Why do you watch a movie?
Why do you read a book?
Sure, we read adventure stories to enjoy an exciting story; we read fantasy stories to stretch our imaginations, we read detective stories to solve a puzzle; we watch a rom-com to have a laugh.
But there is a fundamental reason that lies underneath all these reasons. A reason that all other reasons have in common.
This reason is that we are human.
Stories spin us a message about what the world is like, what is good and what isn’t, what is admirable and desirable, and maybe what we should become. There is nothing more important than knowing these things. Grappling with this is part of being human.
Every story, in film or on page, tells a vision of what is good and what is bad, what is desirable and what should repulse us. They spin a version of reality, a literal reality or a substitute one, which wants to capture our imaginations and inspire us with this same picture of what is, and what should be.
Stories wouldn’t make any sense if they were incompatible with our experiences of what the world is like, and they wouldn’t be interesting if they weren’t casting a vision of what is real or good or bad.
It’s not just preachy novels that are like this. Even the simplest stories do it.
Take Little Red Riding Hood. The story wouldn’t make sense unless we could relate to the idea that sometimes, the most innocent people can be deceived and harmed for no good reason. If we didn’t think that, the idea of Little Red Riding Hood happily going to her grandmas and getting eaten by a wolf in grandma’s clothing wouldn’t make sense to us. It’d fly right over our heads.
But it doesn’t. We can relate to it. We know innocence deceived, and we dream that the victims should be liberated from its bonds.
Or take the high-flying blockbuster stories, like The Avengers. Why do we enjoy a story of evil rising up, causing a lot of hurt and then being defeated by great and powerful individuals? Because we know that there is evil out there, and to stop it, good people have to resist it, even if it hurts. Or, how does the movie paint Captain America and Ironman, and how do those characters deal with the idea of sacrificing your life for someone else?
Have you ever thought about those things?
It’s important to. Stories capture our imagination; they describe the world in a way dry words and abstract philosophies never could. Something that powerful, something that important, needs to be understood.
Stories capture our imagination; they describe the world in a way dry words and abstract philosophies never could. Something that powerful, something that important, needs to be understood.
Stories spin us a message about what the world is like. There is nothing more important than knowing what the world is like, and what it should be. It’s part of being human.
It’s important to think about our stories. What’s it trying to say?
Do you ever think about these things?