Desperately Seeking Approval
by William Berryman
On Saturday morning, November 21, I caught a minute-long segment on Channel 4’s show about the actor Keanu Reeves being in town for a film project. By the time the story had ended, my stomach was beginning to turn. People had been allegedly going apeshit that Reeves was here, but the story that morning was really telling and sad.
Reporter Lorey Schultz tried to get Reeves to talk to her. After some delay, she was able to get close to him and ask her question. And that question was, “Keanu! Keanu! What impresses you most about Western New York?” Seriously. While it may sound like a legitimate question, there in the recesses of my mind was this feeling of a pathetic, simpering attempt at stroking the egos of the people watching the report. It is the unending quest to find the legitimacy of our existence, and have that stamped with approval by a big Hollywood movie star.
Reeves’ reply to the question was clichéd. He stated he was “having a good time” and “people have been nice.” Whew! Good thing, too. What would he have said had our citizens been rude to him? The segment also stated he was apparently “extremely grateful” to every one of us, but that part of the interview wasn’t shown. Perhaps he was only as grateful as he is in any other city where he comes into contact with strangers. In actuality, I was hoping Reeves would have given an honest answer, something to the effect of “Lady, do you have any idea how much of this planet I’ve seen already? Why would this place impress me?” (I was also hoping he’d ask Schultz why it was such a piece of cake to empty out Main Street for the shoot.) If he really felt that way, I’m certain he wouldn’t risk the reaction of some very angry citizens. People around here do not like folks from the outside criticizing Buffalo!
Which brings me back to Schultz’s question. It reminded me of a little girl who goes up to her father and says, “Tell me I’m good.” It is what I can only describe as an inferiority complex that seems to afflict many around here. I’m not certain what causes it—the snow, the lack of jobs, the exodus of so many residents, the four straight Super Bowl losses, the fact that most people don’t make Buffalo a vacation destination—but it’s palpable. We need to be routinely boosted by being told we don’t completely suck and that there are many things in Buffalo and Western New York about which we can gloat. Despite the problems that this region may have, there are many, many places far worse for wear. Everyone can take solace that the utter inefficiency of our local officials has not yet resulted in Western New York exploding and sinking to the bottom of the lake.
If we take a realistic approach to things, I’m sure we won’t need this constant validation of our region. That being said, I’m not interested in the “cheerleader” method either; you know, the ones who prop up the area to the point of fictionalizing Buffalo. We may not be like Detroit, but neither are we the Garden of Eden.
William Berryman, Kenmore
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