Recently the UK has been in thrall to the Archer’s story of Helen being emotionally manipulated by her ghastly husband Rob. This story of bullying has raised around £100,000 for the Helen Titchener Rescue Fund on JustGiving. When it was Helen rather than Rob who snapped into physical violence in the recent climax a lot of people got very angry accusing the show’s producers of ”irresponsibility” and of treating the situation as just a soap opera. The story had become so real it had crossed the line of reality.
We live in a post-comfort zone world where we need drama. Young people relish the squirming effect of a stressful situation and of sharing their discomfort with others. Stories are the diet of our times. Some companies, seizing on this, actually appoint Chief Storytellers who emulating Anglo Saxon bards create concepts like the “corporate camp fire” urging executives to “gather round and attend the tale of the Persil (or whatever) launch.” We are all players in a highly charged narrative. You don’t go to work, you go to theatre.
Stories are changing with the relatively new quotient of increasing unpredictability … long running dramas like Game of Thrones and House of Cards where anything can happen and even (no especially) the good and virtuous, although there aren’t many of those, get brutally and unexpectedly done away with. The punchline “and they all lived happily ever after” is for the birds.
Today “the hero was unjustly accused, gruesomely killed and the villain went off with his wife whom he first turned mad before throwing her to his crazed poodles and going off to receive his knighthood from King Harry unexpectedly sitting on the throne after that terrible train crash in 2018 did away with the other heirs.”
This is the Elizabethan world of John Webster not the cosy world of Jane Austen. It’s a world of power, violence and politics. The lurid world of Westminster has reached Ambridge and beyond. Conspiracy theory abounds. The line gets crossed again when in the BBC2 Drama Line of Duty a photograph of police and politician in a child abuse investigation is shown with Jimmy Savile in the background.
Dramatic and unpredictable narrative has become addictive. Andrew Stanton the writer of Pixar’s “Toy Story” describes drama as “anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” The punchline to a story could nowadays be anything but we live in constant hope of horrid surprise.
If Lord of the Rings were rewritten Sam would meet a grisly end, Frodo would secrete the ring and give a chilling grin to the camera in the last scene.
Stat Trek hit the point with their immortal “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” That’s the journey but now it needs more …. “and unjustly suffers an unexpected fate.”
“But the new Persil shrunk all the clothes so the people thought they’d got fat and committed suicide and their zombie-ghosts came for the Persil Board.”
Ha, ha …….