Realness annoys me, and I’m not talking about reality television. I’m talking about reality as in Real Man and Real American – pure, perfect, ideal, unadulterated authenticity.
I don’t like it.
Rather, I don’t like the impossibly high standard that people apply when they decide that someone else isn’t real. Let a snarling, bar-toughened rock band play one ballad that catches a little commercial success, and blogs will explode with denunciations that the band isn’t or Really Hardcore Really Punk or Really Metal or whatever the label of the day is. A politician says that he supports abortion rights, and some preacher will immediately denounce him as not a Real Christian. An African-American businessman or entertainer gains acceptance in the white world, and a self-appointed black (or white) leader will say that the businessman/entertainer/whoever isn’t Really Black.
Anyone can denounce anyone else as Not a Real Whatever — and applaud himself for holding high standards.
As a Jew, I’ve run into the issue of Real versus Not Real in my own family. Take the kids of my brother and sister-in-law. The kids have had bar and bat mitzvahs, they’ve taught in synagogue Sunday schools, they participate in observing Jewish holidays, and they declare themselves as Jews on their Facebook pages. But according a strictly traditional interpretation of Jewish law, they’re not really Jews.
The kids’ mother, my sister-in-law, isn’t a Jew. Therefore, says the strictly traditional view, her kids aren’t Jews, and the only way they can become Jews is to convert. That attitude strikes me as unfair and insulting, and it derives from too unyielding a concept of what’s Real versus Not Real.
So forget it. De-emphasize realness.