What was your favorite story growing up? Did you have a favorite heroine/hero? I won’t ask if, but how did “Once upon a time…” shape who you are today, what you believe in, what you value and respect?
How many stories a year do you experience, in books, film, theatre, social media?
Stories surround us and they shape who we are more than we can actually imagine. Stories help us give structure to a complex world, with complex relationships and dynamics. They help us connect to our most raw and primitive emotions. And when we experience these emotions, something in us changes — for better or for worse. (See some data based on research at the end)
That’s why the marketing and advertising industry has appropriated storytelling as a main tool and everyone wants to leverage the “hero’s journey” to sell their products & services, to raise money, engage volunteers & employees etc. (Note for a different article: we all relate to the hero’s journey, but let me tell you that the heroine’s journey is a bit different and more connected to what we need right now in the world)
Unfortunately, so much of it hasn’t been used for good. Our instincts have been manipulated for useless and unsustainable consumption of goods, services and content. Talking about entertainment, how much of the content out there is actually bringing positive influence to our lives? How many influencers are using their voices for relevant, meaningful and fun matters, instead of just trying to drive followers towards unnecessary consumption? So many filmmakers (and producers, who in the end are the ones getting the content out) are so cynical, in both Hollywood and the indie industry, that most of what we see is that there’s no hope for how human beings behave. Not only that there is no hope, but celebrating and incentivizing violence. As an example, we could mention a recent success on the big screen, The Joker. Joaquin Phoenix's performance is brilliant, but the film tries to give a “sympathetic portrait of a mass murderer”, as Michelle Ruiz writes and “ends up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results”. This phrase actually made the actor walk out of an interview with the Telegraph, as per Robbie Collin.
Luckily, there is an ongoing movement to try and change the prevailing attitudes in Hollywood. The 69th Berlinale this year, as an example, featured a positive and inspiring film for its opening screening, called The Kindness of Strangers by Danish Director Lone Sherfig. It’s a tale about hope, forgiveness and love.
On the gender topic, TimesUp and #metoo are shaking the behind the scenes. The audience is approving and supporting main characters that most of the mainstream executives of the film industry were apparently quite skeptical about (as we haven’t seen much diversity represented on the big screen in the past decades). The Worldwide box office results speak for themselves: Black Panther ($1,3b), Captain Marvel (over $1,1 billion),Wonder Woman ($800m), Coco ($800m).