What Happened to Story Telling?

Community Education History Personal Development Worldview

I regularly lament that we have abandoned the classical education system that has produced the greatest minds of history in the last 2400 years. In the last 60 years, we revamped the whole education system in the West. How is that working for us? (See: https://sabersedge.online/awaken-the-lions-fixing-a-toxic-system )

I watched a couple of free movies on Youtube. Well, you get what you pay for. The movies were from the 2020’s so I shouldn’t have expected a story. More and more, any movie made after 2000 I tend to shy away from because it seems those who make movies today no longer know anything about the art of storytelling. (See: https://sabersedge.online/blood-and-courage-the-heroes-we-grew-up-with ).

Now maybe I am too critical. I started telling stories in Jr. High when D&D first came out and I took over 20 hours of writing classes and 20 hours of science classes in college so I could tell better stories and run better Star Trek RPGs (role-playing games). I ran games and made stories for my players to play in. I recently read that “in the early days of D&D they just ran dungeons.” Another statement of authority is made on a blog by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about but who speaks with a self-proclaimed authority. Yeah, I do see the possible irony of that statement. But irony is another tool of a good storyteller. I always ran wilderness adventures in epic tales and when they went into a dungeon they found it in the wilderness as part of their adventure. I always hated hack and slash.

A friend who played my game in the 70s when we were in high school told me decades later “What I remember about that time is all of the fantastic stories you wove for us.” That is why I ran games. To stimulate imaginations and bring enjoyment.

I wanted to be a writer my whole life, to write science fiction, fantasy, history, and military-political topics. I also wanted to be a spy, a cavalryman, a detective, a father, and a leader…a renaissance man. I never wanted to be a pastor, but I have been through all of these things. There are people better at each of these tasks than I am. One of the problems of having a broad base of experience and knowledge is that you don’t specialize in anything. But then you also are able to see things that “specialists” cannot. Specialists and scholars work themselves deeper and deeper into a box until they can no longer see outside of their area of expertise. One of my heroes, as you know, was Thomas Jefferson. One of the last of the Renaissance Men:

Renaissance man, also called Universal Man … an ideal that developed in Renaissance Italy from the [15th Century] notion…that “a man can do all things if he will.” The ideal embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance humanism, which considered man the centre of the universe, limitless in his capacities for development, and led to the notion that men should try to embrace all knowledge and develop their own capacities as fully as possible.

Encyclopedia Britannica

I am not a humanist. I don’t believe that humanity is the measure of all things, but I do believe that we, in our ignorance, should strive to embrace as much knowledge as we can. We will never know everything. Humanity never will. As the Bible says: Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? Can you fathom the deep? – We still have not been able to explore the ocean floor entirely and the rest of the solar system and galaxy await. Yet most people are blissfully ignorant that so much of the technology that we take for granted in our daily life was developed for either NASA for exploration or for the military for conquest.

Still, I want to know all I can. Shoot for the stars, your arrow may not reach them but it will fly higher than all others. Even though my knowledge will die with me in the end. My parents and sister taught me of life-long-learning. And I do not understand people who don’t read. I understand the statistics. That nearly 80% of people no longer read anything of substance after they leave school. I just don’t understand why. Why would you choose to wallow in mediocrity? I guess these are the NPCs that we have started hearing about in psychological testing and studies. People with no internal dialogue speak in sound bites they have learned from media and who cannot seem to think of original thoughts on their own. You are not one of them or you would have stopped reading me long ago. These are the people that rely on “laugh tracks” in comedies to tell them when to laugh – yes, they really are out there. I didn’t use to believe that because I didn’t know any people like that. But then, I was told by a man that “I read the King James version because it’s the original, and if it was good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for me.” I tried to explain that the King James version was only a few hundred years old and Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic to which I got a blank look – that the Bible as we know it didn’t even exist in Jesus’ time and that the entire New Testament was written after Jesus death. the man never spoke to me again.

To keep from being trapped in my own ignorance, or digging myself into an academic hole, I read about four books a month in a variety of disciplines constantly challenging my own assumptions. Maybe today’s storytellers…those writing these horrible movie scripts…should read a few books and watch some old movies. Because they are clearly ignorant of the storytelling art. Severus Snape would speak of them with derision and Spock would raise an eyebrow at their ignorance.

