“It’s just a movie”
I’ve heard this all too often, or “it’s just a TV show/book etc”. But the common denominator for these mediums, is story.
Make no mistake, those quotes are simply copouts; uttered in the face of mediocrity or the average, or really anything that doesn’t measure up our expectations.
Why am I bringing this up? Why does this matter, or does it? I’ll make it very simple: It matters to me… and, every other soul who calls themselves a writer. For us, and you the reader, stories are our blood – they are it and they’re in it, literally – and I mean that literally (I know this word has been misused in recent years).
Every writer faces the existential crises from time to time – as I read the other day, we don’t save lives with what we do, not in the physical sense like say, a doctor… but we do affect lives. And, in that same article the writer spoke of a woman who’d written about a dead soldier. Again, she did not bring him back to life, but she made his family feel better simply by what she wrote with the honour she instilled in her simple story. His, and many others, live on, because of the written word. Read Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain… all of them DEAD! (As is the notorious slogan for a one George R.R. Martin – Valar Morghulis) And yet, when we read their work, we’re transported into their worlds, their minds and imaginations. They’re speaking to us from the grave, through story. We learn things, the way they saw the world, what captivated them, and by that, what captivates us. Within these stories we’re able to better understand ourselves sometimes, or others. Like it or not, our very existence is a story, whether by the miracle of our own biological design and the harmony of the way we’re knitted together, or in the tapestry of life and the interconnectedness of you and your fellow human. As far as our intelligence informs, ours is the only species that communicates stories to one another – yes, we communicate in story – so it is a part of our identity, intrinsically connected through time and memory, experiences, life and our understanding thereof, because we’re all here for this speck, this little pocket of time, and somehow, writing and stories have helped us in the recording and exploration of it, and most certainly, in the understanding of it all.
We live stories, we breath them… sit and listen to someone tell their story and often you’ll find yourself rediscovering that age old term “truth is stranger than fiction”, after all, art imitates life (the one wouldn’t exist without the other), and writers use those real life tales to punctuate their own ‘conjurings’ to discover the deeper meanings.
We are not born with the wealth of knowledge, but thankfully we gain it through our ability. Apart from simple recordings of events, stories are entertaining and fun, not simply adding meaning, but also color, humour and affluence. Married to story is of course our imagination, something beyond the physical as it allows us to grasp the mystical, because let’s face it, life is mysterious and its destined to be so forever, but with the gift of imagination we’re able to partake in this something that we all share, canvassing our ideas and perceptions. Its sounds fantastical and yet we do it all the time and have seemingly taken it for granted.
And so, when I go on about Game of Thrones not being a good story because it has no hope (The Flaw in Game of Thrones Part 1, Parts 2), you know where I’m coming from. Yes it is a saga, a series of books, but individually, each book’s message is rather dour…
What is the truth? As storytellers, we often or mostly see ourselves as duty or passion bound to reflect some truth about the world, about life or society. In my previous blog post I asked “Why is hope important?” this question happened to be answered in an episode of ‘True Detective’ – it was simply put “humans cannot live without hope”. Without getting too existential, what keeps you going? What hope do you have?
TV shows, movies, books – they’re entertaining, they’re all kinds of things, one of which, is fun. Sometimes we talk about mindless fun, where we can simply switch off or zone out from our daily lives and be transported for a short time to another world, aka escapism(because some of us live with the serious content of life on a daily basis and need the counter balance). There is this element, and then there’s the flip side, the deeper content, the shows and films which ‘ask’ to be taken seriously, and duly deal with heavy issues… it’s this latter side of the coin which is the focus of my so called ‘hypercritical syndrome’.
It’s no small issue that so many of Hollywood’s top A-list stars are migrating to TV for juicier roles with the downturn in quality of cinema – with good films/stories an anomaly rather than the norm – the shift in emphasis speaks of the quality found on TV and the lack of it in cinemas (Integrity is a foreign word in Tinsel Town)… I, along with my colleagues, am passionate about stories, so when a quality show or film comes along and touches a nerve, you can only naturally expect a reaction. When something doesn’t sit right with me I’m compelled to pull it apart and find the reason why, because, as mentioned, there is a kernel of truth somewhere in there, waiting to be unveiled, or in other cases, a lie waiting to be exposed. In short, if it inspires a wrinkle in my mind, it will be dissected (in written word).
I will trudge on (hypercritical or not), because I am a purist, a writer and storyteller in pursuit of the truth, and though this is only entertainment, we should realize that it is the gateway to our imaginations, laying seeds within our subconscious to perhaps influence the way we see the world, or even ourselves, to interpret this thing called life – it’s what I do…
So, no it’s not just a movie, or entertainment; it’s a very influential window into our creative and imaginative center’s; a window we should not underestimate. You may opt to take it lightly, but I do not, nor would I want to, because to do that would diminish what I do, and what I love. It took passion to create these shows, a passion I share. And if we cease to tell good stories (in the pursuit for truth), then what’s left of this thing called living, what’s that worth?
To end I’ll expand and put my own twist on an expression I’ve heard several times in a few different shows recently, from Game of Thrones to the more recent The Knick;
‘We are MORE than sacks of meat’.
Here’s another quote from another TV show ‘The Leftovers’
“… it’s easier to be silent than to speak the truth.”
So, sorting through the lighter entertainment and fluffier escapism films and stories, and looking at the meatier issues; the next time you hear of, or think of uttering the words, “It’s just a movie“, think twice. That blanket phrase is used far too often to cover up all manner of cinema sins.
— Further Reading in this blog: Why Superhero films are Overrated