Storytellers Are Liars

If you’re getting bent out of shape about a TV show, you have problems.

Yes, I’m referring to Game of Thrones and people’s reactions to it. The same crowd that told Star Wars fans to get over the desecration of a beloved franchise that was The Last Jedi is crying about Daenerys being evil or whatever.

Look: It’s Game of Thrones. The whole point of the series is to be the anti-Tolkien. Subvert, invert, and perfect. What part of there are no good guys is so hard to understand?

And people have named their children after this character!

It all underscores a broader point: pop culture has replaced actual culture, including religion, in so many people’s lives.

This was bound to happen in a place like America, where our formerly cohesive nation and culture has, for a century, been bastardized and twisted beyond all recognition into a mish-mash of hostile groups tenuously held together by the threat of force. Brian Niemeier has gone into greater detail about this aspect, so I refer you to his blog.

What I want to talk about is why pop culture, especially modern pop culture, is a piss-poor substitute for actual culture: the message.

Take a moment to think about the messages storytellers are pushing on children. Now think about what they’re pushing on adults.

Unfortunately, given the utter destruction of Western high culture, pop culture really is all we’ve got.

Christianity offers hope, forgiveness, redemption, a clean slate, and a way to combat the material evil in this fallen world. What does pop culture offer?

An escape? Okay, I’ll grant you that. I’m all for escapism. But given that all fiction is message fiction, the question becomes: what’s the message?

All stories are lies, and all storytellers are professional liars. It’s called “fiction,” after all. But even supposedly apolitical works have a message.

Stories are rhetoric. The best rhetoric points towards a truth. A story–a fiction–seeded with truth is powerful and beneficial. The important thing isn’t the lie, but what the lie teaches.

A well-told story–a well-told lie–can still be destructive if it’s seeded with more lies and points towards evil or untruth.

This is where most pop culture is at today. It’s propaganda designed to make you think, feel, and ultimately vote a certain way.

Enter Game of Thrones. I’ve read the books, and while entertaining, they’re nihilistic to an off-putting degree. They sow despair.

Some people like this, I suppose. They elevate Game of Thrones and Marvel movies and Star Wars into religions in all but name only. Actually, there are wackos who think they’re Jedi; how long until other wackos think they can talk to dragons or whatever?

The various Churches are partly to blame for surrendering the culture to secular forces. But something has to give, and indeed it seems to have started.

Maybe every bitter, angry person mad about a TV show character they loved being a murderous megalomaniac will take the realization that they’ve been wasting their time, attention, and energy on pure nihilism in service of lies and will then try to reconnect to something true.

Does this mean going back to church? Probably not. Not at first.

Maybe they’ll seek out entertainment that doesn’t insult them or subvert everything. Maybe they’ll realize that they actually do like romance and happy endings and actual honest-to-God heroism.

Maybe this’ll get them to rethink their former enjoyment of depressing brutality.

Maybe this’ll get them to rethink a lot of other things about the life and philosophy they’re being force-fed by the lords of this world.

And maybe . . . maybe after a lot of this soul searching, they’ll start to wonder about the stories and lessons and morals that built the civilization in which they exist in the first place.

After all, Jesus told stories.


“You always want to keep turning the page as she unravels the mysteries of this new world and finally get to the truth of the matter.”

25 comments

  1. Alexander wrote: Maybe every bitter, angry person mad about a TV show character they loved being a murderous megalomaniac will take the realization that they’ve been wasting their time, attention, and energy on pure nihilism in service of lies and will then try to reconnect to something true

    —I agree.

    —I think being on the internet heightens all of this. I love fiction but I don’t want to know or study fictional history, I don’t care if it’s Tolkien or Martin or whomever, I figure I’d be better off reading about events that actually happened.

    —Having seen the recent episodes my take on it is this:

    —From what I can see, there’s two different camps:

    1) How dare they make the female character go nuts and burn up a whole city with her dragon. It’s a betrayal and makes women seem overly emotional and crazy.

    2) The story itself is fine but the producers hadn’t put in the necessary storytelling time in getting Dany to this point in my opinion. So it all feels a abrupt.

    —-I agree with point 2.

    —Now that we know the general direction of Martin’s books, I think the saga is much too long, over three-thousand pages and it’s not done yet just to get to this point.

    A trilogy that turned fantasy fans’ expectations over, mixing in a lot of bitter with some sweet seems fine but a 7 or possibly 8 (who knows?) series with an expanding amount of characters seems too much, overkill. Maybe if/when he finishes the books I’ll have a different take but that’s what I think right now.

