Fake news

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

Have you ever no­ticed that only one type of per­son seems to meet an un­timely death?

In news sto­ries, peo­ple who’ve died were al­ways “happy, bub­bly, ex­tremely pop­u­lar, she would do any­thing for any­one...”

Who are th­ese in­cred­i­ble peo­ple? And why do they keep kick­ing the bucket?

Did they never hover on the edge of a so­cial event feel­ing like a com­plete stooge? Or lean on the horn and raise a mid­dle fin­ger in an un­jus­ti­fied mo­ment of com­muter rage?

I un­der­stand the urge to ro­man­ti­cise a lost loved one, or put the best ver­sion of them out there for the pub­lic record. But maybe some­thing scarier is hap­pen­ing and peo­ple are hon­ing their na­tures to con­form to a ho­mogenised type? We live in an age when you can call up any­one’s so­cial me­dia pages and put a num­ber on their pop­u­lar­ity. Per­haps we’ve cre­ated a gen­er­a­tion too scared to be any­thing but “bub­bly”.

Fam­i­lies, too, are of­ten de­scribed in stan­dard is­sue terms. Read an in­ter­view with some­one fa­mous or high achiev­ing and they will di­vulge that their fam­ily was deliri­ously happy and that “Mum and Dad al­ways told me I could be what­ever I wanted to be...”

Re­ally? They said that? My par­ents told me to clean up my room. They never said I could be what­ever I wanted to be. I mean, that was plainly not the case.

As the daugh­ter of writer CK Stead, nov­el­ist Char­lotte Grimshaw grew up in a fam­ily that lived and breathed fic­tion. In an es­say on page 14 she writes that for years she told in­ter­view­ers what they ex­pected to hear: “Won­der­ful child­hood, a house full of books...” But today she writes of a fam­ily that was bet­ter at fic­tion than messy re­al­ity. A house from which she emerged “chaotic”. I’ve in­ter­viewed CK Stead. His house is in­deed full of books and he is one of the most en­gag­ing peo­ple you’ll ever meet. You can’t fake that. But no one is just those good things. No fam­ily is sim­ply “happy”.

And no sane per­son would do any­thing for any­body.

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