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Scandals these days kind of bring to mind that whole "books vs. movies" debate people are always going on about, where they say books were better because they let you use your imagination to fill in the whole world around, say, Robin Hood's merry men and their exciting adventures, whereas when you go to the movie theater, your swashbuckling medieval heroes turn out to be Kevin Costner and Christian Slater just standing around being themselves, deflating any ideas that robbing the rich in Sherwood Forest was in any way interesting or exciting.

Via Opossum Sally
Robin Hood sure didn't seem to care.

In the old days, you'd just hear some tidbits about scandals, about rumored "goings on" between the wealthy railroad scion and the Senator's wife, and you would fill in the blanks imagining the sexy details. Were they role-playing Antony and Cleopatra? Was she wearing a strap-on? Sure, why not. Who can say? But these days, we get every single awkward, sad, and cringe-inducing detail, and often times reality turns out to be as disappointing as Kevin Costner.

No mean feat.

And when I say "scandal," I'm not just talking about personal screw-ups, but all the sensational news that we read only because it sounds like something out of a suspense novel or movie, and are prepared to criticize in the same way as we would criticize a poor fictional storyline. Stories such as:

Sex Scandals

When a celebrity sex scandal becomes a news story, of course everyone has to pretend they mainly care about the impact on the person's career, or whatever. Maybe some people do, but most of the audience is gobbling up details left and right about what the scandal-doers were wearing, what sex positions they were in, what kind of foreplay was used (if any) and all kinds of shit that can't possibly affect anyone's career. I mean, if Monica Lewinsky was wearing a green cocktail dress instead of a blue one, that would suddenly mean they are less likely to impeach Clinton?

Maybe if i>he was wearing it.

Nobody cares about these people's careers or any newsy things here, they're all in this for the storyline. They want a real-life soap opera or steamy romance novel or soft-porn erotica or just plain masturbation material, depending on their tastes. And when the story sucks, they get pissed right off, but they can't admit it straight out, because remember, we're all pretending to be interested in this as a news story.

So when Anthony Weiner decides to have a sex scandal by sending pictures of his penis to ladies over the Internet, he is ruining the story. Sure, we will read about it because it is funny and his last name is Weiner, and you can't pass that up, but secretly a lot of us are really let down that this is his idea of a sex scandal. Sure, we weren't expecting Shakespearean sonnets from his chatlogs, but finding out that he was basically rephrasing, "My penis is very hard," over and over again was below even our lowered expectations.

It's like erotic fiction by Stephenie Meyer.

I mean, this is the guy who won acclaim for passionate, arresting speeches in Congress, and this is his idea of hot sex talk? But instead of admitting we were hoping for a better scandal, we have to say we're disappointed that he was so crude because it is so embarrassing to him and so hurtful to his wife, not because it was such a lame story for us to read.

The other big letdown in penis picture scandals is the pictures. When you're told you're going to get photos from a sex scandal, most men are hoping for pictures of boobs or other lady parts, and ladies are also hoping for naked ladies ("See, I knew that's what she looks like without the girdle!") and maybe some chiseled abs on some men. Nobody wants to see penises, except possibly gay men, but I don't want to speak for them. Maybe they only want to see good-looking penises, anyway. Just because someone enjoys seeing penises doesn't mean they're not selective.

Some people like them thick and chalky, some people like them encased in plastic, etc.

So given the truism that nobody wants to see a penis, why do famous people like Anthony Weiner, Brett Favre, Greg Oden and Chris Brown, as well as random Internet creeps, keep trying to send girls penis pictures? Well, when you're famous, a lot of women will be so anxious to get with you that they will put up with just about anything. (As for the non-famous Internet guy -- probably just has never met a woman.)

If you sweet talk them and buy them flowers, they will get with you. If you say, "Hey, get on my boner," they will get with you. If you show them your penis, they will get with you. If you put on a cat suit and repeatedly ram head first into a brick wall while meowing, they will get with you. Basically, you don't get any feedback about whether you did something appealing or not, because they were going to get with you anyway. If this goes on long enough, you will no longer be able to tell what is appealing to women and what isn't. And one day, you are going to run into some lady that doesn't want to get with you, and after she flees your apartment, she is going to put your wall-ramming cat suit video on YouTube, and then you're fucked.