I am writing this because I was looking for a good zombie movie. There aren’t any anymore. The last one seems to be the remake of Dawn of the Dead or the 1st few seasons of the Walking Dead series. You see, good zombie movies, like all good tales, are lessons to be learned. The classic zombie movies had gore but they were dripping with social commentary and criticism of this materialistic society we have built. Further, they were tales of normal people rising above themselves to acts of great heroism contrasted to those who in the crisis of apocalypse sunk to the depths of depravity. Humanity, often formed both the heroes and the most ruthless and amoral of villains all contrasted to the mindless masses which simply wanted to feed (and when they weren’t feeding were blindly repeating the empty life they had when they had a life) or they blindly returned to the things they did when alive. Staring at blank TV screens, wondering the malls, I remember in one George Romero movie a zombie postman who carried his mailbag walking down one side of the street and putting mail in boxes and going up the other side and taking it out then reversing it repeating some vague memory he had of a life that he, apparently, never really lived. (For what I mean by this you can refer to: https://sabersedge.online/live-your-own-life-before-you-die-your-own-death ).

Zombie movies were gory and full of action but they also had lessons about not wasting the short life that we are given and a commentary on the superficial materialistic society we live in. What I call a good zombie movie has all of these features.

Now the movies are mostly just gory and full of action, filled with a feeling of hopelessness and devoid of valor or any redeemable actions that would make humanity worthy of survival. I guess that is what our elite, our storytellers today believe. Humanity is not worth surviving (See https://sabersedge.online/died-suddenly-no-explanation-no-one-cares )

We are talking about this because I watched Almost Dead: Infection. I struggled through the first thirty minutes in utter disgust and then watched more so I could comment and because I developed such a dislike of the main character I wanted to see her ripped to shreds.

Over 861,000 people have watched this hour and nineteen minutes of wasted cellulose were posted to Youtube in 2022. It never would have made it in a theater. Although Hollywood is steadily producing expensive crap these days that no one seems interested in watching. (And yeah, I know they don’t make movies on cellulose anymore.)

Two things a story needs from the outside. A hook and a sympathetic character to relate to. This had neither.

The lead was a kidnapped woman in a car that had crashed, the driver dead. I suppose that is a hook if you care to find out how she got into this. After sitting there crying at her misfortune with tape on her mouth she wiggles into a backseat, finds a box cutter in what I assumed was the driver’s “rape kit” and cuts herself free – after which she stares straight up at the camera (even though she would see no camera and that position had to be uncomfortable. I think they were trying to be dramatic.) The kit later turned out to be a kidnap kit (with a saw in it? Another Deus Ex Machina). Then she returned to the front seat.

The first half hour is her in the car crying about her own misfortune (note she is doing this as the world is turning into zombies,) then she gets a call and her brother-in-law is wandering the woods looking for her (the car crashed in the woods.) She gets out and sees him through the trees but zombies appear. She and he run for the car she came from she gets there first slams the door and locks him out. He pounds on the door for over 30 seconds before the zombies catch up to him and kill him. She refuses to open the door because her life is more important than anyone who would actually rescue her. I can kind of see that. By this time I had decided anyone dumb enough to rescue this useless individual deserves what they get. She has a concussion and only remembers stuff haltingly, so you could argue that her actions were just confused by the head injury but this is a story. It needs a protagonist you want to know more about. They failed.

She is a CDC doctor. Kidnapped by rubes referred to by her sister (another doctor,) as “f—ing farmers,” “f—ing animals,” and with other condescending language because they didn’t trust the CDC to save them. Apparently, these people had lost faith in the CDC for some reason and attacked it trying to get the antidote. That is why this doctor was kidnapped and tied up in the car but you need to watch for 35 minutes to get this information. Of that 35 minutes, you spend twenty of it watching her cry and feel sorry for herself and yelling into the phone about why no one is rescuing her (For why this is acceptable in a movie today see: https://sabersedge.online/awaken-the-lions-have-we-been-domesticated )

Is this what writers think people do? Just sit and wait to be rescued? I’m sorry. I grew up watching movies in the 60s and 70s where women like Ingrid Bergman’s Joan of Arc, Victoria Barkley, Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke, Ripley in Alien, or Sarah Conner in Terminator who all kicked ass and took names (If you didn’t before see: https://sabersedge.online/blood-and-courage-the-heroes-we-grew-up-with ). They were either women of power and ability or normal women who rose to the occasion and became heroes but, again, no one seems to understand true heroism today. Stories today don’t even seem to know what a hero is. I guess that’s because Schools stopped assigning the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Lord of the Rings, and other classics of literature where true stories were told. So now, because they never read books and refuse to watch old movies (when they knew how to tell stories) they don’t know how to write stories.

