Tony Wilson’s not terribly surprised to find his girlfriend Lindsay shagging The Buzzcocks’ Howard Devoto in the bathroom stall. After all, Tony knows he deserves some kind of revenge after Lindsay caught him in the back of that van with his dick in another woman’s mouth. But this might be a bit too much revenge, in Tony’s opinion. He tries to play it totally cool, asking her for the car keys like he’s not interrupting any coitus, but obviously he’s a little rattled. Before he walks off, he can’t resist pointing out to Lindsay that she’s gone too far here. “I just got a blow job. That’s full penetration.”
The real-life Howard Devoto of 2002, 25 years older and severely balding, just happens to be in the same public bathroom scrubbing a sink with a pair of blue latex gloves. Before we cut to the next scene, Howard looks right through the fourth wall and proclaims, “I definitely don’t remember this happening.“
Although it’s Tony- at least the version of Tony that’s written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, directed by Michael Winterbottom and portrayed by Steve Coogan in 24 Hour Party People- who gets the last word in the scene, via voice-over:
This is the real Howard Devoto. He and Lindsay insist that we make clear that this never happened. But I agree with John Ford: When you have to choose between the truth and the legend…print the legend.
Oh that Tony Wilson, constantly citing highbrow-sounding quotations that aren’t completely accurate, often for the purposes of aggrandizing or justifying himself. Kind of like, I wish I could stick to the truth here, but cinema icon John Ford says I have no choice in the matter.
The actual John Ford quote that movie-Tony’s probably thinking of is a line from the end of Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:
This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
In other words, Ford seemed to think we needed to believe Jimmy Stewart shot Lee Marvin in self-defense, even if deep down we knew the truth was John Wayne shot Lee Marvin in cold blood.
Of course, that was back when Truth was far easier to contain. Today, a bunch of camera-phones could’ve easily recorded and instantly published clips of John Wayne shooting Lee Marvin in cold blood. Truth used to fear Legend, but now Truth, for the most part, laughs in Legend’s face.
Which is not to say Legend is no longer dangerous, or that Truth always wins. It just means we need to update that line.
If you ask me, I’d say there’s plenty of truth out there nowadays. Print the legend, and if people want the truth, they’ll know where to look for it.