Listen to me.
Storytellers are an important part of any society. They are teachers of morality. While the historians tell the story of the state, repeat the lies of power, mostly because it’s the victor who writes the history books, the storytellers tell the true emotional tale; the spiritual one, the story of the individual. Through fantasy or fable and fiction they help develop the nature of a society and its emotional and spiritual maturity.
The last century has seen the rise of the amoral story; the anti-anti-anti-hero, on television, books and in movies. The trend bends toward the bad guy doing anything to get his way. Doing whatever to whomever whenever he likes and then benefiting or winning with little to no consequence. This is not an accurate accounting of reality. Not only have storytellers failed us by not telling the whole story, they have encouraged bad behavior. The moral is not a storytelling gimmick. It is the inevitable resolution of your anti-heroes actions.
Executives, politicians and Wall Street salary men imitate and repeat the mantra that “Greed is Good” like they’re The Wolf of Wall Street. They bury their consciences behind dreams of fast cars and fast women or movie style montages on private jets and yachts with zero consequences. Street hoods quote Tony Montana and Tony Soprano. And pretend to be badly written characters in gangster films while they hurl bullets at each other with little to no thought of physical or emotional punishment.
Am I wrong to blame the storytellers for this slide in the morality of our global society? The now disturbingly well connected global society that can see every tale out of Hollywood and every TV show that rewards a human’s baser nature. And should killing someone be among the first options when confronted by a problem? Should we even think that way? Should people who live in fear of home invasion also fantasize about raining bullets down on their invaders? Should we even think that way? Should libertarians and their desire to return to the lawless days of the wild west be somehow separated from the resolution and the remainder of that world; the dead bodies. Lots and lots of dead bodies and well-paid grave diggers.
Storytellers are the conduits of morality and in most cases the makers of religion. Early morality tales become religions because stories are told again and again until they lose their fiction label and gain a new label marked: Sacred. These were the tales that helped to entertain and to teach. But when did we lose morality in fiction? When did the bad guy become the good guy? The good guy become the victim? And when did an insane, amoral, emotionless, consequence-free, psychosis become… I don’t know… cool?
In recent TV shows like The Sopranos, Dexter, The Americans, Boardwalk Empire, etc. the killer, the great evil, the big bad, is the star. In shows like Sherlock, or House, the good guy is good but he’s unlikable or just not nice and has no social skills. Or shows like The Walking Dead, Justified, Mad Men where being nice or kind makes you a victim. And on and on. Where Buffy, a vampire slayer, sleeps with vampires. Or where Sookie Stackhouse, described as a vampires favorite food, sleeps with vampires. Where the irredeemable are redeemed while the good suffer. From Darth Vader killing Obi Wan Kenobi and becoming the most popular Star Wars character overnight to Hannibal Lecter eating everyone in sight and getting his own series. The bad guys are just better written. Nobody wants to be the cops in a game of Cops and Robbers anymore. They just want to be the one to yell, “You’ll never take me alive copper.” and die in a hail of bullets.
In this society, brought to us by this ongoing and rapidly degrading amorality tale, even our heroes are quick-triggered gunslingers. Our police departments are full of Training Days and Bad Lieutenants, Dirty Harrys and The Shields. The thought that “Crime Doesn’t Pay” is no longer believed by most of the young. More people think stealing is better than begging than ever before. They would rather take something than ask for it.
Our stories are telling us that success heals all wounds and success by all means absolves all wrong. And then we’re surprised to find out that the people with the most things are the people most frightened about losing those things. That the reason an executive can seem so heartless when laying off or firing thousands of people is because their name could easily be added to the bottom of that list with the stroke of a pen. The person who makes little and loses it, struggles to regain the little they had. But the person living for status and for stuff who loses that life is more likely to put a gun in their mouth and blow the back of their head off. So they drink and they terminate and they watch Wall Street again, play some Wu Tang Clan and pretend they don’t care. “These numbers are giving me an ulcer.” they might say. But no sir, the lives you’ve destroyed are giving you the ulcer. But you go ahead and blame it on the numbers.
We’ve gotten to the point where people doubt the existence of a conscience. Without words to describe their own feelings they turn to fiction to make sense of them and what they get these days are heroes without emotion, without morality, and without consequence. This is where we learn about life. Not like it’s a fucking manual but like it’s a fucking mirror. And the storytellers… I’m going to call them what they are, The Lazy Storytellers. No. The Bad Storytellers… what the bad storytellers have been showing us for years now is bad behavior without the thought of penalty.
And what we get are entire generations of lost lives. Peppered by little more than a few lucky douche-dogs who can’t understand why they don’t sleep at night, while they desperately try to convince others that they’re having fun. Because their only source of happiness is the belief that others mistakenly wish they were them.
TO BE CONTINUED