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We do not use stories to escape life, but to find life in new ways and add depth to our days

“we do not wish to escape life but to find life, to use our minds in fresh, experimental ways, to flex our emotions, to enjoy, to learn, to add depth to our days”

Robert McKee, Story

When I read these words, they resonated the way deep and obvious truths resonate when you see them clearly for the first time.

For the longest time, I had this underlying notion that a good part of our craving for story is rooted in that desire to escape our current reality. But this, what Robert McKee addressed here, hits the nail on the head so much more.

Later he elaborates again on this:

To retreat behind the notion that the audience simply wants to dump its troubles at the door and escape reality is a cowardly abandonment of the artist’s responsibility. Story isn’t a flight from reality but a vehicle that carries us on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence.

McKee, Robert. Story (p. 12).

Stories are this magical vehicle that takes our minds, but even more importantly our souls to a different place that we can’t quite reach by other means.

He also stresses the importance of honest, powerful storytelling:

as Aristotle observed twenty-three hundred years ago, when storytelling goes bad, the result is decadence. Flawed and false storytelling is forced to substitute spectacle for substance, trickery for truth. Weak stories, desperate to hold audience attention, degenerate into multimillion-dollar razzle-dazzle demo reels. In Hollywood imagery becomes more and more extravagant, in Europe more and more decorative. The behavior of actors becomes more and more histrionic, more and more lewd, more and more violent. Music and sound effects become increasingly tumultuous. The total effect transudes into the grotesque. A culture cannot evolve without honest, powerful storytelling. When society repeatedly experiences glossy, hollowed-out, pseudo-stories, it degenerates. We need true satires and tragedies, dramas and comedies that shine a clean light into the dingy corners of the human psyche and society.

Robert McKee, Story

While personally I think that there still is plenty of great storytelling around (but who am I to judge?), there also is a lot of real bad, flat storytelling around. Wonderwoman 1984 anyone? It’s bad from minute 1, and downhill from thereon. Where can you find depth in that movie? Or truth?

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