“So this is fake?”

Hello, Internet, today is Sunday, March 30th, and I’ve just arrived home from vacation.

Since last we spoke, I’ve opened – and closed – Evita, produced a few workshops, and then run away to the wilds of Ontario for a couple of weeks. I don’t know if it counts as a “vacation” if I still did quite a lot of work while there, but I also went snowshoeing & skiing, threw a couple of snowballs, played a lot of board games, read tons, and spent some time with a few important people.

And now I am back on my own couch, drinking tea, spending some time on the internet while my laundry does itself, gearing up to get dressed and go see some theatre. It’s nice to be home.

So, a couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine posted this video to her Facebook wall.

She posted it because she’s in it. Playing the role of a homophobe who is uncomfortable with the idea of hugging a gay person. For the rest of this to make sense, it is important that we all recognize that my friend is a) an actor; and b) not homophobic in the slightest.

Amongst the commentators on her post was a friend who, having put together the content of the video and their knowledge of my friend’s character, wrote “So this is fake?”

And my whole self writhed for half a second.

Dear reader, please remember this: when you pick something like this up on the internet, unless the publisher is claiming that the content is factual (a documentary, for example, or a piece put out by a news organization), you can safely assume that it’s fiction.

But, moving beyond that rather obvious assertion, what really bothers me about this attitude that “fictional” is synonymous with “fake”.

Remember when I did this PSA a zillion (1.5) years ago? If you read this blog, you probably know that I’m not a mom. I’m not expecting to be a mom in the near future. I wasn’t pregnant when we did this shoot. I don’t even agree with the stuff I say in that video. I was (cough) acting.

My job in that PSA was to represent a perspective and opinion, to provide a more comprehensive view of the topic at hand. You can imagine that it might be a bit tricky to get mothers who don’t believe in breastfeeding to participate in a breastfeeding video. Similarly, you can imagine the logistical problem with getting “anti-gay” people to agree to be labelled that way and then filmed while they give a gay person a hug. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t mothers, or prospective mothers, who have those opinions. And it doesn’t mean that, confronted with the task of hugging a gay person, a homophobe wouldn’t manage it in much the same way.

I’m pretty sure that the purpose of art is to put in front of people a reflection of the world that we live in, so that they can see it more clearly. Not “the world” itself, but a window into it… sometimes with fact, but most of the time with some sort of fiction. The fact that it is fictional does, in a way, mean that it is “untrue”, or “fake”, I suppose, but the connotations are all wrong. The intention is not to mislead the audience, and the fact that actors are not, in fact, the people they portray does not invalidate whatever you feel or think while watching. The whole point is to make you feel and think.

We are not lying to you. We are presenting you with a fictional representation of a very real world… perhaps a world that you will be able to see more clearly through this lens. That’s what art does.