Talking About Tropes is a series where I talk about storytelling tropes and my thoughts on them. I also talk about certain tropes related to my works and why I used them for that specific story. Today, I discuss whether or not storytelling is getting too political.
Talking about Tropes: Are We Getting Too Political With Storytelling?
So a recent conversation on Twitter right now is a debate between political and apolitical storytelling. Namely, are works today too politically focused on recent events. You know what I mean. Racism, gender equality, #MeToo and of course “you-know-who” in the highest seat in the country.
Many of us are tired of dealing with political matter on a daily basis and just want a rest from it all. But with fiction being a free ground for thought, no doubt many authors want an opinion on recent matters and that seeps into their stories.
The only question now becomes: Are we too focused on politics to enjoy books anymore? Can a story be told without ANY political matter? Even if there are political messages, are they one shared by the majority, or a specific leaning.
I have plenty of political thoughts, but I’d rather not share them. I’m in the camp that wants a break from politics. I want to enjoy my life, live it to the best, and not worry if I live or die at the hands of our own lawmakers. So naturally, I am among the camp that wants no part of political messaging in my media.
But is it possible? Can a story be told without focusing on anything recent that’s controversial and warrants further discussion? I have a few thoughts on this because I feel like it’s worth discussing. Again, I don’t do political discussions often (because it usually doesn’t end well), but I feel it’s worth it to throw in my two cents.
Can a story be apolitical?
I feel that any story, regardless of age group, has a hint of political leaning. The idea that a story can’t focus on politics is difficult and rare. Even if the work isn’t obvious in its message, it can be subtle about it. Imagine a kids story about a family of wild rabbits that accuse the wolves of being cruel to them. One wolf tries to be friends, but he’s hated by the rabbits. Even if one rabbit wants to be his friend, he’ll be branded a traitor.
Casually, you’d think it’s nothing more than interspecies hate. Wolves hunt rabbits, who are often prey animals. But it could also have a message of racism. The rabbits hate the wolves by default and won’t be persuaded otherwise. Yet it has nothing to do with our current issue of race relations, but that message is universal in that all must be treated equal, even if the other side has a bad reputation for whatever it is they do.
Some kids tales have those kinds of messages as well. Take Pokémon for example. It’s a series that despite having a team trying to destroy the world, is mostly positive and friendly. Yet it contains a few plots that can be political in nature. In Pokémon Black and White, Team Plasma is a blatant reference to PETA and has a big message about animal (or Pokémon) rights. Persona 5 is a big example that while being an amazing RPG overall, contains numerous nods to the current political climate and has a sense of urgency to stop evil adults and “reform society” at all costs.
I’ve recently reviewed a Middle-grade novel, Daniel Coldstar, and even that has a sense of political matter in a book intended for younger audiences. While the story had a good message, if you were a kid, who wouldn’t care about politics anyway, you’d leave that book with a message about finding the truth no matter what it takes, and not to give in to lies and false events.
I’m sure that no matter what story we tell, no matter how innocent it may seem, it has some sort of political leaning. Whether it’s in regards to normal topics; such as sexism, war, racism or anything. It’s part of our lives no matter how hard we try to ignore it.
Something that’s too obvious
I think part of the issue is some stories tend to hit too close to home. All too often I see material that’s referencing the current political climate. Stuff on SNL, Games like Persona 5, the numerous awards shows referencing current movements and all sorts of works. A lot of us want to get away from all of that and while we can’t avoid news entirely, we just want that sense of enjoyment back in our lives. That sense of innocence we had before where it didn’t matter what was going on, as long as the story provided our escape from the world.
Think of the most feel-good film, game, or song you can think of and guess why you love it so much. I don’t have an issue with works that deal with topical subjects and those that can get brutal, but sometimes, for every Game of Thrones, we need a Chronicles of Narnia to counteract that. For every Witcher, we need a Harry Potter. For every Last of Us, a game like Overwatch. We need a good adventure that shows positivity and safety from the horrors of our world that we’ve become so engrossed in.
Does that mean a work can’t focus on today’s politics? Sure, it can do that. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t read it. It’s that simple. It’s not like these works aren’t going away or fading out. If you feel that way and you have a creative mind, then make one people will read.
What about Spec-fic works?
The reason this is brought up is how Sci-Fi is loaded with Political messages. Dystopia. Space military, and even most future works are filled with this kind of matter. A story doesn’t have to focus on politics to be political. Many dystopia stories are about a fascist regime and most military sci-fi is about trying to stop an opposing force, not unlike the wars of today. War stories, in general, tend to have a pro-military leaning and even if the author exists within the right-wing mentality, their only goal is to tell a story. Even if you oppose war, finding a good story that shows soldiers as heroes is a good read if the story is entertaining enough. Fantasy tends to have the same thing, especially with more modern works. Many of them showcase an evil king and mirror life in the medieval era.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that political messages in stories are unavoidable, no matter how much we try to hide it. We all have feelings on important subjects about our lives and what we seek the most is entertainment. I know we’re all tired of dealing with the current world and we need some escape from all of it. I would suggest seeking out enjoyment and not worry about life so much. Yeah, we have to be aware of it, but if we care too much about political matter, then we’re never going to have fun.
So focus on the story and enjoy the world and don’t worry so much about the author’s political message that much. If it gets too stressful, then put it down and come back to it another time. Just live life how you want it and have fun.
That’s about it. I know political discussions is asking for trouble, but what do you think of this? Is it fair that stories have become political? Or is this a necessary part of life. Let me know in the comments, but remember, if we’re not having a good time, then it’s best to step back and enjoy life for what it is.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
Got any suggestions for future topics and reviews? Hit me up on my social media channels and let me know your thoughts. I always read the feedback, even if I don’t respond, and every reply counts.