that’s why shows about high-fashion high schoolers who hate each other are based here. Disgust is currency in the small hives of media mavens in Manhattan and for better or for worse their minority myopia shapes not only the national debate on culture but also your own frame of reference.
That’s why the biggest Modern Jackasses of all are in this city and its burroughs, passing judgment on things they know nothing about simply because to have an opinion is to have a thought and to think is therefore to be. I’m the same way. “Ryan Reynolds? SUCKS.” Maybe as an actor, but most likely not as a person. I suppose it’s more telling of us than of those around us that we react this way to a sincerely written piece by a sincerely bearded dude but we surmise if it could happen to us, it could happen to you too. Maybe you’re tired of hating everything because you’re told to, also.
The ultimate irony, of course, could be that Ryan Reynold’s article on why he’s running the New York City marathon was written by a publicicst’s intern, who on lunch breaks checks Gawker, Perez Hilton and Defamer. We’ll choose to believe otherwise. Call that our totally inverted, narcicistic and superficial audacity of hope.