I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and storytelling – coming to a very different understanding than the Syd Field plot point structure that I previously had.
Writing and telling stories is about human experience, condition and potential. No matter how much action or plot devices are employed to happen to the characters, stories are about people, what choices they make with the information they have at the time and what regrets or alternative choices they make when they learn more through the process of story advancement.
The best stories are in a unique arena but deal with universal human conditions.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding could have been Ukrainian, Indian, any group really, since it was about a woman in a given culture who had expectations of her that she couldn’t comply to and be a happy fulfilled person, she had to find her own way – which was to not stay within the boundaries of her family’s culture, but were within the mainstream of her society and her character – marriage to a cultural outsider, but marriage nonetheless and along the way, self esteem and self valuing without taking away from parents and other family.
Whale Rider, the story of a Maori girl caught between the reality of being a socioeconomically marginalized minority in limbo between tradition and modernity, with her traditionalist grandfather grieving for the loss of tradition partly symbolized by having a granddaughter rather than a grandson to carry on the tribal leadership and her modern father, who has a non-Maori girlfriend and an art career in Europe and little time for his daughter-offering to his Tribal Father.
This movie could have been set in any aboriginal culture around the globe where traditional ways, particularly gender roles, are at the edges of modernity where colonialism.
What both of these movies have in common is a person at odds with what’s expected of them within their subculture and mainstream society and their longing to belong in a way that retains their individuality. The longing to belong, to live up to or exceed exceptions, to contribute something uniquely you, is the universal longing that anyone not dead inside can related to.
Tapping into that universality, is the magic of storytelling – to the level that, when used effectively, can change minds.
Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, the unfairness of being fired for having AIDs overrode a lot of people’s aversion to gay people and was a landmark movie in that it was one of the first big studio gay movies were the characters were just people who were gay, and no one went crazy, straight or suicidal.
The usual endings for gays in straight movies or in cautionary tales…..
movies should carry a lesson for the characters, that’s the growth arc
which is why representation matters,
that any demographic is demonized or demoralized
it the obvious don’t people resist getting
something for the audience to take away
and have pie and coffee afters