And even if they are handed heroes (like Thor, Luke Skywalker, Captain America, or others) they ruin them because they either don’t understand heroism or to its because they hate and misunderstand masculinity and want to fight their fantasy “patriarchy” which mostly exists in their historically ignorant imagination. This isn’t to say some aspects of their imagination weren’t real but they are so totally ignorant of the past that they have no clue what they are talking about. Thor has become a joke and comic relief in his own movies! And I haven’t even watched the newest Marvel or Star Wars offerings. (See yet again that the 60s and 70s knew what true heroes and female empowerment were: https://sabersedge.online/blood-and-courage-the-heroes-we-grew-up-with )

And spare me this blathering about superhero or Star Wars movie fatigue. That is a bunch of bull manure made up to excuse their horrible movies that can’t hold their own because of bad story-telling. If they made a real Star Wars adventure or Superhero Movie like the first six movies of Star Wars or the cycles of superhero movies through the Avengers Endgame I would watch EVERY SINGLE ONE. But the movies suck. Still, I don’t agree with those who just blanketly condemn them. Some people it seems they watch the movies only to find something to complain about. I try to watch them with an open mind until I am disappointed. I liked the Mandalorian and Gina Carano’s character, I liked Boba Fett, and I even liked Obi-Wan Kenobi. I didn’t like the beginning but I know they wanted to show that he had lost his edge. I thought the defense of the black character was contrived. She was a villain, you didn’t realize she had heroic tendencies until halfway through the series so of course, when she does an interview and says she wanted to play a character for little girls to look up to she was attacked because at the time the entire world thought she was the BAD GUY! (I hate the word gal so I don’t use it.) Unfortunately, I have now been disappointed so many times by bad stories and poor characters that I no longer have a desire to watch new movies and constantly search old ones. NOT because I am old and nostalgic. I love new movies that are good. It is just increasingly hard to find any and, like today, I have spent hours watching new movies just to be disappointed once again.

Yeah, story telling is broken. Our society is broken. (See why: https://sabersedge.online/the-world-built-in-the-last-150-years-is-broken )

Back to Almost Dead: Infection.

There was a high point when the doc finds a man tied up in the trunk and lets him out. She gets out to try to check a road sign the car knocked over when it ran off the road but she is attacked by zombies. She runs back to the car but the man is so scared he shuts and locks all the doors. LOL, OK that is two good storytelling tools. Foreshadowing and poetic justice. She climbs on the roof and just as it looks hopeless Deus Ex Machina! There is an explosion and the zombies all wander off, away from the meal they can see, hear, and smell to see what the loud noise was. Apparently, they didn’t know that Deus Ex Machina is a bad storytelling technique because they use it repeatedly in movies today.

So she gets back in the car when the zombies wander off and she screams at the man. And he has a good line: “You’re no better than me!” This is clearly true because she locked out her brother-in-law at the beginning. Something she doesn’t mention to her sister who keeps calling worried about both the doctor and her husband Sam (the doctor’s brother in law – the doctor is transparently named “Hope” by the way – as if the storytelling could get any worse,) as she repeatedly says he is coming to look for Hope. Is this supposed to be a bit of irony we are unsubtly being hit with – kind of like a wet trout to the face?

By now I am watching it because it is so bad I decided I am going to write about it. Repeatedly, we are treated to tedious scenes where Hope is lamenting how horrible her life is, crying uncontrollably, and waiting for someone to rescue her. (Victoria Barkley and Ripley where are you? Is this pathetic excuse for a human supposed to be someone we care about? She is not a hero she is someone who just sits around crying about how no one has rescued her. I have 5 pages of notes and time stamps of things that were particularly horrible and I will spare you their recounting. Oops, OK, at 35 minutes her sister says, hopefully in a few hours you will be rescued and with us again. To which this worthless lump goes into another round of self-pity that we are mercilessly saved from having to watch in its entirety as it fades to black (OK, I have reasons I am attacking all this. If you haven’t followed from the beginning see: https://sabersedge.online/endeavor-to-persevere-indomitable-spirit-is-made-not-born – but of course modern writers don’t know this because they were over-sheltered by helicopter parents so they don’t know what heroism or an indomitable spirit is.)

At 49 minutes 8 seconds into the movies we finally find out that Doctor Hope Walsh has a daughter that she needs to come back to. (OK, at 49 minutes there is finally a reason to wish this character might find her way home.) Although, her sister says, “Talk to mommy. Mommy needs you.” This is another pet peeve of mine: insecure people who have children because they want someone to love them rather than they want to create and nurture a new life into existence to be part of the chain of creation and life. Children are supposed to grow out of love. Love of a man for a woman and vice versa and, as Father Dean says, “they love each other so much that in nine months you have to give it a name of its own.” (Sorry about the references but I have reasons for each of my criticisms: https://sabersedge.online/do-you-have-time-for-children )

