I watched a clip of Heather Armstrong being interviewed on “Today.” In all of these years, I’ve never seen her speak or move. To me, she exists only in photographs. I was surprised to hear her Southern accent. I shouldn’t have been. She has mentioned it plenty of times, but for some reason I expected something different. Her writer’s voice has no twang.
When I was around 10, I had a picture book based on the film “Dragonslayer.” I read it numerous times a day and played the roles with my little sister. When I finally saw the movie, it was disconcerting to see those familiar stills in motion. That is how I felt seeing Dooce move and talk. Similarly, I watched a brief video of Kelle Hampton on CNN.com two years ago, right after Nella was born. She had on a ton of make-up and struggled to talk through the tears. I had the same experience of strangeness seeing this inanimate character in motion and hearing her speak.
Dooce spoke of how difficult her life is right now, meaning her split from Jon. I am still upset about this. Why are they split? What happened that was so awful they cannot fix it? I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t get divorced. Some blogger whose name escapes me recently opined that divorce is “selfish and stupid.” Whatever, lady. I’m not saying that at all. Plenty of people should get divorced. I am just unconvinced, at this point, that Jon and Heather Armstrong are those people.
Because I don’t know the truth. That’s what’s really bugging me. Heather was on Today telling Not-Anne-Curry-Lady that she HAD to write about the split because she writes about everything in her life and it was so big and important that it felt weird to leave it out. Only she hasn’t written about it. She has left it out. As far as I knew, they were married and then she had asked him to move out. I didn’t see evidence of tension between them or her falling out of love with him or the like. One day I saw the announcement on GOMI (http://getoffmyinternets.net). This is a great site to visit if you like “Mean Girls.”
Dooce isn’t the only blogger I follow who has let me down lately. I am irritated with Jenny Lawson. She’s a terrific writer, and she’s using too many gimmicks. I hate “brands” and I despise when writers rely on tricks instead of talent. She hooked me with her Beyonce the chicken tale because it was funny and well-written. I could see it without looking at the pictures. That story jumped off the page and I had tears rolling down my face, I was laughing so hard. I read as many of her articles as I have time for. She’s consistently original, smart, and hysterical.
The whole bit she did about the actor from “Castle” didn’t entertain me. I’m hesitant to continue with this topic because her fans are particular about her and aggressive in their defense of her. I have seen examples on the internet where Lawson’s fans harassed other writers who have criticized her. On her blog, she posted a link to someone’s Goodreads review of her book and was like “Look, someone doesn’t like me,” in a tone of “and I don’t give a shit.” The subtext and the accompanying link to the review sent a different more subtle message to her followers. “This person hurt me. GET HER.”
And they did.
Let me be clear. I am not criticizing her. I thought the “Castle” bit was unfunny. Famous people started Tweeting pictures of themselves holding stuff like twine and spatulas because Nathan Fillion would not send her a picture of himself holding twine. It’s a long story. And yes, I read the whole backstory, so I completely know why they did it. I also get why she was so excited and blown away. Wil Wheaton is one thing, but Matthew Broderick is such a different level of celebrity. He’s big time. His response said, “Welcome to the big time” in no uncertain terms.
I think what happened was that she thought Nathan Fillion was perhaps small potatoes enough to respond to her online crush (I mean, he is Canadian and I had to Google “actor from “Waitress” to get his name). Rabid “Firefly” fans aside, I’m pretty sure Fillion is the kind of actor you know by face and not by name. He, himself, clearly did not think so. “I don’t do that type of thing,” he apparently told a woman who asked him where the fucking twine picture is.
Jenny Lawson doesn’t need stunts. She’s too good a writer for stunts. I don’t want her brand to become sight gags. Sure, Beyonce the Chicken was a sight gag, but it didn’t need to be. That story was hilarious without pictures.
Unlike Kelle Hampton’s book, I did buy Lawson’s book and I intend to read it as soon as I finish Arianna Huffington’s, a book about how to get over terrible anxiety, and the second book in a series I swore I would NOT keep reading, but friends wore me down. It isn’t that “Fifty Shades of Grey” book. The idea of reading that turns me fifty shades of cringing red.
At my dad’s house this week, I told him I was so frustrated about how writing isn’t successful. BRANDING is. And he chuckled and said, “Then create a brand.”
“I don’t want to be a brand! I want to be a writer!” I wailed. “I don’t want to be famous for me. I don’t want people to know my face. I want them to know my style. My words. My wit. I want to entertain people with my writing, not with myself.”
I think Kelle Hampton is the opposite. She always wanted to write a book about herself. She always wanted to plaster the internet with pictures of herself. But not enough people cared. When Nella came along, she saw her opportunity to finally get the fame she’d always sought. Problem was, she was famous for having a child with Down Syndrome, not for being Kelle Hampton. She doesn’t want to be the Special Needs Mom Blogger. She wants to use that as a platform to be Kelle Hampton Enterprises. She has ideas about crafting and home decor and being wild and precious. She inspires a kind of fandom, like Lawson, that loves her unconditionally and any criticism of her makes them rabidly angry and even abusive. I will never forget one comment I received after the first time I criticized her blog. The woman told me I “looked large.” She said “Nobody thinks you’re funny.” She insisted “Kelle doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t care and never will. Neither will anybody else.” Smugly, she added, “Good luck with that book deal you’ll NEVER EVER GET, you Twinkie-eating bitch.” You’re fat. You’re ugly. She’s better than you and she always will be. You’re nobody. You’re nothing. Everybody thinks so.
Save me from fans like these. It’s nice to be loved, but if that person wasn’t related to Kelle Hampton by blood, then she had some issues.
I love to read. There are thousands of bloggers and very few of them are talented. Some of the truly talented ones stop writing. One of my new favorites is Pauline Gaines (The Perils of Divorced Pauline). I must admit that I’m dying to know who her wealthy ex-husband really is. She’s a great writer and she has a good story to tell. Like me, she uses a pen name because she wants to be a writer, not a star.
That’s what got me on the Dooce board in the first place. Good writing. Laughter. I don’t care where she buys her furniture or which bands she likes. Make me laugh. Tell me a story I want to keep reading. I’ll endeavor to do the same.