Stories We Tell
This week marks the one-year anniversary of my taking over the editorial side of Daily Fuel. For everyone who has kept reading for the entire 365 days, I can’t thank and apologize to you enough. You’ve watched me go back and forth on a multitude of insanely insignificant issues, constantly changing my mind as I try to figure out what it means to be a creative person.
One topic that’s always ripe for analysis on here is the evergreen “why should I do what I do?” As I’ve mentioned once or twice, when I think about why I’m becoming an artist, I find the reasons offered at school to be unsatisfactory. But I think I’m a lot closer to finding an answer. Sometimes you just have to hear something wrong to know what’s right.
Last week in class, we watched an interview with an Oscar-winning screenwriter who will remain nameless. It was a great interview, but he mentioned something that really rubbed me the wrong way. He said “if you think this world is perfect and doesn’t need fixing, than you shouldn’t write. You should just go lounge on a beach somewhere, because movies are about fighting to change the world.” Loyal readers can imagine why I wasn’t a fan. If there are two things I don’t like, it’s 1.) artists who overestimate their own importance, and 2.) people who view the world as a battle between good and evil, and think everything has to be a fight. The idea that something as innocent and fun as movies has to be entirely reduced to fighting for social justice is exhausting, and serves to summarize most of what is wrong with the way film is taught in colleges.
I may not think the world is “perfect,” but it’s pretty darn great. So my mantra has always been not to change the world, but to remind people of how good it already is. I was recently reading a book by my favorite columnist, and he said that civilization can be defined as the stories we choose to tell each other about ourselves. Basically, every country is insanely complex, and you have to choose which facts to focus on when talking about your own country. And he argued that when you look at it over the course of decades and centuries, politics is essentially a battle over what story we decide to go with.
So after a year of bi-weekly reflections on this, my artistic raison d’être is pretty solidified. I’m not writing movies and TV shows because I want to change the world. I’m not trying to draw attention to bad things with the hope they’ll change. I’m doing it to shift the American narrative towards my positive worldview. When I look back on my career, I just want to say I made a couple of sitcoms that reminded people the world is pretty great. If you want to call that “shaping civilization,” I won’t stop you.
Student, blogger, optimistic storyteller