Fair warning: I will use a lot of quotation marks in this post. Some are used to indicate sarcasm, some are used legitmitely. You are all intelligent readers. I will let you decide in what context I am using this grammatical friend.
Like many people who watched the American Blogger trailer this week, I found myself finishing up the 2:24 minute clip feeling a bit confused, a bit ill, a bit sad, a bit angry and a bit....well, flummoxed for lack of a better word. For those of you unfamailiar with this trailer, Chris Wiegand, husband of lifestyle blogger Casey Wiegand, decided about a year ago to buy an Airstream, "restore" it (I use "" because it's rather unclear what state the Airstream was in to begin with, if he actually did any of the restoration himself and if he is actually an authentic Airstreamer, or just a dude that bought one because it looked cool as hell), and then travel across the US, interviewing 50 of his wife's blogger friends about their blogs, their "journey", their stories and their intentions in blogging.
Yes. It's a "documentary" about blogs. And specifically it's about women bloggers. And, though supposedly unintentionally, according to Wiegand, it's about white American women bloggers. There is 1 person of color in the entire documentary. Ok. That's cool. No hate for your, Chris and your restored Airstream.
Yet, there WAS a lot of hate for Chris and his restored Airstream, and, I think after watching the trailer, you can sort of see why.
There are a lot of flaws in this trailer, let's be honest. First, the narrator seems to have taken on a tone that he is alerting the entire world to a nuclear holocaust or something of equally dramatic and fairly terrifying value ("artistically crafted, this documentary will remind you of the value of your voice."). But more than the narrator, it's the subject matter...a full-length documentary about BLOGGING?
I mean. COME ON.
There are loads of people out there who don't even know what a blog is, much less read blogs, much less want to see a 90 minute film about the process of writing a blog. And the trailer is not helped by the detached, nasally reflections of the women blogging ("I mean, if we're not sharing it, and keeping it private then...um...why are we experiencing it?"). Again. Come. On. You're writing about lifestyle and fashion and being a mom and family and making cupcakes.
Ok, before I get too far down into the snark rabbit hole, let me clarify a few things--first, I obviously have a blog. I don't classify it as a lifestyle blog since I use it primarily for photography, but I do have a blog. I've had a blog of sorts for the past 12 years--first our trip to Asia blog, then I had a blog about living in Chicago and teaching (which has seemingly disappeared from the interwebs, which is just as well), then a very short lived blog about running, and now this blog--a sort of catch all for work, thoughts, travel, and the occasional recipe. Sadly, I think that sort of makes this a lifestyle blog...but I will not refer to it as such, I will simply call it "my blog.
Secondly, I read lifestyle blogs. I have probably 10 lifestyle blogs I read on a weekly basis and 3-4 I read on a daily basis. I will fully admit that there are days when I can't read these blogs and I get sad because I don't know what Joy or Kristen or Rachel or Sarah is up to or I can't check out their fabulous outfits or get inspired by their recipe sections. Yes. I am a girl. And yes, I read lifestyle blogs.
However, if I'm being totally honest, a large amount of this lifestyle reading could be classified as hate reading. For example, Ian, my friend Sarah and I have a love/hate/love/more hate lifestyle blog that shall remain nameless that we all read and follow on Instagram. And while we absolutely HATE so much of the tone and the reflection and thoughts that this blogger puts out there into the world, we still follow him/her and we still read obsessively and we still send texts back and forth filled with both judgement and awe. I also follow a few super religious Instagram lifestyle bloggers--they have like 21 children and are living in communes and raise chickens and always have Bible verses attached to their photos....for anyone who knows me, you know that is NOT how I live my life...and yet, someone I cannot stop following them or reading their blogs. It's like a really beautiful fire I can't not look at.
I tell you all this because I want it to be clear that I get it--I get blogging, I like blogging (umm..you're reading this on my blog, so that's obvious), I appreciate a good blogger who knows how to write witty and enjoyable commentary, woo me with a few beautiful shots of their life and then send me happily on my way to the kitchen with a new recipe for a grapefruit cocktail.
The biggest issue that is being taken, though, with the film is that it primarily includes attractive white women who only post seemingly the most beautiful and thoughtful images of their lives. And that lifestyle blogs are shitty in general and too staged and too...well, perfect. Well. Duh. Of course they portray that perfect life.
That's the POINT.
