Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Polar Bear Exhibit Tops Anything 'Sarah Palin's Alaska' May Offer

See this post for the latest information about the Polar Plunge exhibit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

When Politicians Debate Fictional Characters, It's Time for a Reality Check

Sarah Palin's recent problem with "Family Guy" has some historical precedents. It was in the early 1990s that some politicians began to have a problem distinguishing between reality and fiction: they actually began attacking fictional characters. In Michiko Kakutani's Fiction and Reality, Blurring the Edges, we're reminded:
... Vice President Dan Quayle attacks Murphy Brown, the fictional anchorwoman played by Candice Bergen, for undermining traditional family values by deciding to become a single mother, and in this week's season premier of the show [week of September 25, 1992], Murphy Brown strikes back, having already elicited even further condemnations from Mr. Quayle.

President Bush [The Elder] speaks of wanting to see an America that looks a lot more "like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons," and in a subsequent episode of the popular television show, Bart Simpson retorts, "We're just like the Waltons. We're praying for the Depression to end, too."

Even Ross Perot, who mocked Mr. Quayle's remarks about Murphy Brown, has gone on the record as condemning the television character Doogie Howser for having sex with his girlfriend ...
And Ms. Kakutani concludes:
In the end, it's dangerous to mistake fictional representations for the real thing. To do so is to ignore one of the most basic impulses behind art -- the impulse to order the chaos of regular life, to transform it into something more perfect, more shapely and more satisfying, to turn it into something with a beginning, a middle and an end.

Worse, to erase the boundaries between reality and fiction means forsaking our ability to make distinctions. It means living in a dimly lit world of shadows, mirrors and self-delusions, content with approximations and soothing mispresentations, instead of continuing to try to discern the truth. One ends up like Don Quixote, Cervantes's would-be knight whose sense of reality was shaped by popular chivalric romances -- a hapless, if well-meaning fellow who believed he could model his own life on that of his favorite literary heroes and who ended up tilting at windmills.
The New York Times has published three articles about Sarah Palin's dust-up with "Family Guy," here, here, and here. Sarah Palin, of course, took confusing reality with fiction to a new level.

Michiko Kakutani is a Pulitzer Prize winning critic for the New York Times.