The Importance Of Telling Your Story

Our thoughts on the controversial American Blogger documentary - and why it matters.
american blogger film

Image Credit: Tana Gandhi

It is not often that we cover controversial topics on Clementine Daily. As firm believers that positivity and encouragement and joy are attributes we strive to encompass, our conversations rarely turn to hot-button issues rooted in the judgment of others. This does not, however, mean we wear rose-colored glasses. Our deepest discussions engaged around various dinner tables often include a number of topics - from Egyptian revolutions to childhood vaccination schedules - each issue saved for a forum that lends itself to a more productive, more gracious conversation. There are less snap judgments, less hurt feelings. The only bullies lurking are our own, often nestled in defensiveness or jealousy or intolerance, character flaws that can be understood and - hopefully - overcome in the context of our closest relationships.

The Internet does not operate this way, and although we are incredibly grateful for the role it plays in building communities, it can just as easily orchestrate the opposite: destroying them.

Last summer, I was interviewed for a film called "American Blogger," one whose recently-released trailer has received waves of negativity and public criticism for its lack of diversity, inaccurate portrayal of career, and glorification of a homogenous lifestyle. The filmmaker has been called prejudice. The project has been called irrelevant. And we - the bloggers portrayed - have been called self-serving.

And today, I want to call attention to these negative judgments in hopes that we can move forward, celebrating one man's artistic endeavors and realizing that even the most beautiful of harmonies can leave many voices unheard.

Here is what I see, from where I'm sitting. I see a family of five following a dream to tell their story, one of loss and gain - of miscarriage and support. I see a young mother celebrating a son with special needs. I see a tattooed artist supporting her family in the Midwest. I see a brave black woman sharing pride, respect and gratitude for her platform. I see a Mormon crafter crediting the Internet for her incredible business success. I see stories of adoption and grief and restoration and cancer and resilience and infertility and - perhaps most - sheer, unadulterated optimism.

I see bloggers who are more than a sum of their parts, who are more than the roles they play and the hats they wear and the color of their skin. I see more than demographics and misinterpreted quotes and magic hour lighting. I see a filmmaker who invested time, money, energy and passion to tell his story, allowing fifty women to come along for the ride. And I see bravery.

I see a filmmaker who chose to represent a small sliver of a large, vast community - one that cannot be defined within the length of a feature film. Bloggers are doctors and fathers and professors and scientists and grandparents and hairstylists and decorators, and this film depicts but a grain of sand.

Yet it is my firm belief that a grain of sand - when offered together - can provide solace and dry land from stormy waters.

I find it unsettling that the harshest critics of this film trailer are bloggers themselves - those who felt the film silenced their voice or excluded their group. Yet it is my truest belief that - in a world where we can publish our innermost thoughts to the far corners of the world - the only voices left silent are those that fall on deaf ears.

We are not for lack of voices. We are for lack of listeners, those who hear with intention and speak with grace. Listeners who are open to learning more about a small sliver of a counter-culture (inspirational blogs) within an even larger counter-culture (blogs). Listeners who do not argue prejudice with prejudice or squeak wheels with oily words.

It would seem, then, that to tell our stories we must first listen with a willing ear and an open heart. Otherwise, we're little more than a lost grain of sand scattered about a busy, crowded pavement.

We'll be contributing to the conversation on Twitter today with hashtag #AmericanBlogger. Feel free to follow along; we'll be the ones with sand in our toes.