I’m often teased for the way I analyze the movies I watch or the books I read. “It’s just a movie,” I’m told. I should lighten up, not take things so seriously. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or maybe I can blame my years as an English major in college, but I expect more from my entertainment. To be completely honest, I always have. I would read a book and think, “I can do better.” That is part of the reason I began writing my own stories. As a writer I expect more from other writers. When I see obvious continuity errors or plot choices that make no sense, I feel that writer is being lazy. I expect at least as much from other writers as I expect from myself.
As a writer, I know all the elements that go into a story. A writer must balance theme, character development, action and symbolism, all while keeping the reader or viewer engaged and entertained. To fail at any part of this is to fail as a writer and a storyteller. If the reader isn’t entertained they won’t continue reading, so it doesn’t matter what your message is.
To some, all this is meaningless. It’s just a story. It isn’t real. It doesn’t matter. But stories can be far more important than people give them credit for. Stories allow us to explore issues we all face in daily life. They make us think, feel, examine our beliefs and consider impossible decisions and issues of right vs wrong. They bind us as a culture, displaying elements of our society, our practices, what is important to us, our ideals. They teach us accepted behaviors and what to consider taboo. A good story touches us on a deep level, leaving us inspired, full of hope or full of fear. The best stories affect us without our being aware of it. Therein also lies their danger. Writers have a door into our minds. They can leave impressions and ideas that weren’t there before. They can shape opinions and the direction of a society.
In the end, yes it may just be a movie, or it may just be a book, but that is irrelevant to its ultimate importance. The media chosen is a vessel that conveys the larger message. How that message is received is what really matters.