Celebrity Sex Tapes

Unlike a sex scandal, nobody watching a celebrity sex tape has to pretend they care about the impact on society or whatever. They just want to watch a famous person having sex. There doesn't have to be any kind of story, or romance, just sex. Expectations seem straightforward, and it doesn't seem like anybody would be let down. But it turns out people are even more critical of sex tapes than of sex scandals.

Just Google "disappointing sex tapes". The Internet has a LOT to say about this subject.

No. 1 complaint: No actual sex. No. 2 complaint: Not actually on a tape.

Part of it is that porn is everywhere now, by the bucketful (probably not the best metaphor to use for this subject), and everybody's an expert, if not on sex, then at least on what sex is supposed to look like performed on camera for other people. Gone is the time where you could just have sex and people would consider themselves lucky to be able to see it. Nowadays, they will take points off for bad lighting, bad camera angle, unconvincing acting and, understandably, answering the phone in the middle of sex.

The second reason is that everybody wants to take celebrities down a notch, especially hated ones like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. And it's easiest to wound people when they expose themselves, whether emotionally (they reveal they're in counseling, and you make fun of how crazy they must be), or physically (they show their vagina and you criticize its grooming).

From UTUBBASS's YouTube video.
When else is this guy going to get to reject Kim Kardashian?

So yeah, famous people, the whole sex tape thing is not worth it. You think you are going to have horny dudes across the country excited and grateful to see your private parts in action but all you are going to get is Perez Hilton dismissing your attempts as "very vanilla", and Internet dudes going online to tell everyone how "droll" and "blase" it was, probably after masturbating to it first.

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Nobody actually wants to be hacked, but everybody gets very excited about the idea of mysterious superhackers breaking in to networks with governments and big corporations helpless to stop them. This is because we watch too many movies.

Via MoviePosterDB.com
And not necessarily good ones.

The best that real life has done to measure up to the international life-and-death stakes we've come to expect from big hacking stories is Stuxnet, a virus that was probably created by the U.S. or Israeli governments (which they deny while winking conspicuously at the camera) that attacked computer systems at Iranian nuclear power plants and set back Iran's nuclear program a couple of months. But for obvious reasons, neither the creator nor the victims want to talk about this one, so it's a story with no faces, no names, and no juicy trash talk quotes.

"You may or may not be going down, unnamed Middle Eastern country! That's when you get for messing with [redacted]."

The much better story, from a sensationalism point of view, has been LulzSec, a group of hackers that has launched a series of rapid-fire attacks on well-known targets like Fox, Sony, Nintendo and PBS, and leaves the public mysterious taunting messages, just like a proper supervillain group ought to do. Well-aware of the role they are expected to play, they even created a supervillain mascot.

Via Digital Trends

Unfortunately, unlike the sort of gripping cat-and-mouse game we were hoping for, their targets seemed to be really random -- Fox, because they insulted Common; computer security companies, to prove a point; porn sites, just for fun apparently; and the British National Health Service for God knows what reason. The only thing they seemed to be hitting consistently was game companies, because I guess that is the one thing the group agreed was really important.

When hacking Bethesda, the group acquired account details of 200,000 Brink players and then threatened to release them unless their demands were met. They didn't want one billion dollars or to stop the destruction of the rainforests or that we get out of Afghanistan, but that Bethesda release more information about their upcoming Skyrim game, and that they add a top hat item to the game.

Via hebblog
It's not that weird. World of Warcraft already has them, and they go on werewolves.

Worthy goals, no doubt, but kind of disappointing after watching a good James Bond movie or even Swordfish or Die Hard 4.

And just when The Man struck back, arresting some guy that probably had something to do with LulzSec, or maybe not, and we were about to settle in with our popcorn to see what the bad guys were going to respond with, they got bored and quit. Look, nobody liked it when The Sopranos ended that way, and this isn't going to go down any better with critics.

Oh sorry, was that a spoiler? Look, it's been four years.

