When I clicked the button to publish the first post on Words I Wheel By, I considered myself as nothing more than an aspiring writer who hoped I might be lucky enough to reach a few people here and there. Today, I feel confident that I can proudly refer to myself as both a writer and a blogger. I am part of a community that is incredibly wide-ranging and diverse. The blogosphere is populated by people from every corner of the earth – people of every gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, skin color, class, ability, height, weight, relationship status…and on, and on, and on.
The endless list of traits that make each blogger unique is precisely the reason why blogs have become such a valuable part of the modern global cultural landscape. So, when I initially heard about the upcoming release of a documentary called “American Blogger,” I was excited because I assumed that the filmmaker, Chris Wiegand, had a deep appreciation for the immense diversity that bloggers bring to the Internet and wanted to capture it. And while I still plan to give it a fair chance when it becomes available for viewing, my excitement deflated pretty quickly when I watched this trailer:
The overall lack of diversity of the bloggers who appear in this video is incredibly disheartening. I understand the importance of not judging a book by its cover (or a documentary by its trailer), but trailers are meant to give viewers a preview of what to expect. In this case, barely anything even alludes to more diversity being included in the full feature. From this particular preview, it appears that the filmmaker possesses a rather narrow view of who, exactly, can be defined as an “American Blogger.” Of course, I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt that the documentary digs deeper and embraces the differences among the bloggers who are featured. But right now, I find myself, as well as a huge population of the bloggers I love to follow, completely left out of the picture.
“American Blogger” may work as really catchy title, but it doesn’t feel accurate. I’m an American blogger and the people I saw don’t seem to represent me. And don’t get me wrong, I have respect for all bloggers, and I certainly cannot pass judgment on the bloggers in the film because I’m sure they all have unique and diverse life stories that weren’t revealed in the trailer. However, where are the male bloggers? The bloggers of color? The bloggers with visible disabilities? Where is the representation of varied class privilege? Of varied body shapes and sizes? Of different familial structures? I know that sounds like a lot to pack into a film preview less than two minutes and thirty seconds long, but I think that if there was more diversity amongst the bloggers who were interviewed in the first place, it would have been quite simple to insert clips of footage indicating this.
Instead, the bloggers I saw were not only all women, but also appeared to share some characteristics including similar body types and light skin. Again, I want to clarify that there is nothing wrong with looking a certain way, and in no way am I holding anything against the bloggers who took the time to appear in the documentary. Even so, I’m curious why so many other types of appearances were missing. To me, this contributed to the vibe I got from the trailer that a celebration of diversity in general will be lacking from the full film.
Granted, the filmmaker’s wife, Casey Leigh, who is also a blogger, posted a response to the controversy this film has created in which she directly acknowledges that not everyone’s story is told: “The way these women tell their stories authentically does represent American Bloggers, but we are completely aware that not all categories of American Bloggers are represented in this film. Nor was that the goal for this first film.” I appreciate that they are aware of this, but my question for them is quite simply: why? Why wasn’t the goal of the film to capture the true diversity behind the overarching identity encapsulated by the word “American?” I totally understand that you can’t tell everyone’s life story in one film, and I respect what Wiegand was trying to do, but at least from what the trailer shows, he missed the mark – especially because Wiegand’s wife directs us to her original post revealing the idea, in which her husband states: “I think this is important to show the differences and similarities!!!” Where are the notable differences? After all, that’s what makes blogging so beautiful, isn’t it?
As a blogger who has a disability, who is short, who cannot claim to be skinny, who grapples with both the privilege I have and the privilege I don’t, I continually wonder when the day will come that I will see myself reflected back at me, not just in this one documentary, but in the mainstream media as a whole. Within the vast world of bloggers, I have connected with countless people who share amazing stories. They are the stories of what it’s really like to have a disability. They are the stories of how it feels to not fit in to a certain cultural norm. They are the stories of personal struggles and triumphs, regardless of appearance or ability.
And in the midst of all of this, bloggers can talk about fun things. We can write about fashion or make-up, about recipes or fun activities, about family life or vacations. But we can never deny that what makes all of these experiences worth writing about is that each time we put our thoughts out into the world, they are shaped by the varied roots we come from. Every writer and blogger contributes yet another small thread to the rich, complex fabric of the diverse country we live in, and that is truly something to treasure. This, to me, is the true definition of an American blogger.
How would you define an American blogger?
Image Credit: George Hodan