The Power of Narrative

Our languishing culture is made up of individuals, not a collective mass audience. Most of them are blasé, complacent individuals. To simply confront them with holier-than-thou accusations or rah-rah chants is fruitless. Moral outrage doesn’t make sense to them anymore, and misplaced skepticism is profuse. How do you cure a patient who refuses to believe they are ill?

This is an age-old problem with an age-old solution. Do not merely inform them. Show them.

Imagine the thoughts that must have gone through the prophet’s mind as he walked to the residence of the King of Israel. Nathan was approaching David, the legendary musician and warrior who was – as God Himself said – a man after God’s own heart.

But David had just committed adultery with Bathsheba, and after learning she was pregnant by him he deliberately had her husband put on the front line of the fiercest battle so that he would be killed. After Bathsheba mourned her husband’s death, David took her as his wife. David had disgraced himself in front of YAHWEH, but he had grown so full of himself that he hadn’t even realized it.

How did the prophet break the news to the complacent king? With a parable.

Despite its subtlety, the story was powerful enough that David empathized with the story’s protagonist who was done wrong. He was so outraged by its heartless antagonist, in fact, that he said, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die” (II Samuel 12:5).

Then Nathan exclaimed, “YOU are the man!”

The realization brought David to his knees. He felt conviction because he had witnessed his own actions analogized in a story he had never heard before – a story from which he was otherwise personally detached. He was thus caught vulnerable, with no witty excuse prepared in order to plead his innocence. David was truly guilty.

The American people need to be told stories about themselves that they haven’t heard before – stories that suddenly reveal that the sort of character we despised is what we ourselves have become.

That’s why Matthew Perdie and I (likely to be joined by my siblings and some friends) are planning a venture into narrative film. He’s doing all the groundwork in New York City while I’m doing the screenwriting out here in Ohatchee, Alabama. I experimented with screenwriting a few years ago, and as I have just three classes left before graduating from college, I look forward to trying my hand at it again. Historical drama and epic are my passion, but modern themes will likely be explored first.

Our goal will be to use narrative film to awaken people’s consciences to seek the truth.

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2 thoughts on “The Power of Narrative

  1. Riki says:

    May you would get a better message across by not insulting and making assumptions about the “blase, complacent” individuals you complain about in your very first paragraph. Especially since it seems you feel this way about others because they don’t agree with your side of the story. Someone who has a different opinion than you is different from someone who is indifferent.

    I agree that culture and the stories we produce and tell ourselves have a huge impact on collective thought. To that end, you are completely on the money. I don’t know if it’s enough though. Did the Passion of the Christ convert people? Was it meant to? What you are dealing with in art, entertainment, and culture is the fact that art and culture in the U.S be it theatre, film, visual art, writing, comedy, or music has overwhelmingly attracted people left of center; artists, actors, creators who feel “othered” in some way and seek to gain fulfillment and recognition of self through expression. With exceptions for nepotism and generational families of creators, even the rich and famous did not start out that way. They found solace and success in an industry with like-minded people who valued that same things they valued. They did not fit into what are PERCEIVED (emphasis on perceived) values of the American right – traditional family units, heteronormality, Christianity, go-to-school-get-a-good-job-get-married-settle-down, white picket fence 2.5 Kids American dream. Understand that this statement is not an “everyone in entertainment and art is like this” because that would be a false statement. But the entertainment and artistic sector overwhelmingly attracts those who do not feel that they fit into traditional society. That is why we see so, so many progressive, left of center stories being told, so much liberal art and media being created and consumed, and why this sector of the culture is dominated by those ideas. You biggest challenge is not so much going to be in creating different narratives, but getting people to buy into them, not just audiences, but changing the entire culture of the entertainment and artistic community, convincing them that there is a place for THEM inside your philosophy.

    To that end, as an anecdote, and I can’t imagine I’m all that much different than other 20somethings of this generation, but I have never heard a song, seen a movie, play, or read a book that has ACTUALLY changed my life, or my mind. Like most people, my internal narrative and system of beliefs is made up of experiences and deductions from those experiences. The culture I consume, enjoy, and also create as writer, reflects this personal system. It is not because I am “complacent and blase” and don’t want to have my beliefs challenged. It’s just that, much like yourself, I hold my internal narrative, philosophies, and beliefs very dear, as they have been hard-won by experience and they give me a framework to be the best person I know how to be. The parable analogy may be overly simplistic for those who think critically, and it borders into the dangerous territory of propaganda. What you want for long-term success is a way to sincerely connect people’s experiences to your narrative or to the message you are sending, not slap them in the face with a fable and go “That was YOU! Look how WRONG you were! Are you changed now?” This is simply ridiculous as a strategy for long-term change or for any sort of revolutionary values shift. Just some thoughts.

  2. Dave Bennett says:

    Amanda, don’t be dissuaded. Your thoughts are right on, and you aren’t being judgmental; simply factual. There can be no doubt that mass media has swung WAY to the left, away from any kind of morality. In fact, the definition of “Liberal” is “morally unrestrained.” When was the last movie you saw where the protagonists thought they should wait until marriage to have sex? If the subject comes up, anyone with such a notion is instantly labeled a prude, a loser, and hopelessly behind the times. When was the last movie where Judeo-Christian values were trumpeted and lauded? Mmm hmm, that’s what I thought. Yet we’re being asked to believe it’s because Hollywood is so full of “artistic” people full of “self-expression?” Hogwash. Satan is most definitely at work in Hollywood, carefully guiding the hearts and minds of writers, directors, and producers. Ever since Disney went into the hands of an atheistic Jew, not only has ever feature Disney film failed to have a Judeo-Christian theme or protagonist, but each film has gone overboard in finding any theme OTHER than a Judeo Christian one, just to be PC and poke Christians in the eye. This will be called neo-paganism or resurgent atavism, but it is very clearly Satan at work. And how does our once-proudly-Christian society respond to the vanishing references to Christianity, the growing vulgarity on TV, the championing of the uerber-pierced, ueber-tattooed, ueber-the-top bad boys and girls made heroes in so many shows and movies? It sits back, digests it, makes no peep, and assimilates it. I’d call that pretty blase and apathetic, exactly as you correctly pointed out, Amanda.
    Your direction of not preaching, but looking for examples to indirectly show the error of the morally unrestrained lifestyle, is an excellent idea. There are so many issues for you to go after: core family values, what happens during an abortion, the unintended consequences of giving people undeserved handouts…the list goes on and on. I wish you the best in your endeavor, and maybe, if some concrete movie scene thoughts come my way, I’ll share them with you. Good luck!

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