What We Want In Stories

Star Wars: Rogue One controversy, blah blah blah.

The writers popped off online about being explicitly anti-white supremacy or whatever and casting no white men as heroes, they faced a predictable backlash and subsequent boycott, and the world of pop culture is in a tizzy.


Look, I’ve seen an overtly hostile and political piece of pop culture before to make up my own mind about it, and it was a piece of something else.

Yes, new Ghostbusters suffered the unpardonable sin of just being a flat-out bad movie aside from any political axe to grind, real or imagined (but mostly real).

So Rogue One . . . yawn. I wasn’t planning on seeing it anyway for a few reasons:

  1. I am not a huge extended universe Star Wars fan: Give me the original three movies any day.
  2. I did not care for the prequel trilogy.
  3. The Force Awakens was all right, but Rogue One has nothing to do with it.
  4. I am suffering from sequel, franchise, and extended universe burnout, and
  5. I find it wearisome when politics is injected into entertainment.
  6. I have no interest whatsoever in the story Rogue One wants to tell.

So what do I personally want in stories? What will make me happy?

For starters, let’s get two things out of the way:

I am speaking in universals, not things that please me personally.

I do not care if creative types speak about their politics. It’s a free country, and the rest of us have the same right to reward them with our time and money or not. 

So what do we want in stories? Here are some basics:

  • Don’t lecture. Have a point, but be subtle about it. Have some style or grace in how you present it.
  • Don’t insult. It’s is thing for creators or actors to insult their audience. It’s another for the characters in the story itself to do so. Nobody likes his.
  • Don’t be dated. Some movies just scream “Will be lame 3 months from now.” Being too “of the time” tends to act against timelessness.
  • Have character growth. We like seeing characters change, learn, and struggle. It’s interesting and inspiring.
  • Enough with “The Chosen One”! Is it too much to ask for characters to learn how to bea badass instead of having “the power within them”?
  • Be realistic . . . to a degree. Untrained characters besting experienced, dangerous killers in physical combat is to stop. How about they use their minds or something?
  • Be aspirational. Stories are used to show the human condition, to uplift, to demonstrate what we can be. This is why even comic characters like Superman persist, and superheroes in general, because they speak to the hero in us all. Trendy bleakness gets old, fast.

Storytelling is a skill and an art. There are only so many ways to tell the same basic stories, and yet creators continually amaze us by putting new spirit into old tropes.

They sometimes hector and lecture us to death, and churn out the same old thing beat for beat.

I don’t really care about Rogue One, but I do care about our culture, warts and all.

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