But there's still hope. The mysterious Conficker worm has been spreading around the world since 2008 and has now infected about 7 million computers in 200 different countries, despite the efforts of an international team of the top cybersecurity experts, whose every move has been matched by a clever Conficker modification. Nobody knows what it's supposed to do, and whoever made it apparently is waiting to activate it. If it does anything even slightly harmful, all hell is probably going to break loose when it does activate. And then hopefully at that time, its creator will have one hell of an evil villain speech.

Russian Spies

Last year, the news was captivated by the story of a ring of deep-cover Russian spies that had been living among Americans for over a decade. It was exciting because it made us nostalgic for the James Bond and Tom Clancy and John Le CarrÃé stories we used to churn out by the boatload, and we were like, "Remember that? Now it's all vampires and superheroes."

Via Movie-List.com
And vampire superheroes.

But now there were real life Russian spies, right under our noses, and at least one of them was hot. It was so exciting, especially for actors like Walter Koenig, who might be able to get movie roles again.

Unfortunately, it turned out they were shitty spies. They were so bad at their job that we couldn't even charge them with espionage, because they didn't have any secrets. It wasn't necessarily their fault. Their bosses back home told them not to get government jobs, because they didn't think their cover would hold up under a background investigation, so they got jobs as real estate agents, travel agents and financial planners.

The closest anyone got to a real "government contact" seems to have been Cynthia Murphy, who got to be friends with a venture capitalist who knew a Cabinet official, and you know how easy it is to get secrets out of your best friend's doctor or your co-worker's brother-in-law.

"Congratulations on your new house! Also, can you ask your friend what he knows about America's nuclear vessels in the North Atlantic?"

Also, they apparently put this information together the same way a procrastinating college student puts together his research papers -- when one spy complained to his lady spy companion that Moscow was giving him flak for not naming sources (because he was probably just reporting stuff he got off the Internet), she told him to just fill in a random politician's name, and he did.

"I'm not allowed to use Wikipedia ... I'll just say I got this information from Henry Kissinger."

After a swap with Moscow was arranged, the spies all went home to a heroes' welcome. The femme fatale (and therefore most potentially interesting) of the spy group, Anna Chapman, could have provided us with an appropriately intrigue-worthy ending where she died under mysterious circumstances or became an undercover assassin, but instead is hosting a weekly TV show where her tagline is "I will reveal all secrets," (because she was a spy, get it?) and she covers vital stories like babies with the Islamic version of stigmata.

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Hoax Bad Parents

Just last month, people were going nuts over this awful, horrifying, yet extremely fascinating story of a mom that injected her eight-year-old daughter with Botox to help her compete in child beauty pageants. She appeared on Inside Edition and Good Morning America and horrified the entire country, or at least the portion of it that watches those shows.

And since that demographic likes to blog, soon everybody knew about it.

Naturally, some viewers called child protection agencies in San Francisco, where the mom claimed to live, and even though she had lied about that (and her name), the agencies managed to track her down in Los Angeles, where she really lived, and arrested her. That's when she admitted the whole thing was a hoax.

"Uh ... gotcha?"

It all started when The Sun, a British tabloid, paid her $200 to play a character named "Kerry Campbell" and say she injected her daughter with Botox. The American shows got a look at the Sun story, believed it for some reason and paid her even more money to come on their shows and say the same thing. Nobody had the foresight to follow this through to its natural conclusion (jail) and the natural result (the mom fessing up).

From The Sun online.
This publication radiates credibility.

People everywhere expressed anger at her for lying, but I don't think most of it came from genuine moral outrage so much as being deprived of a good story. Sure, she was still a bad parent, but bad parents who exploit their kids for attention are a dime a dozen, whereas a real Botox-injecting mom would have been a genuine freak. Bloggers everywhere were crushed that this was not a real person to yell at.

The truth is that it's probably much better that this story isn't true, and that a little girl's face not being full of toxins is probably more important than us getting our entertainment. It's probably better in general for everybody that most of these stories aren't true. But it sure is a lot less fun.

For more from Christina, check out 5 Reasons Parenting is One Place We Shouldn't Imitate China and The 8 Most Successful Politicians (Who Weren't Human).

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