Based on...what, exactly?

“Though she tried
Lord, she could not change
And I only have myself to blame
‘Cause I let her lie
I let her lie”
“I Let Her Lie” — Daryle Singletary

Written by well-known Nashville songwriter Tim Johnson, “I Let Her Lie” was recorded and released by artist Daryle Singletary in 1995. It peaked at No. 2 in the Billboard Hot Country charts and was ranked as the No. 70 song in the United States for 1995.

The song discusses someone who was in a relationship with a woman who lied about cheating.

Eventually, she does confess to the infidelity and vows to never cheat again.

The song’s protagonist then catches her again in the stanza quoted above. The final stanza of the song, the main character leaves the relationship as the woman lies sleeping in bed.

Whether we want to admit it or not, all too often, we’re willing to listen to lies from those we agree with (or want to agree with), even when doing so is detrimental to us or leads us into taking actions on a false narrative.

Heck, the main character of the song describes himself as the center of a “small town scandal” due to going along with the lies.

That’s where we begin this week - small towns. You may or may not be aware of the “scandal” around Jason Aldean’s song “Try That In a Small Town” over the past few weeks. Aldean is well-known for being aligned with conspiracy theories around the 2020 election and espousing hardcore right wing ideologies on social media.

When confronted about the violent rhetoric in the song, Aldean responded with a lengthy social media post insisting that the video that was causing an uproar was simply news footage from actual events described in the song.

The issue? It wasn’t.

There are many online sleuths that do this work better than I ever could, but the majority of the video for the song has been shown to be stock videos, something you or I could purchase from a website, the majority of which are staged for retail purposes. Even the “real” protest videos that Aldean used were not even from the United States, and the majority of them were more than a decade old.

Of course, this really shouldn’t be terribly surprising.

Aldean has usurped small town values to make millions of dollars from those who actually live in small towns over his career. Meanwhile the smallest town he’s ever resided in during his life is roughly seven times the size of Huron. The actual writers of the song (because Aldean did no writing on this piece, of course) hail from towns at least three times the size of Huron.

There was a time that small towns were represented by artists in country music. Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, and he grew up in nearby Dyess. Both of those towns would make Wolsey look like a metropolis in comparison, with roughly 300 residents.

Cash was a guy who pushed against many of the tropes of a “redneck,” however. He was vehemently against racism, actively protested against violence by police, and played hundreds of shows in small bars and prisons, even at the height of his fame, because he felt there was more to music than simply chasing an almighty dollar and saying whatever needs to be said in order to cause listeners to fork over money.

This is coming on the heels of the release of the movie “Sound of Freedom,” which has significant issues with the reality of the story, yet because it is “based on a true story,” according to advertising, many are taking the film as a documentary — rather than the work of truth-based fiction that it truly is.

Many who worked with Tim Ballard, upon whom the story in the movie is based, with Operation Underground Railroad express that his tale of events has always exceeded the reality of what happened.

Before Angel Studios purchased the film’s distribution rights, the original creators of the film were clear that the story is a fictionalized version of true events. Angel Studios has taken no such stance.

In fact, one of the big story lines about “Sound of Freedom” was its reception in theaters, earning as much as the latest installment of “Indiana Jones” (Harrison Ford in CGI is getting to be too much…) over Independence Day.

The issue? The ticket sales weren’t real.

AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the world, recognized an issue with a single source of the pre-movie online purchases of tickets across multiple chain screens and began cancelling all preordered tickets. If a viewer came to the theater and purchased a ticket, they could still see the movie, but many other theaters reported sold out theaters with no one in the building during the weekend.

In other words, the ticket sales claimed for “Sound of Freedom” were inflated in a marketing ploy by Angel Studios. While there is nothing illegal, per se, about buying up tickets to bolster movie sales on a release weekend, most major studios don’t do it simply because it’s added expense, but Angel Studios continues to quote one cost - the $15 million to film the movie, not the estimated $70 million to promote it thus far spent by the company.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the subject of the film isn’t a valid one to see and that it isn’t an entertaining movie - it’s just not truth and shouldn’t be advertised as such.

Speaking of actual fiction, this past weekend saw the Barbie movie come to theaters, breaking a host of records with a $162 million opening weekend, giving it the best opening weekend of 2023.

There have been people who have been loudly making comments against the Barbie movie since its announcement, with most of the complaints aimed at things like the map of BarbieLand in the movie before she’s transported to the “real world” that includes disputed border lands near China. Nevermind that the map also has England bordering Asia and Greenland the same size as Africa, but a number of dashes on the crayon drawing style map is the focus of much of the response on this fictional movie.

The other major issue brought up is the dominance of Barbie in the Barbie/Ken relationship. If that’s something you’re just finding out about now, you really should not be discussing Barbie.

Before women were allowed to have a bank account without a husband or father as cosigner in more than a dozen states, Barbie had a credit card. Before women were viewed as potential astronauts or CEOs, Barbie had outfits in exactly those positions, including accessories to show she wasn’t “just playing dress up.”

Barbie had a judge outfit before Sandra Day O’Connor was put into office, and the former Supreme Court justice not only used the “Judge Barbie” as a talking prop during an interview at one point, but she talked about how a doll encouraged her in her groundbreaking role as the first female Supreme Court justice.

Barbie has always been ahead of the times, and while there have always been well-earned criticisms of the brand, it has responded as well. When questions about representation were raised in the 1960s, Mattel came out with the first Black doll in 1968 as a “friend of Barbie” and by 1980 was producing Black Barbie dolls. When public comment turned to the form of Barbie, which when put into human dimensions was extremely unrealistic, the doll in the mid-1990s was reshaped and reconfigured to offer a host of different body styles.

Creating controversy from a fictional movie while attempting to accept and encourage the actual fiction being presented as truth really leads to question - where is your life based? Real, verifiable truth? False narratives presented as truth? Actual fiction?

Having some balance of each is perfectly acceptable - as long as you understand and recognize each for what they truly are.