Why do we tell stories? Or rather more importantly, why do we listen to them? I know the answer of course, and there are many...but I think the principal one is to resolve an issue, a problem, a question, or an itch. To get an answer.
Just finished watching the two hour season premiere of the series House
- In the premiere - House is in a mental hospital struggling with his viacodine addiction. The episode is not about his addiction or detox, but rather about him dealing with his inability to connect to others in a meaningful way. This was a tale I'd seen before told in a different way, for there are no new stories just new ways of telling them. From I Never Promised You A Rose Garden
to Girl, Interrupted
and of course who can forget One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
- each tale about someone lost, friendless, who feels betrayed, alone, as if they can't trust anyone, including themselves, finding themselves again. Each time it is told, something new comes out of it. For the teller is different each time, and each teller gives a new twist, a new angle. The House
tale had me in tears by the end of it...it spoke to me about loss, about moving on, about the fact that sometimes we can't fix things, and sometimes just being is enough.
When I was child - my friends and I told stories. One of my bestfriends, on the way to school, used to tell me what happened on the tv shows that I missed the night before. This was before the invention of VCR, DVR, cable, or the internet. I went to bed at 8, and on the east coast all the tv shows started at 8 or 9pm. Later when I saw the shows in reruns, I remember being disappointed - for they were not the same stories my friend had related to me on the way to school each morning. In a way she was telling me her own version, recreating the bits she liked, deleting the bits she didn't, and adding bits that she wished had been in it. Fanfic if you will. Another friend and I, used to take a show or book and create oral fanfiction from it - we'd tell long serial tales, either about our friends (real person fanfiction) or about the characters in a book, film, or tv show we loved. She'd tell me chapter one on Monday, and I'd tell her chapter two on Tuesday.
And when I thought about it this week, rolling the question around in my brain, why do we tell stories? I realized we always have, all of us, since the beginning. Whether they be a tale as simple as what we did at work today or one made up from our head with makebelieve characters, or a twist on a story that was already told, a what-if or a fill in the gap.
Our religions have that one thing in common, stories. Every religion has at its foundation a story. And the stories are incredibly similar...twists on the same tale, told from multiple perspectives. About sacrifice, pain, love, loss, and redemption. But mostly about what it means to be human, how to be good, and what happens when we aren't.
This is a long introduction to something I rarely if ever do in my livejournal. I don't tend to admit that I read fanfic. Especially B/S fanfic. Oh I admit it, but I don't talk about it too much, mostly out of embarrassment. And even though I've written fanfic, few have seen it - again embarrassment. Which I now realize is rather silly and stupid.
This month courtesy of moscow_watcher
's recommendations, I found a rather interesting fanfiction on the internet that addressed an issue that I'd been tossing about in the periphery of my brain in a new way. While reading it, I was or rather am also reading Bram Stocker's Dracula
, and watching Season 3 of Dexter
( A noir cable tv series about a serial killer who attempts to handle his "homicidial tendicies" by killing only serial killers or individuals who murder others) - which in their own ways addressed similar issues but from other perspectives.
I think we can learn from each other's stories. And I think sometimes a story, a fictional one, can tell us things or rather show us things that we can't get from a simple conversation or lecture or rule book. Stories are morality plays...most of the time. Or at least that was how Patrick Stewart, who portrayed Jean-Luc Picard in STNG, once defined Shakespearean plays and Star Trek The Next Generation (STNG).
The fanfic - if you are at all curious, can be found here:http://unbridled-b.livejournal.com/tag/forward+to+time+past
It is entitled: Forward to Times Past by Unbridled Brunnett.
The fanfic is a Buffy/Spike fanfic (I won't use the other term since I find it silly and offensive - yes, I am anal about certain things, I admit that. Combining people's names into one word makes me cringe for some reason). It is a time travel fic. It is also a what-if scenario - where the author through the fic struggles to answer several questions that have been nagging at her - questions that do not necessarily have simple answers. Questions I've seen the tv series Dexter attempt to answer, but from another angle. It is a story about a hero who goes back in time and allows herself to be taken care of, who in attempting make the best of a situation may have inadvertently caused things to go...well not in a good direction. It is a story about a relatively good and gentle man who becomes a horrible monster and tries to become a good and gentle man again and isn't quite sure he can. It is about the messiness of obsessive and passionate relationships that we adore on the pages of a romance novel, but don't quite work as well in real life. And it, for me at least, gets to the heart of why we tell stories...to stave off the darknees, to find peace of mind, to entertain, to have the happy ending, to understand what it is to be human, to attempt to understand why people do horrible things, or merely to survive.( Meta on Unbridled Brunnett's BTVS Fanfiction Forward to Times Past - major spoilers for anyone who has not read it. )