Fairy Tales & Star Wars

I recently picked up my copy of THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, by Bruno Bettelheim. I was/am stuck on a story I’m writing, and was looking for some inspiration on how to work my way out of a hole.

As frequently happens, I got mentally sidetracked. I recently saw (most of) the new STAR WARS film. I say ‘most of,’ because honestly, I fell asleep. And I’m a fan of the franchise, mostly.

I have a sentimental attachment to the STAR WARS films. I saw the first film multiple times, because it was showing in an air-conditioned theater during a hot, humid summer when I had no AC. At first it was a practical way to escape, be cool (literally), and not spend a ton of money doing it. The theater was close to my apartment.

But seeing that film so many times, something started to dawn on me. Call it the Hero’s Journey, or whatever, but I became invested in the story each time I saw the film.

“It is important to provide the modern child with images of heroes who have to go out into the world all by themselves, and who, although originally ignorant of the ultimate things, find secure places in the world by following their right way deep inner confidence.”

The hero/heroine must step out on his or her own. Be willing to take the risks to accomplish the task. It can be a scary place.

That’s something the first STAR WARS film accomplished well. The rest, not so much. And as I look at the critically acclaimed films of the past few years, I don’t see much of this type of heroism.

Why is that? Is the world such a scary place, we have to stay with the ‘herd,’ and not take risks? After all, how many kids got participation trophies, as if NOT being the winner in any situation was a fate worse than death. Have we culturally bred out the courage to take risks, and now our stories reflect that?

Even politically – the herd mentality exists. You’re either ‘on the bus, or off the bus,’ as Ken Kesey would have said years ago. You can’t say, ‘I don’t like this AND I don’t like that.’ Gotta choose.

But speaking as a storyteller, I have to say, that isn’t the way to tell good stories. The most interesting places are those original, hard-won, territories where few venture to go. On the page, on the screen, and in life.

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