There are two news stories I wish to discuss today.
First, the controversy over James Frey’s book “A Million Little Pieces”. Apparently it’s not a true story, despite being classified as non-fiction. This pissed off Oprah and lots of other people.
OK, I understand that it sucks to be fooled. Reading a book that you think is a true story adds something to the enjoyment of it, and finding out it’s mostly fiction would take it down a notch. However, does it really matter all that much? Almost nobody who reads the book will ever meet Frey or be affected by his real life. They’re just reading the book to be entertained for a few hours. So does it matter if what they’re reading actually happened or not? The words on the page are the same as they always were…but is the book now less enjoyable?
And hey, here’s another hypothetical question for ya…if it came out that one of Oprah’s fictional books was actually a true story of the author’s life, would she still be pissed off because she was betrayed and fooled into thinking it was fake? (assuming we’re not talking about Lord of the Rings here).
Furthermore, is real non-fiction even possible? Even if Frey were trying his best to write down an accurate description of his life, the nature of human memory would require him to make up a lot of details. Especially if it was during a stressful or drug-addled time of his life. The overall picture would be true – i.e. “I did lots of drugs and it sucked” – but the details – i.e. “I met Bob on Monday morning at 8:00. He was wearing a yellow tie, and told me that there was some shit in my teeth” – would necessarily be fiction. So is it at all surprising that much of the book isn’t true? It couldn’t be true if he tried.
The second story is about some kids who were street racing, and crashed, killing a man. A copy of the game “Need for Speed” was found in the front seat of one of the cars.
First: I doubt that “Need for Speed” was found in the car. That game is over 10 years old…the kids were probably fetuses when it came out. The news stories are probably thinking of “Need for Speed Most Wanted”, a much more recent entry in the series. It’s hard to believe anything in the news when they can’t even get a simple title right.
Second: The obvious implication is that the game was to blame for the kids street racing. But hey, here’s an idea…maybe they bought a game about street racing because they like street racing. Saying the game caused the interest in racing is like finding books about elephantitis of the balls in my house, then saying “well, he was reading books about elephantitis…so the books must have caused his balls to grow to massive proportions.” Sorta. And hey, here’s another idea…maybe something else caused both an interest in street racing and in video games…like, say, shitty rich-ass parents who spoil their kids by giving them their Mercedes and money for video games, instead of teaching them not to kill people.
But it is possible that the game had an influence on the kids. Surely what we watch and do affects how we act, to an extent. So maybe the game should replace good parenting with a prominant warning against street racing, every time you play the game. Oh wait…it already does. And it’s done by an extremely hot chick, so you’ll pay attention. What the hell more could you want?
This is a clear case where video games were not to blame for a horrible accident. If blame needs to be handed out, it should go to the kids themselves. If that doesn’t satisfy the need to blame everything on something, then blame the parents. Blaming the game is easy, but will only divert attention from the real, tougher issues.