Story Thought #2: PERVERSIONS OF STORY

Storytelling has been a life-journey. On this page I will share things I've picked up along the way, as well as new thoughts that present themselves as the journey continues. Some will be about drawing and visuals, some will be about writing and story with a capital S. Let's do this!

PERVERSIONS OF STORY

The way I understand it, non-fiction is telling the most specific truths in the most factual way possible, while fiction—AKA story— is about telling the most universal truths in the weirdest way possible. In other words, while non-fiction is about small truths and (as much as humanly possible) no lies, story is about small lies and big truths.

for instance, the small lie that getting bit by a radioactive spider gives you the ability to climb walls puts you in the mood to accept the universal truth that with great powers, come great responsibility. By the way, that IS a big truth, to which anyone who has ever ascended to the great powers of middle management only to find themselves responsible for hiring or firing their friends can attest. Also, for you story snobs out there, originality is totally uncorrelated to truth.

In short, the small lies of story amuse and entertain so we can relax and process the other stuff.

I have vivid childhood memories of Superman The Movie coming out, and being baffled by news segments about concerned parents who feared that it would cause their kids to put on makeshift capes and jump out the window. I was just a kid, and I was like—are you people insane? Do you think we kids believe this is real? Do you not understand the difference between child play and psychotic delusions? Wait—are you confused? Do you believe this is real?

That type of confusion never goes away, as illustrated by parents wanting to ban Harry Potter because they don’t want to ‘promote witchcraft’… making you wonder… wait… you actually believe witches are real? Anyone in particular we need to burn?

Which leads me to perversions of story. The state in which one gets so turned around that stories’ small lies are taken literally, while the big truths are being missed.

That happens when one insist that someone actually walked on water, but completely misses the point of the story: that even God had to come down from his place of judgement, and walk a painful mile in man’s shoes to access the commonality of the human experience, and teach himself empathy. That kind of confusion between what to defend as fact versus what to really connect with is how a family-values person might end up rooting for putting migrant children in cages.

Or when one starts real-life believing plots out of X-files, while failing to grasp the dark societal projects underpinning those beliefs (such as your political opponents needing to be put in jail.)

It’s interesting to consider that perverted fiction and inaccurate non-fiction are two completely different things. Perverted story is not about incorrect facts that can be be disproven, it’s about taking a healthy play mechanism, and turning it on its head into psychosis.

And just like you can’t argue facts with a crazy person, the greatest antidote of perverted story is not facts, it actually is story. Good old story about how we all are the same…all trying to find our way in life, putting on pants one leg at a time, and trying to get through our day—all that delivered through talltales of, say, saving the city from Godzilla. So if you wonder why forces of darkness have been putting so much effort in attacking universally beloved stories such as Star Wars, comic books in general, or instigate things like gamer gate, look no further. It’s an attack on story. It’s an attack on us coming together around the playful exploration of our shared humanity. because when you start arguing over the real ethnicity of fictional characters, you know you have forgotten what every child knows. You no longer know how to play.

Personally, nothing makes me happier than the fact that my readers come from all walks of life, and from all cultural, and I’m sure, political stripes. And I love those thousands of moments, at conventions or online, when we all come together to share our connection with these fictional characters, and the very human themes that live inside them. We get to play together. And the more we do of that, the more the neurotic anxious making other stuff just goes away.

So let’s make sure we collectively keep playing together, and never confuse what to do with the small lies and the big truth, before we, as a society, find ourselves putting on a cape and jumping out the fucking window.

STORY THOUGHT #1: ROBIN HOOD IS NO NORMA RAE

Storytelling has been a life-journey. On this page I will share things I've picked up along the way, as well as new thoughts that present themselves as the journey continues. Some will be about drawing and visual storytelling, some will be about writing and story with a capital S. Let's do this!

 

Earlier this week, writers' room musings led to the following question:  in stories where a single hero rises to free their people, should that hero be an average person, or should they have a special status to begin with?

Well, let's starts with Robin Hood, who steals from the rich to give to the poor, fighting for social justice and to free his people from a tyrannical ruler.  Robin himself is not an average Joe, however. he is a nobleman in disguise. Why is that? Why couldn't he be some random farmer who's mad as hell and who's not  gonna take it anymore? 

Meanwhile union organizer Norma Rae is NOT a poor-little-rich-girl who finds a political conscience. She's an average single mom who IS mad as hell and who's not  gonna take it anymore? 

So what's the difference? 

I'll argue that this has to do with the overall societal vision that the story is defending, and therefore with how it frames issues of social injustice. In other words, does the story take the ultimate position that the system would be good if it weren't for a few bad apples, or is the system corrupt at its core and must be dismantled (or at least fundamentally reformed?)

Robin Hood defends the bad apple theory. The problem is Prince John, the illegitimate usurper who is a corrupt, degenerate asshole, and makes everyone suffer. At the end of the day, King Richard returns, restoring order. This story is not trying to reform monarchy, it's just trying to retire a defective ruler. The system is good, and once the illegitimate despot is replaced by a benevolent ruler, everyone lives happily ever after. If the rebellion had been started by some random charismatic field laborer, we would have a revolution on our hands. That would be a whole different deal. Instead, we have a prince in commoner disguise  cleaning up his own house in an act of "Noblesse Oblige". Ultimately, he's not fighting the system, he's protecting it.

So you could argue that stories like Robin Hood, while presented as stories of popular liberation, are in fact only protecting the system by giving you a few bad apples to root against. The structure of oppression remain in place at the end, only in the hands of benevolent or fair-minded rulers. Meanwhile, the necessary rebelling is left to a nobleman in commoner's clothing. Not an actual commoner.

This is--another spoilier alert--the ultimate point in the Matrix. Neo was never in position to really threaten the system, he was just there to let the people blow up some steam.

The other side of the coin is Norma Rae. In that story, it is the system that is corrupt and needs complete reform. That's why Norma Rae IS a woman of the people, not Undercover Boss.