One of my favorite conversation topics center around media. Books, movies or TV shows. That and politics. A couple years ago I was having dinner with someone who started dissing the TV show Breaking Bad, though I’m not sure she had even watched an entire episode. Her complaints were that it was “violent” (It is at times, and yet at others wildly funny) the main character was horrible (he was, but he didn’t start out that way) and that it had no redeeming factors. I had to stop her there. Yes, Breaking Bad is an often violent show and it probably wasn’t targeted to her, a Masterpiece Theatre kind of gal, but have no value? I totally disagree.
I calmly put my fork down and said, “ever since humans have crawled out of the primordial goo and huddled around the first fire, we have told stories. Stories of how we made a kill, stories of how our babies ate some orange berries and died, stories of how we defeated a band of marauders, or not. And often, actually most times, stories are not pretty. Even fairy tales have foreboding settings and violent villains. We need our stories to keep us alive, even today when we have iphones, and Netflix, maybe even more so.*” While confused as art, and mistakenly deemed a luxury (art, not necessarily stories) story is not something that is extra, but essential to who we are as humans.
Think I’m wrong? How do you explain any part of this election, but the stories we tell ourselves whether we support Trump, Clinton or a third party. Really, stop and think about it. I’ll be right here when you return. What do you believe about the other candidate? What has gone into that, not only from their own campaigns but from what you bring to the narrative—which is essentially, your story.
I understand that certain stories are not for everyone. I don’t really like slasher films or the horror genre, though I do love a good Stephen King book. That’s okay. There are millions who love horror (which I hope to explore in this blog). There are elements of horror that say something to them, where they learn lessons and are entertained. But I bristle at the idea that a story (TV show, movie, play, book, political race) has no redeeming factors, because while it may not be for you, it may be for someone else. Most of us are consumers of story, fewer of us are creators. What goes into something is far more complicated than the consumer realizes. I hope in the course of this blog to explore the elements of story, why we cling to certain narratives, what makes a story better than another and even touch on the irredeemable. More than our opposable thumbs, I believe stories are what make us human and our human experience is vast and yet, confining; mundane, but sometimes terrifying, intimate, and worldly.
*shout out to Jessica Morrell for this one. I’ve taken a number of writing classes from her which have built my foundation as a writer.