Dear Tell All: I'm not sure that "despicable" is the word I would use to describe a world where "everybody now fakes everything" ("Counterfeit World," 08/13/2010). I believe people are willing to accept a certain level of...shall we say, enhancement...so long as they know where the "real" ends and the "counterfeit" begins. People don't like being tricked; it makes them feel stupid.
During my years as an English teacher, I would often bring in stories or show movies to my students. When they were becoming interested, someone almost always asked, "Is this a true story?" When I could assure them that it was, they invariably became more engaged. I think part of the reason was that knowing if it was the truth or not, they could let go of their fear of becoming too caught up in a lie and allow themselves to enjoy the experience of relating to something that had the hard edge of fact.
Dear Teach: You're exactly right: People want the truth. They don't like being tricked. When I read about Susan Boyle, the singing sensation from Britain's Got Talent, and Jackie Evancho, her American counterpart, I wanted so much to believe. So I was doubly disappointed when I finally heard their performances on YouTube. Both were so soaked in reverb that they sounded completely unnatural. If the singers were that good, why electronically enhance them? And if the shows weren't being entirely honest, then what else about the performances wasn't real? To your point, where did the reality end and the counterfeit begin?
Now I wouldn't call these performances fake. I'm sure Susan Boyle and Jackie Evancho are enormously talented. But I would have preferred to have heard their raw, unadulterated voices so that I could become a true believer, instead of having lingering doubts.
I think people want honesty. And they can handle imperfection. It's what makes us all human. In fact, imperfection can actually enhance beauty. Julia Roberts wouldn't be Julia Roberts if she didn't have leeches for lips. Bob Dylan wouldn't be Bob Dylan if he could actually sing. The Statue of David wouldn't be the Statue of David without love handles. And the Golden Gate Bridge wouldn't be the Golden Gate Bridge if it was actually golden, instead of circus-peanut orange.