This Manti Te’o story is nuts. Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker who almost won the Heisman this year, seemed like he had the human interest story of the season: His grandmother and his girlfriend died within hours of each other, but just three days later, he was out there on the field, leading his team to victory. As it turns out, though, there was no girlfriend. According to Deadspin’s fascinating article, Te’o’s girlfriend, “Lennay Kekua,” never existed, and she appears to be a Twitter creation of one of Te’o’s friends, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. There are still an awful lot of questions surrounding the story, but perhaps none so pressing as “How will this be turned into a movie or TV show?” Let’s go through some possible versions.
A Very Special Episode of Catfish
Everyone, including Te’o’s Notre Dame athletic director* has been invoking the name of the 2011 movie and current MTV show, which helps paint Te’o as the victim of the hoax, not a co-perpetrator of one. (No one cares anymore that Catfish itself has questionable authenticity at best? Guess not.) The Catfish guys say they are already trying to get to the bottom of the story, so we fully expect this one to become a reality. Or a “reality.” What is real when we’re talking about love and Twitter?
A Social Network–Like Prestige Drama
How do you “date” someone for three years and never meet them? Dramatically, we assume. The fictionalized version we’re envisioning contrasts on-field success with the deep psychological wounds that would facilitate that level of denial. The pressure of elite college athletics robs people of their normal emotional development processes! Please call this movie Special Teams.
A Ham-Handed Episode of SVU
Cut to Ice-T saying, “You’re trying to tell me that people are lying to each other on the Internet?”
“[Sob.] I only created a fictional girlfriend and carried out a years-long relationship so I could be close to you.” It’s like You’ve Got Mail, but super fucked up.
An Artful, Whimsy-Tinged Fable About the Concept of Authenticity
What The Truman Show did for reality television, this film would do for social networking: Make it a haunting story about human dignity. Love, betrayal, death, triumph — all in an age of hyperengagement, one where people are documenting themselves and making ostensibly private conversations totally public, all as a kind of performance version of their lives. When so much of our selfhood is wrapped up in packaging and presenting those ideas, do we lose sight of who we actually are? Who anyone actually is? Directed by Michel Gondry.
* This post previously misidentified Jack Swarbrick.