As this blog and the Internet in general have already made clear, Ryan Gosling did a good deed yesterday by preventing a fellow New York pedestrian from getting hit by a cab. Naturally, this minor and admirable bit of altruism caused a bit of an online frenzy because — hello? — Ryan Gosling did something that proves he possesses basic human decency. Documenting that fact in something approximating real time is, last I checked, the reason WiFi was invented.
The frenzy caught one person off guard, however: Laurie Penny, the British journalist who was saved from oncoming traffic by Gosling and who, in a Gawker piece entitled “Ryan Gosling Saved Me From a Speeding Car But There’s War in the Middle East So Everyone Calm Down,” notes how strange it is that Americans “hyperventilate about the most everyday happenings.”
“I had just bought a nice pink wig to wear to a friend’s party,” Penny writes initially, recounting the tale that has captivated Gosling Nation. “I was thinking about an article I’m writing about birth control and the importance of reproductive freedom to women’s rights, and I didn’t remember to look the right way. An actor happened to be passing and stopped me from getting run over by a car. I said ‘thank you.’ And that was that. The actor happened to be Ryan Gosling.”
She goes on to note that the media mentions of this incident have been somewhat out-of-control — “I don’t believe that the fact that A-list celebrities occasionally act like human beings is in itself news” — then points out how messed-up American priorities are.
“Americans are very strange. They can and do hyperventilate about the most everyday happenings as if they are the most important thing in the world, and then they act completely normal when public conversations are had about war on Iran and war on women’s bodies and when Rick Santorum is considered a serious presidential candidate. The real heroes I’ve met in America are risking everything to make sure that the United States doesn’t slide further into bigotry, inequality and violence whilst everyone is distracted by the everyday doings of celebrities.”
Naturally, Gawker commenters have focused on the use of the word “whilst,” which really irks some of them. Such a typical American response.
Here’s the thing: Penny is correct. Of course there are far more important matters happening in the world than whatever random act of kindness Gosling has engaged in lately. No one said the Gosling incident actually qualifies as legitimate news. I mean, I wrote about it and I don’t think it’s news. But then neither are many things in Celebritology, which is its own quirky, occasionally snarky, pop culture-focused little corner of the Washington Post Web site, where people come to hide from information about whatever the GSA is brazenly spending its money on.
Also, sometimes people on the Internet hyperventilate, but aren’t actually hyperventilating because they’re only hyperventilating a minimal amount but pretending they’re hyperventilating a whole lot, which makes the whole endeavor meta, mildly amusing and a brief escape from more serious matters like tornadoes and presidential elections. Seriously, that run-on sentence is actually the mission statement for the entire blogosphere.
And since we’re having this conversation, let’s be honest: Isn’t there quite a bit of hyperventilating around political coverage as well? If you put, say, the Etch a Sketch incident in a head-to-head battle with Gosling’s Taxi Episode, which one caused more of a media asthma attack? At least we — or most of us — acknowledge that freaking out over the latest Ryan Gosling meme is a silly lark. Etch a Sketch, on the other hand, was something to have serious discussions about because that gaffe occurred during a serious presidential election.
Bottom line: I’m glad Penny didn’t get hit by a cab. It’s pretty cool that Gosling was the one who stopped that from happening even though it’s not that big of a deal. I agree that Americans and the media glorify celebrities too much and, as a fellow journalist, I respect Penny for keeping this whole matter in perspective. But I also think there’s nothing wrong with having a good, old-fashioned, Ryan Gosling meme-related laugh once in a while.
Oh, and as far as which version of the Gosling-as-savior narrative I prefer? I’ll go with the Best Week Ever one, which tells the story of Heroic Taxi Save 2012 by pairing photos with absurd captions.
Classic Internet. And like a classic American, I think I’ll look at it again whilst I giggle.