In a recent interview, filmmaker Jordan Peele commented that “I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes, but I’ve seen that movie. I feel fortunate to be in this position where I can say to Universal, ‘I want to make a $20 million horror movie with a black family.’ And they say ‘yes’. It really is one of the best, greatest pieces of this story, is feeling like we are in this time—a renaissance has happened and proved the myths about representation in the industry are false.” For Peele, and as I’m sure we all recognize, the story with the white male lead is all-too familiar and has been the dominant story of film. In turn, from Peele’s perspective, since we are in this “renaissance” time, it’s crucial that we tell ‘new’ stories and stories that haven’t been told.
Cognitive scientist Mark Turner argues that “narrative imagining—story—is the fundamental instrument of thought” (5). To the point, whether it be the folktales, nursery rhymes, and cartoons from our childhood or the music, television shows, movies, and books of our adulthood, we quickly realize that even a good portion of our conversations are narrative-based (“Last night, we drove across town…”). In reflecting further on such stories, though, we find that they “do far more than entertain”: rather, they help us “keep tabs on what is happening in our communities” and expose us to points of view and experiences beyond those communities and to those that are different from our own; they can be “a kind of training ground, where we can practice interacting with others and learn the customs and rules of society,” a sense of ethics and values; and stories “have a unique power to persuade and motivate, because they appeal to our emotions and capacity for empathy” (Hsu).
Stories, then, are hardly anything new. In fact, [s]torytelling is one of the few human traits that are truly universal across culture and through all of known history,” whether it be the Nok sculptures of Ancient Africa, the cave paintings at Lascaux, the puppet shows of the Q’ing Dynasty, the oral poetry and songs of the Cahto tribe, or the latest Marvel movie at the cineplex. What is new with stories, however, is the diversity of mediums through which they’re told and through which we are, then, able to have and tell the stories that haven’t been told.
In a prophetic move from 1924, using the then new storytelling medium of film, Buster Keaton tells a ‘story’ about this power of medium and immersion, portraying a dreaming projector man as being able to jump in and out of stories, from scene to scene, as a representation of the ways that narratives can moveus both emotionally and from world to world. From podcasts, interactive film and drama, MMORPG games, virtual reality, web comics, alternate reality games, visual albums, personal streaming channels—to name a few—this expansive and immersive experience has only multiplied in our digitized age.
For our last module—M3 Narrative Futures—we will embark on an investigation into these non-traditional / ‘new’ ** forms of storytelling to think about the different kinds of experience they provide, as well as how they start to teach us about our own real world in terms of capturing or engaging experiences that are normally not told or discussed. For starters, we will first need to identify a non-traditional / ‘new’ form of storytelling (i.e. podcasts or video games) and then select a story within that form (i.e. “Uncivil” or Apex Legends) as our focus. From there, we will analyze the message and effect we feel our selected story has upon its audience as well as the consequence of that message—and make an argument about what we see as the larger significance or value of that message for our society—what we learn that is of importance from this new storytelling experience about a certain social issue(s). As we know well from our previous modules, it’s important that we are diligent in the process of topic exploration, discovery, and the selection of our focus from the start as we will need to immerse ourselves in that focus before we can start to interpret and analyze.
**For the purposes of this assignment, a non-traditional or ‘new’ narrative is a story (or experience) that is told in a “newer” medium (such as virtual reality or video games) and/or a story that is told in a way that is unconventional to a particular genre (such as the way a films like Get Out and Us are a new kind of black horror film, or the way that Black Panther can be seen as updating the superhero genre). If you have any question about a particular story as to whether it “counts” as new / non-traditional, please let me know—part of the point here is to explore.
Please note that the list below is quite limited, both in different forms of storytelling and in terms of particular foci within each form. I encourage you to not only seek out other possible non-traditional forms of storytelling (i.e. graphic novels, gamebooks, alternate reality games, audiobooks, dance performance, narrative spaces, interactive drama, etc.), but to also seek out your own foci within any form. Also note that, in some cases, I might even select a single episode from one of the foci below (i.e. a specific episode of “Uncivil” or a specific article from Longform).