    —-To your larger argument,, and I’ve been guilty of this to a point years ago, it’s not good to invest so much energy into escapism. I’m glad I’ve been a casual viewer of this show and while I think it’s some bad and rushed storytelling I’m not foaming at my keyboard.

    cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • All good points. I find your point about certain fan reaction being centered on Daenerys’s sex quite revealing. Identity insanity has led these nutty women with their empty lives to view a FICTIONAL WOMAN’S heel turn as a personal insult against all womanhood. Talk about taking one’s escapism way too seriously.

      If people got their asses to church once in a while, I think they’d have a healthier perspective about these things. But that’s just this humble blogger’s opinion.

      Like

  2. Alexander,
    I read thec4 books and was so put off that I refused to read anything more by him. I’m so glad Ithat HBO was unavailable where I lived.
    I’m having to much fun reading books that….entertain.
    And the Internet hides gems like Renard le renard in Old French with contemporary French in side by side columns.
    Regress harder, you’ll enjoy it much more.
    xavier

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. Martin’s post-modern, post-heroism violent fantasy sure is epic in length, but not in spirit. The shame is that he’s a good writer. Too bad his priorities are to subvert instead of entertain.

      Regressing harder is better for the soul.

      Like

  3. ^I used to feel that way about pop culture, now I’m not sure, or at least I’m aware there may be obvious and hidden messages put into the work, there’s a bit of a natural buffer for me and my consumption of it has decreased a lot.

    —I used to debate movies and such a lot more but mainly amongst friends in real life, made for some enthusiastic and fun, if pointless debates.

    —I dislike how Star Wars went from some fun movies from the late 70s/80s to whatever-the-heck it is now.

    cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  4. —Plus it was in person. Online is fine, without it I wouldn’t be communicating on your page but there was something to those fun debates outside a movie theater, being in the moment.

    cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is something fun about in-person discussions that can’t quite be recreated online. Online has its own benefits, but like you I miss bandying opinions and takes about over drinks, or just hanging out.

      This might just be our nostalgia for a fun period in our lives, but I doubt it.

      Like

  5. I would dispute your characterization of storytellers as “liars.”

    For something to be a lie, there must be an intent to deceive someone into thinking it true. A person who says an untruth in ignorance is very different from someone who knows the truth but tells a falsehood.

    No fiction writer I’m aware of asserts their stories are recollections of true events, though many do try to make philosophical or political points through the medium of a story. If those points tell untruths with intent to deceive, those are lies. Fiction itself, on its own, isn’t lying since most writers acknowledge their stories as fictional.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. —I think there’s a bit of nostalgia there but more focusing on how these conversations over the Matrix or whatever happened in real time and weren’t something prodded and picked at, so I think there was less of a potential for such investment in a movie or tv show that a character’s sudden change or bad characterization would wreck someone.

    —Who knows how much of the reactions are real instead of a performance either?

    cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This whole phenomena with Game of Thrones has been incredibly educational for me, both from a storytelling and cultural viewpoint. I was once a part of the same cult mentality for a brief period of my life where entertainment was my religion and purpose in life until I snapped out of it and got back to being normal. So I am a little sympathetic to the fans, but ultimately it’s still pretty disturbing to witness people declaring they want to commit suicide over a fictional character. Speaks of the illness of our times.

    You are spot on about the fact that people do actually like heroism. The fact that there has been so much outrage because a seemingly moral character (emphasis on the seemingly) turned out to be a coldblooded tyrant proves this to be true.

    Martin’s work was always fundamentally flawed precisely because the lack of a moral core for any of these characters. And the few characters that did have morals (Jon Snow), turned out to be spineless wimps or idiots. No wonder people don’t expect a happy ending; not because “it fits to the themes of the story”, but because none of the characters deserve a happy ending.

    As much blame as the tv show runners get (and they are indeed bad writers), this was always going to feel unsatisfying no matter how expertly written and paced it would be because Martin is a nihilistic little gamma who delights in “shocking” people with wretched characters and actions, because otherwise he has nothing else to offer.

    An unfinished story of misery and shit where everyone is terrible and deserves what they get. It’s not going to be remembered even 20 years in the future, unlike Lord of the rings, a timeless tale of chivalrous heroism and self sacrifice where the greatest foe is man’s own weakness in the face of greed and fear, which will still be discussed.

    …though I pray the upcoming Amazon TV Show doesn’t do too much damage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said Constantin. You nailed the cognitive dissonance of the fans who love this “edgy,” morally ambiguous mess yet still want a hero—a good guy—to root for and set things right. Just one character, ONE, who does the right thing could make the whole GoT story worthwhile. But no. Martin and the show runners write what they know and what they think is good and people just eat it.

      As for the Amazon LotR series, prepare for damage is all I have to say. I guarantee it’s going to deliberately subvert and otherwise piss all over Tolkien’s legacy, and his fans.

      Like

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