An hour into the movie I decided it wasn’t a complete waste. Hope realizes something is wrong with what her sister is telling her and wants to know the truth. Sarah tells her that the CDC had problems. They couldn’t produce enough of the vaccine for everyone. So they really did abandon the people. Those “f—-ing animals” who didn’t trust the CDC attacked it after they had given out a vaccine that they knew didn’t work. It was an old vaccine that didn’t work because the virus had mutated. They gave it to the masses. But (in another theme and refrain of modern society – “It’s not our fault!” “We’re just scientists! It was the government!” Yet, our government is OF, BY, and FOR the people. Or it was supposed to be until too many people left governing up to the experts. This betrayal of humanity in the film was the logical result of our society today. Only the politicians and the rich got the real vaccine. Speaking of which, how many truly rich people have “died suddenly” of unexplained circumstances? Lots and lots of media personalities, announcers, anchors, etc. have died “on the air” even. But have any of the real elite ‘died suddenly’ ? I can’t think of any. (If you missed it before see: https://sabersedge.online/died-suddenly-no-explanation-no-one-cares )

There is an idea floating about that there are people in movie-making that are trying to tell us what is really going on through their stories. That all of these dystopian tales are a reflection of the “behind the scenes” machinations of the elite. If that is true then heaven help us.

But, if they are trying to warn us. Couldn’t they put it into a good story?

Oh, let me tell you how this ended so you don’t have to watch it. She gets out of the car and finds a vial of the vaccine on the body of Sam and drinks it because she was a bit. But she keeps getting worse and worse. It turns out Sam was carrying the fake vaccine. In the last minutes of the movie Hope, who has been looking for the real vaccine – which she supposedly had – suddenly realizes she is wearing something hanging around her neck. A vial on a cord that contains the real vaccine. You know it’s real because it is yellow and not clear. But now it is too late for her to take it. One last insult to good storytelling. We are supposed to believe the Deus Ex Machina of her having had the vial around her neck all this time but apparently, she never knew it was there or felt this vial of fluid hanging between her breasts. The best part of the movie is the last scene where Hope is a shambling zombie staggering forward with the antidote dangling from around her neck. Bravo! They managed one good bit of irony! But it’s not worth watching an hour and twenty minutes of self-absorbed crying and incompetence by the protagonist. One more time I refer you to real female heroes that I grew up with (See: https://sabersedge.online/blood-and-courage-the-heroes-we-grew-up-with ).

I did watch another zombie movie hoping that another would be better. It was called Covid-21. The best part was the youtube warning about getting the facts about Covid from the CDC. As if this fiction movie was at all about the recent pandemic. Stupidity reigns in our society today. This movie seemed to have a European setting but they run into rednecks with a bad Southern accent who are getting drunk and the utterly clueless woman sees them drinking and looting and stupidly decides to ask them for help by walking into the middle of their body looting and drinking whiskey. She totally misses the comment about all men want are a little whiskey and a woman – but she is the only woman around – and argues with the ex-soldier she is with who tries to tell her they need to leave. She is only saved by more zombies who appear out of nowhere (this movie is an endless series of Deus Ex Machina because the writers can’t build a cohesive story to get from one scene to the other.) In the end, the only survivors are this woman, her daughter, and the captain who got his entire convoy slaughtered by violating mission parameters whose last words (in response to a question from the clueless wonder “What now?”) “We complete the mission.” At least his sergeant was cogent enough to point out several times they were in a hopeless situation after hopeless situation because he had violated the mission. To which the captain repeatedly tells him to shut up.

One final note. The rednecks seem “southern” but it’s hard to tell with the bad accents, sometimes they sounded English. Although there is a reason for that. I have often found it fascinating that (due to Yankee propaganda that dates before the Civil War and is still perpetuated today,) a Southern accent is considered uncultured and uneducated. This is despite the fact that a greater portion of the Southern white population in the Civil War had been educated in universities in Europe than the Northern population. Further, linguistically, the Southern accent IS an English accent. It is an English Accent spoken more slowly. Literally, an English accent in a slow drawl. The fact that our society considers an English accent to be a trait of a highly educated person and a Southern accent to be the trait of an idiot reveals the extent to which we are and have been controlled by propaganda – and the extent to which our understanding of the American Civil War is more a result of propaganda than it is a result of fact and there is a similarity in that to our general knowledge of the World Wars and their cause as well. This is especially obvious since the Southern and English accents are the same thing linguistically but just spoken at a different speed. Yet they are considered at totally different ends of the spectrum of intelligence. As if a Bostonian, New Yorker, or Jersey accent sounded edumacated. Of course, I didn’t learn this in ANY history or social science text about the South. I only know it from listening to a linguist who trained actors to speak with different accents. Our college texts would never be so honest about such things – of course so many of them come from scholars edumacated in the Northeast. Is there a causality here or no?

For all of this, the problem with today’s stories is there are no heroes in them. Even when they try to write heroes they don’t know what they are and fail miserably. Altered Carbon was a great series (the first season.) Then they gave it to a team of female writers who ruined it. They had no idea of the subtlety of the “Envoys” and what true power was. So instead of the psychological power plays and surgical strikes of violence used by the original character the second season was full of blundering and unnecessary violence that seemed to be a clueless person’s idea of portraying a “man of action.”

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