Digression Girl gave me total freedom to start anywhere I wanted on this blog, and as I thought about it, I realized this is the only place to start.
“Why should I care?”
We ask ourselves this question about everything in our lives, and we ask it multiple ways, with the root of the question really coming down to, “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of this?”
When it comes to fiction, comics, TV, films, anime or video games, why should I care about them? Why should I care about the quality of what’s in front of me? It’s just for entertainment, right? It’s just for fun. It doesn’t really matter how good the story is that I’m reading or watching in front of me as long as I’m having a good time… isn’t it? Why should we have any standards at all for something that is totally subjective? It’s just my opinion against yours, right?
We should care. We all should care a lot!
Since the dawn of time, mankind has used art and expression to tell our stories, our morals, and anything we’ve deemed truly meaningful to each other and the generations that come after.
From cave paintings, to cuneiform, to papyrus, to paper, and most recently, digital, we’ve changed the mediums we use to pass our stories on but the reason to pass them on hasn’t changed.
It’s our stories that reflect what we love, what we value, and what we think. Yes,our stories can be for entertainment, but why is it considered entertaining? What is it about this story that sparks something inside of us to be moved in a significant way? Why does this story make me feel happy, or sad, or imprint itself on my brain for my entire life, while that story is crap, and totally forgettable?
Fictional stories can be more than just entertainment, and just like food, it comes in different qualities. The quality of what you’re consuming can have a drastic effect on who you are as a person: what you believe, how you see the world, and even how you act as a human being or treat other people are impacted by the fictional stories you consume.
So “why should I care?” – Let’s use an example.
This is Superman.
Superman was created just over 80 years ago by two authors who melded their love of fiction, their Jewish heritage,and their American ideals. Using the story of Moses as a partial inspiration, they created a character who, like the Biblical story, was the last survivor of a horrible tragedy who is adopted into a new family. Eventually, this character would grow up and become a leader and savior of others. Superman started in part as a modern analogue for Moses, and was meant to reflect the best of two worlds. And even though most people might believe Superman is the bridge between Earth and Krypton, he’s actuallythe merger of the authors’ Jewish morals and belief in American Philosophy.
Truth, Justice, the American Way.
“I fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” – Superman
It’s a beautiful catchphrase, don’t you think? How many superheroes are so readily defined by one sentence packed with so much meaning? Superman has an adherence to the morality found in the Ten Commandments: Honoring your father and mother, not committing murder, not stealing, not lying, and basically being a good human being. These are basic laws for mankind and are technically the bare minimum standards of how to treat each other with respect and dignity, but as we all know, they are very easy to break. Superman was meant to be a character who didn’t break them. He exemplified holding them up in even the toughest circumstances. It’s his ability to hold onto these values despite every temptation not to that makes him a ‘super man’.
The other half of Superman is rooted in the wonder of the American dream: That you can come from anywhere, and become an American; united under an umbrella ideal that “All Men are created equal.” Superman exemplifies this, because he was created as much more than an equal to all mankind yet chooses to live among humans as one of them, seeing each human as a brother. This comes up a lot in his stories, especially against characters with the same, (or greater), amount of power that Superman has. Superman is often tempted to be a “god among men,” or to see humans as disposable, weaker creatures. Yet he always defends humanity and is their greatest champion, not out of pride, but of humility. This ideal is rooted in religion, and became one of the cornerstones of America through our Declaration of Independence.”Why Do We Care?
This is why we care. This is why it matters. This is what makes Superman a great character.
Superman is one of the first examples I reach for when looking for a fictional character who exemplifies great storytelling because we live in a time where people think it doesn’t matter. Many readers today, in this generation, have been brought up under post- modern deconstructionist ideals where they believe there is no such thing as heroes, just flawed people with their own self-interests. The idea of a “Super Hero”… someone who goes even beyond the standards of heroism that a normal real life hero could be, is practically unfathomable to many modern readers.
But the keyto Superman’s success as a character, his importance to culture, and the way he was written by his authors is this: He is a lesson from the authors that we, as people, can bebetter. We can dobetter. We can be more than just flawed humans only fueled with self-interest. We can be heroes.
“Why should I care?” – Because they’re not just stories.
You’re going to see a lot of blogs about what I consider “good” or “bad” fiction and what my criteria areon why I rate it as such. But before I ever talk about that, I want you to understand whythis matters.
Characters like Superman have had a deep impact on me, and continue to impact millions of other people because at the root of the character is a message from two authors to the rest of humanity. It’s a message that they wanted to share about hope. It’s a message about finding your place in the universe. It’s a message about loving other people, even if they are strangers from other planets. And it’s about standing for something bigger than yourself because it’s right… not because it’s easy.
Fictional stories are more than just entertainment. They can have a deeper impact than just immediate gratification for a little action, romance, or comedy. And if we want to be able to judge what is good or what isn’t, then we need to start with a common framework… a system of measurement… a methodology to determine the differences and separate them accordingly. Just like scientists use the Metric system so that science experiments can be done to a particular standard and repeated by others, much of what I write is to try to help others create a basis with which to judge fiction.
These stories matter. There is such a thing as good and bad, right and wrong, fine art and junk. Subjectively, you can like anything you want, but objectively, there are stories, characters, and fictions that resonate beyond personal taste and take hold in society’s (and sometimes even humanity’s) lexicon and culture. There are stories that are good for the heart, the mind, and the soul, and stories that can go the opposite way and entirely crush all three.
“Why should I care?” Well, you should care very much about what your mind, your soul, and your heart take in. You should care about what lessons stories are trying to teach you about how to think, what to feel, or why you should care. Every story is trying to tell you something. They’re all trying to teach you something. And just like eating a healthy diet, you should know what stories will fulfill your cravings of the heart and soul.