By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Few stories have generated the number of comments we’ve received for screenwriter Josh Olson’s cover story “The Life and Death of Jesse James: An Internet Love Hoax” (Oct. 12–18). To see the full range of responses, go to laweekly.com.
In response to the article titled “The Life and Death of Jesse James,” I offer the perspective of a professional writer and someone who has witnessed Internet scams. I know it sounds harsh, but the fact is Audrey didn’t need to be scammed for more than a couple of weeks at best. It took me five seconds of research to find the Denver Volunteer Fire Department. She could have found out in a matter of minutes that Jesse does not exist. Audrey’s story speaks for itself. She spent more than 10 grand (by her own admission) and never even bothered to check (as her friends did) if Jesse actually existed. In the end, Janna constructed a fantasy world for Audrey. She sensed that Audrey was ripe to be lied to.
But Janna did not just lie to Audrey. Audrey lied to herself. In fact, I fully believe that we cannot be lied to unless we want to hear lies. This is not a story about Internet deception, however. I read this as a story about what people do when they become so needy in life for attention and an emotional connection that they will do anything to get it. In Audrey’s case, this includes boxing up their furniture and moving to goodness knows where to live with someone she’d never even met. It is thus a story about deep emotional need.
Janna is needy in the way that most of us pray will never happen to us. Her need is to hurt others. Audrey’s need is one that most of us share — the desire to connect with another on the deep emotional level that we call “love.” It is unfortunate that she got hurt in her quest. This is the heart of the story — what we are willing to do in our search for love. In the end, the Audreys of the world may indeed learn something from this article. It may actually be about that old adage, “Be careful what you long for, because you just might get it.” If Audrey sincerely wanted true love, she would have made the effort to verify the facts of Jesse’s life, instead of simply accepting e-mails, pictures and phone calls as the truth. She would have checked into a few things, just as her friends did. The question is: Why didn’t she?
I was enjoying this article until I got to the photo at the end. That was unnecessarily cruel. This woman is not a criminal; she’s seriously ill. Nothing she did was possible without Audrey’s participation. This wasn’t a predator or con artist bilking a mark — this was folie à deux. Olson seems to get that 90 percent of the way through, as he ridicules his friend’s judgment, but then at the end, everything changes and Audrey is suddenly a blameless victim. Sorry, Josh, I’m not buying it.
OMG. When I lived in the L.A. area (’75–’91), L.A. Weekly was a pretty decent rag. Since that time, I’ve occasionally skimmed the paper or checked the Web site, and yeah, every so often I’ve found a moderately interesting article or two. But still, this once-thriving publication is just a faded shadow of its former self. Then again, so are we all. This drivel was the cover story of the L.A. Weekly?! The world’s a bloody mess, we’re all about 3 centimeters away from becoming toast, we have a trajillion global problems that require our immediate attention, and the featured article in the United States’ second-largest city’s hard-hitting alternative press is . . . Gamma Retards in Love??? WTF??!!
Lao Ren Cha
What the article doesn’t go very deeply into, but that Audrey’s blog does, is that Janna wasn’t just pretending to be “Jesse” — she was also pretending to be Jesse’s sister, his best bud, his therapist, his stalker . . . she unleashed a veritable army of sock puppets to maintain the illusion that this man existed. When you have this many “people” saying they know this guy, can you really blame Audrey for being misled? Especially since it seems like such an absurd notion that one individual would go to that much trouble. (Even though they do. Janna St. James is not the only one. Far from it.)
Audrey’s blog is at pieceofcakey.blogspot.com. For letters on other topics, go to www.laweekly.com.
Just want you to know I read the L.A. Weekly 90 percent less now that you got rid of your crossword puzzle. Last week I ran into some other people who, surprisingly enough, said the same thing: “L.A. Weekly sucks now that they got rid of the crossword puzzle.” I’ve been reading L.A. Weekly since I was a teenager, just before the punk scene arrived. I wish you would put the crossword back into your paper. Just thought you should know.
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