Out of the Blue: Speeding down that ‘lost highway’ (opinion)
Out of the Blue
There’s a moment in David Lynch’s brain-melting Lost Highway (1997) that is 20 years ahead of its time.
In the movie, we open on a husband and wife (Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette) going through a rough patch in their marriage.
One morning Patricia finds a package when she goes to get her daily newspaper. It contains a video tape (remember those?), and when they pop it in their VHS player, they see that someone with a camcorder has been walking through their house, recording them as they slept.
When the cops appear soon after the discovery of this invasive surveillance, they of course ask whether the couple keeps a camcorder in the house.
Suspiciously, Bill Pullman is offended by the question, which perplexes the detectives. He describes his aversion to the machines by saying: “I like to remember things my own way. How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened.”
I can’t help but sling-shot this scenario into what I still haven’t been able to shake as 2016 winds to an ignoble political close: do these public figures of ours not have to tell the truth?
Do they, like Lost Highway’s shady protagonist, exist in a rarefied V.I.P. section where what they say stands untested and the realities of their statements can stay unfounded and unchecked? Does it matter? Has it been this way all along?
I did some spelunking on this internet of ours trying to track down journalists who had challenged and analyzed statements made by both Democratic and Republican political brands. From what I found, best-case scenarios featured elected representatives who spoke the truth about 1/4 of the time.
In a telling breakdown, the majority of on-the-record statements from pundits fall into categories that aren’t fully verifiable as correct, instead lingering in an unconfirmed state of “maybe.”
No one appears to want to fact-check anything. Blue, red, or otherwise, stories hit social media feeds and news websites assumed to be gold standards without any knowledgeable entity having vetted their worth.
As a voter who is rapidly becoming cynical, I wonder whether we’ve cared all that much about whether our officials are truthful over the last, say, century.
I recognize that even in the ostensibly transparent modern world, figures of note only showcase to the world what they want us to see, but secrets and lies have lurked around the corners of even our most beloved 20th/21st century icons.
Consider the Roosevelts or the Kennedys, dynasties who still inspire a deep resonance within a majority of American voting blocs — there are scandals and misinformations all over those maps.
And it came as a zero-sum surprise that as I looked into other major politicians of various stripes and creeds, nary a one was able to withstand a once-over without a skeleton popping up out of the closet.
But as naive as I likely sound, it has been this way for a long time. I met for a cocktail with some friends of mine who were back in Tahoe for the holidays, and they told me about a colleague of theirs in L.A. who had had one of those “Hollywood stories,” a run-in with a powerful player in the industry who went out of his way to be nasty just because he could.
Drunk on big earnings and falsely motivated ego-stroking, this higher-up was terrible to my buddy’s co-worker.
Alas, as someone who has worked in the belly of the beast, I can attest that is business as usual in La La Land. I got a great piece of advice from a writing teacher who addressed this unfortunate reality that so many participants in the entertainment industry are predictably horrible and degrading.
He had us recall how many names we saw crawl by during end credits of movies and reminded us that if we didn’t want to see movies made by Hollywood jerks, we wouldn’t see very many movies at all.
It seems that, yes, we can live as characters in Lost Highway did. We can surround ourselves with the truths we want, whether they’re accurately dissected or not. That seems perilous and unsettling, but perhaps that’s just me not acknowledging that this has been common tradition this whole time.
One more factoid. An analysis of statements made over the last few years by our president-elect that assessed their validity as being truthful — that figure sits at about 4%. A vast majority of what the Razzie award-winning actor (for 1990’s Ghosts Can’t Do It) says is somewhere between kinda-verified and an outright lie.
Are we living in a David Lynch movie?
Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a Vice Chair of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.