Who wants to read a blog about someone's dirty laundry or someone's dog that won't stop peeing on the floor? Bloggers don't post about that or Instagram that because it's lame and no one finds that interesting--so of course Wiegand isn't going to interview those folks. That isn't the reader and that's not what readers want. I don't expect things to be puppies and rainbows all the time--of course--but I also don't want to read a blog about someone's laundry. I would hope that most critics understand that all of these women bloggers of course have struggles and problems and knock down drag out fights with their 3 year olds and sometimes go days without a shower--that's LIFE. But they aren't going to blog about it and any blog reader needs to remember that reality is reality for everyone in different ways. There is no perfect life. There is no reason to use social media to portray a perfect life. Anyone walking into this American Blogger film should have that understand firmly entrenched in their minds...because the documentary is going to show....a perfect life. I can almost promise you that.
Along with this, there is a huge contingent of people out there who are against lifestyle blogs because they think there must be a mystery--there must be something that these bloggers are hiding. They must be editing out a bad marriage or removing a child with pre-diagnosed autism or thoughtfully removing the biting dog from the family shots...because no one is that perfect. Well, I think that is a complicated thing, but I think there is a lot of hatred out there, fueled primarily by social media and lifestyle blogs, that makes the "rest of us" think that there is something wrong with us if we don't have a perfectly composed shot of our coffee cup and a cheese platter on our Instagram feed at least 3 days a week. Heck, I've had many people say to me, "Oooh, your life is so perfect from Instagram. I just love it." And I've written about this extensively. so I'm sort of confused by the controversy surrounding this film that it's too perfect....seeing as editing your life to show a "perfect" life is sort of the entire point of lifestyle blogs in general, at least what I can tell of them.
Anyway, I don't have hate for this documentary. I'm going to watch the hell out of it when it comes out and then probably text and email snarkily with my friends about the various bloggers portrayed. I just sort of let out a sigh that it isn't a more interesting topic...or at least a topic that's important.
This also could have been a documentary about blogging in general--all types of blogs, not just "mommy blogs"--but blogs about teaching or running or non-profit work or living with a disease--just anything to break up the monotony of blogs about being a mom, making your kids clothes and how to use the iPhone to take really startling pictures of the children you adopted from Africa (again, I'm not being snarky, one of the bloggers featured in Wiegand's documentary are actually blogging about that....they are blogging about taking adorable pictures of the children you adopted from Africa. I'm not kidding). Further, a movie about bloggers is actually sort of fascinating. I mean, I would probably watch that if it were done well and were done with a grain of salt--meaning that, really, you can't take a lifestyle blog THAT seriously. If your 8 hours of the day is spent searching for great quotations on the web to turn into handwriting using Illustrator and then posting about how amazingly blessed you feel because you are able to share these words with others...I mean, I just can't get behind that.
I've spent a lot of time this year thinking about how I'm not teaching. Thinking about how I've let 2 advanced degrees fall by the wayside while I pursue a life of travel and photography. There have been nights and days when I've felt like a total and complete failure--how is photography changing anyone's life? It's probably not, if I'm being super honest. But teaching...teaching DOES change lives. So there's been some guilt and some sadness. For sure.
And I think that's why this American Blogger documentary resonated so strongly with me and left such a bad taste in my mouth. I am not discounting anyone's life or anyone's work--but it is difficult to see a feature length film made about primarily upper-middle class white women who are spending their days taking high resolution photos of kale salads and posting Madewell coupons. It's just not what I see as a way to spend a fulfilling and thoughtful life--so that is why Wiegand's documentary rubs me the wrong way. There are SO many things out there that DO deserve a 40 state Airstream tour--I mean, a 40 state Airstream tour about the lack of viable food options for many folks makes sense to me. Or a 40 state Airstream documentary tour focusing on existing racial tensions in parts of America makes sense to me. Or a 40 state Airstream documentary about the efforts of high school students to bring a viable LGBTQ gay straight alliance to their school makes sense to me.
But a 40 state Airstream documentary tour about women telling their stories on the internet...it just doesn't jive. I gotta be honest.
All this said, you best believe I will watch this documentary and I will cross my fingers that it will leave me feeling a bit more fulfilled than the trailer did. I hope the film is better than the trailer and I also hope the fill lets me know what's going on with Wiegand's Airstream too. Now THAT'S a documentary I could watch--the process of restoring an Airstream trailer? Get that in my inbox and w're good to go.