This is a hashtag trending on Twitter right now. I suggest giving it a look.
It also relates to something I’ve been thinking about all day: something about stories.
I’m reminded of something my favorite professor from college said ten years ago during his lecture on James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “Say I asked you what you did yesterday. I’d be asking the impossible of you; it’s an impossible task. You can’t tell me what you did yesterday,” my teacher said. “You can only tell me a story of what you did yesterday.” Because human perspective never perfectly matches true reality, and because human memory is fallible.
I am also reminded of a line from Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl, which I read recently (and I’m paraphrasing here rather than quoting verbatim): “Stories don’t have to be factual to be true.”
Stories are, I believe, the human brain’s way of organizing social information. Of taking in data about people (characters), events (plots), locations (settings), and transforming them into something manageable, something able to be communicated whether to ourselves or others. As a species, we constantly tell ourselves stories and others stories without ever writing them down. “How was school today?” results in a story told over a dinner table. “How’s the project going?” results in a story told at work.
Stories are not just entertainment. They are our primary method of communication. They are a way for us to manifest all of the most relevant coordinates in our mental systems and matrices into something coherent and understandable.
It embedded deeply within the fabric of human thinking, storytelling.
Stories are how we relate.
And then there are the stories told by others, by strangers, the ones we explore simply to be entertained. The meta of stories, perhaps. Novels and movies and comics and television shows. Stories told not from the fabric of our experiences of reality, but fabricated purely for entertainment value.
Now, what happens when those stories you seek out, the best of stories, the stories that you are conscious are actual stories rather than just a manifestation of a thinking pattern — when you never see anyone like you as a protagonist within them?
I am thinking that this tends to render one less able to think of themselves as a protagonist in their own story. If one is a woman and keeps seeing characters in stories that are manic pixie dream girls, it may affect her own mental positioning of her coordinate in the social system — that she is meant to be a supporting character in some dude’s story, rather than the main character in her own. If one is disabled and never sees disabled characters at all, it may make her feel all the more invisible — like her story doesn’t even really exist, or isn’t worthy of being told.
That’s why it’s important, to me. It’s because the stories we read and watch and tell and listen to tell us about our place in the world. They inform us of reality — our social reality. It is that the novels we read and the movies we watch influence the stories we tell ourselves.
The stories of our importance, or lack thereof.
The stories we live in which we may play the protagonists.