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Is “pop culture” a bad thing for society? Imagination Connoisseur, Emil Johansson, lays out his philosophy of storytelling and what he views as the potential for pop culture tales to affect real change in society.
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My philosophy on storytelling …
Rob, I wanna talk about what I think the trendy popcultural zeitgeist can be all about. Whether it’s super heroes or whatever nerdy stuff people enjoy, I think that these things are not just sugar and fast food that a minority loves but the rest of the world think is bad. I think there is lots of potential with popculture, potential to tell fascinating stories that really connect with people.
I think there is a real science to it.
But I don’t believe in always having happy endings or always beginning a story with “once upon a time”.
What I do believe is for example the ability for popculture to showcase harsh truths. Lets say you wanted to portray a city, but a very cold city, like a city that when you are in a stressful situation doesn’t warm you with feelings of sympathy and hugs. But lets say you have financial issues, psychological issues, no friends, alot of anxiety, basically really stressed out, and instead of falling only for people to catch you they look at you with suspicion, they think you are loser for not having money, they think you are dangerous for having mental problems, they think you are creepy for not having friends, etc etc.
That’s not a nice place to live, but it could theoretically be a very real place to live. And through the art of story telling people could start to actually think about a scenario like that. Instead of just reacting, I think thinking can make actual change, so in the end maybe there was a moral to the story even though it appears to be a very strange story, who doesn’t want happy endings? Why would a story portray a dark reality and not a happy one?
It makes you wonder what the point is, but if it gets you thinking maybe there is a meaning too it anyways.
I don’t believe story tellers should hide things, they should be honest, if they make a scene in a movie they should be able to explain the reason for that scene. If they have strong opinions about religion or politics, they don’t need to hide that in their stories by making the main character have those opinions or react to those opinions then pretend like it wasn’t intentional.
We may disagree on this but that’s fine. People could dissect stories and start to think about them in a realistic way, ask questions like what president would Superman vote for? Or what gods do Batman believe in? If any?
But while doing this could be fun, it also ruins the magic, I saw a documentary once about kids trying to be super heroes for real. They ran around on kickbikes and tried to prevent crime – in costumes, video taping drug dealings and taking away car keys from drunk people. In theory they did admirable things but I kept thinking that they were just so ridiculous.
Comic books, for example, don’t work if you apply real logic to them. When I read Scott Snyder or watch Tim Burton’s Batman, I don’t overthink those things, I just enjoy the ride, however, I still believe there is room to intentionally tell fascinating stories inside of those mediums, and in doing so maybe highklight actual concepts that otherwise might not have reached out to people. Like what Xmen did.
I don’t think people should intentionally put strong opinions inside stories, but I think stories can still have value.
At the end of Watchmen by Zack Snyder, I didn’t know if it was a happy ending or not but I still enjoyed the ride. And I believe he is one of many that puts thought and care into what he is doing, even if it’s not clear black and white heroics.
I have been babbling for too long now, I don’t know how to end this letter but I really wanted to express myself.
Those are my thoughts.