Alon Preiss Reviews the Web

I started writing this column on Father’s Day, hoping to post it in the evening, when the illustration would still be topical, showing you the serious shortcoming I have as a columnist. But Father’s Day doesn’t really pass by without my thinking about Woody Allen, and that year that his son Ronan, ne Satchel, wished him a Happy Brother-in-law Day. (You see, while Woody Allen did not marry his daughter, as Woody defenders will consistently point out, all over the web  –  and what better evidence of a man’s ethical goodness is there, than the simple fact that he did not marry his daughter! – he did marry his son’s sister, which makes him Ronan’s father and Ronan’s brother-in-law. Shades of Chinatown, directed by Ronan’s mom’s good pal, Roman Polanski.)

It is pure hubris to sling an unprovable and probably untrue accusation at someone who has already done something so awful – running off with his girlfriend’s daughter, his son’s sister! – that no one would ever forgive him unless he were falsely accused of something even worse. So instead of declaring victory and going home, Mia Farrow accused her one-time partner of becoming an all-of-a-sudden, one time only child molester, and, let’s be honest, it almost certainly didn’t happen (although I suppose anything is possible). Now, as the many-decades old debunked accusations heat up again, the Farrow family has demanded, as appropriate recompense for their trauma, that all the actors and actresses in Hollywood pick a side in a dispute over something that no one could possibly know for sure. If the Farrows win on points, what will they have won? In the past, when acting with Woody meant an Oscar, Variety might note that, say, Cate Blanchett was “simply an actress who worked with a filmmaker who was never charged with a crime,” and Blanchett herself might address the situation by saying, “It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family and I hope they find some sort of resolution and peace,” but that kind of fence-straddling will cut it no more. I suggest a Hollywood scoreboard, with some “wins” more valuable than others. (Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin both lose points for crazy; Baldwin scores slightly hire based on career velocity. So Sarandon, who is on team Farrow, counts as a two; Baldwin, who is on team Woody, counts as a 4; and Kate Winslet, who switched from team Woody to team Mia, is a 6, for career velocity and a decided lack of crazy; she loses points for obvious insincerity in the haste of her team-switching.) Internet opinion from the sweaty masses, of course, also counts in this game; while sympathy seems to have swung a little bit back Woody’s way over the last few weeks, the I Believe Dylan Farrow Facebook site still has more members than the I Believe Woody page; but perhaps demonstrating public exhaustion with the whole thing, both pages have considerably fewer members than Medieval Puns.

Look, I am not sure why anyone wants to “win” the internet. Until the public gets to vote on someone’s guilt or innocence on the web, what exactly do all your followers get you? But, still, people think there is some kind of benefit. For example, Roseanne Barr. She asks, on Twitter, “Can you all help me get more followers here? The more I have the more my words will have weight.” Then, a couple of weeks later, in a now-deleted post, she wrote, “Help me reach 1M followers. Support me. I went out on a limb for America and against mind control & child trafficking. Help me use my voice….”

Is Roseanne somehow under the impression that her problem is that maybe people aren’t paying enough attention to the things that she says on Twitter? Doesn’t she understand  that if everyone had just ignored her twitter feed, she would still have a job!

Finally, this: In another now-deleted tweet, Roseanne wrote, “I ask God2 help me use this bad experience 2 move in2 a better place….” Because God might read Twitter? Certainly, his presence has not exactly been noticeable anywhere else for a couple of thousand years, so who knows?

In recent weeks, the web has moved from condemnation of Roseanne to a grudging realization that the web has spent the last few weeks angrily condemning a pathetic, ruined figure who, after having brought joy to millions for decades, is almost certainly now mentally ill. Some corners of the web feel bad about this.

Meanwhile, the Fibber McGee and Molly fan page is up-in-arms today to learn that back in 1960, the network recast the show for an ill-fated TV version. Look, it’s a little bit wonderful that some small divot within the world wide web can get riled about this admittedly outrageous snub of long-forgotten radio stars, which occurred 58 years ago. Fibber and Molly were a wildly popular radio couple who lived in one of those eccentric small towns. They were really quite hilarious and lovable on the radio, and their shows hold up even today. When they retired from their show because of Molly’s worsening health problems, which resulted from her alcoholism, the network hired two new actors to “play” Fibber and Molly on TV. It’s sort of as if NBC, rather than hiring a new host for the Tonight Show, had just recast the “role” of Johnny Carson.

Certainly recasting Fibber and Molly resulted in disastrous TV, and it occurred to me that if someone chose to replace Torsten Krol, the entirely anonymous and mysteriously reclusive author of the bestselling modern classic novels Dolphin People and Callisto, you might get something like 2018’s Torsten Krol disastrous novel rollout. Two months ago he published the first two books in a new six-book series, something called Foreverman, he even released a weird promotional video, and no one anywhere cares even at all. How is it possible that one of the greatest authors of our time – and a famous great author, at that – a great author who has sold many books and been acclaimed in little papers like the New York Times, and who once set the literary world on fire trying to guess whom he could possibly be – how could an entertaining, talented and mysterious gadfly like this have sunk so low? Man oh man, I really hope this isn’t the end of the line for Torsten Krol.

On that note, good night.

Alon Preiss is the author of A Flash of Blue Sky (2015) and In Love With Alice (2017), which are both available from Chickadee Prince Books.

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