Thursday, October 02, 2008

Story Telling versus the Pain of Real Life

Today in my infinite boredom I went to go see a film I would most likely otherwise not have seen on the big screen. But I was feeling nostalgic for home and "Nights in Rodanthe" is filmed in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. To my Virginia friends I do not have to explain why the OBX are as much a part of home as any other part of DC is to me. It's where holidays and vacations have been spent several times over many years. And when I heard this film was filmed on location, I knew I was going to have to see it just for a glimpse of the shore I love, the beautiful houses, and the wild horses.
But this isn't a review of the film or even a walk down OBX memory lane. It's my thoughts on reality versus books and movies.
As I watched the film today I found myself rolling my eyes as yet another movie shows a couple who just 2 days previously were complete strangers, sharing an intimate and personal moment in bed, as comfortable as old lovers. This of course happened after the two strangers shared an intense moment in the height of a hurricane. (And wow, did they not do a good job on what it feels like to be in a hurricane. For starters, the heaviest object in the room is not the thing that falls over. And second, no one sleeps beneath a window as it rattles and shakes. Third, you don't wait until the wind is right on you and the rain is pouring down to put up the shutters. You do that days in advance and then just sit in the humid darkness. But I digress.)
In movies and frequently in books, the main protagonist or character will be in angst or confusion, go through a massive crisis, and then suddenly find the answers and joy (and love) from the crisis. They are angry, confused, or conflicted, or simply just being, and then suddenly the storm comes, the war starts, a comet hits the Earth, or the murderer is released from jail, and then poof! They find the answers to life.
I couldn't help but think about how this traditional method of storytelling (intro, escalation, climax, resolution) is so unrealistic, and probably even unhealthy, the more we hear it. In real life our problems tend to begin with a crisis, and never solved in the arms of a stranger. In fact, during a crisis we do frequently learn more about ourselves, but we do so over time and in reflection and as we clean up the wreckage of the crisis. Has the neat and tidy method of traditional storytelling lead us to subconsciously believe we'll find happiness from the crisis?
Not to pick on "Nights in Rodanthe" too much, but since the plot to a certain point is fairly predictable, I will use it. If you don't want to know that this is your typical love story where two strangers meet in a crisis and fall in love, don't keep reading.
But if in reality a woman went to the Outer Banks alone to mull over her ex-husband's proposal, and a strange man entered her life, it is more likely that she would avoid the man. Granted if he looks like Richard Gere she may allow herself conversation and flirtation because, hey, he's hot. But would she really build some lasting love relationship, while trying to run a friend's inn, and thinking about her ex? Highly unlikely. More likely would be that she'd be on the phone to her sister or girlfriend, writing in her journal, and making a list of pros and cons, etc. She wouldn't be available!
And then a man going through a divorce, emotionally unavailable his whole life, dealing with a personal tragedy of his own, is suddenly going to be helpful and kind and interested in some screwed up woman's personal affairs?
But like I said, I'm not hear to talk about the movie. I'm talking about storytelling. Has the method of traditional storytelling hurt us? Convinced us we will be better for the crisis?
What do you think?


  1. I concur. People don't learn how to work through problems or truly face adversity when everything they see tells them that your problems should be solved neatly in 90 minutes of screen time.

  2. Good point. I hadn't thought of that. But maybe that's why it's so frustrating when life doesn't present us our problems with a pretty ribbon meant to be tied in a bow when we figure it all out.

    I agree completely with your disdain for the premise that people might meet and the next day, fall into bed and have incredible sex. Whatever!

    The other premise that bothers me just as much... the one in which a couple wakes up together and wonder whether or not they had sex.
    Excuse me?! I mean I am a bit inexperienced (and maybe that's why - maybe chicks who bang like screen doors develop a tolerance) but wouldn't you feel some 'sensations' down there that might give you a hint?!
    I could be more blunt but I won't - you get it!


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