Storytellers

Truth - stories are how we communicate. Stories matter more than we may ever truly know. It's through stories that we create our truths and come to believe what we believe. It's by the storytelling of others and their craftsmanship of the narrative, richness of the plot, and vivacious characters that we come to have our worldviews. Stories have an immense power if only they are allowed to be told. Representation matters, stories matter, we matter.
 
"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”  C.S. Lewis
 

There are ways in which we discount the importance of entertainment as frivolous and escapist. The ways that the discredit films, television series, music, magazines, books, radio, news, and everything in between as unnecessary, distracting, and inconsequential. Those underestimations would be woefully incorrect. Representation matters because the stories we see portrayed across all mediums impact the ways that we not only view the world but how experience it. For many media representations are the end all be all, whether digital or print, for what we know in a variety of contexts. We consume information and until or rather if we learn differently that is all that we are left with. information, while abundant, may not be as accessible as we like to believe. The incentive to learn more, and to learn differently can oftentimes be minimal if not, non-existent. Some of the things we learn about challenge us, shake us to our core, and force us to re-evauluate who we are and how we are. Sometimes knowing more means having to be held accountable and that responsibility, that is knowing more, can feel like a cumbersome burden. In fact, it's not a burden but a means of liberation from ignorance and depravity. That knowledge is a gift that creates a fuller, more vibrant, and detailed story. It's the difference between experiencing the world in monotone black, white, and grayscale before moving into high definition, 4d Technicolor with Dolby Digital surround sound. The quest to fill in the rest of those stories is its own reward, and always a noble one.
 
Everything about representations is important. Who is cast, what lines they speak, how they act, and what goes on around them. It's the placement of who is in the foreground of a portrait, who has shadows cast on their face, and who is taking the shot. It's not just who is present but who is absent, who has their story co-opted, who is portrayed as a caricature. Who gets to be whole. Who gets the benefit of the doubt. Who gets to be human. We are conditioned, socialized, and programmed in so many ways to ignore the details but the truth really is in those small moments. If we are constantly bombarded with images, scenes, and narratives of people then, lest we know someone personally, that is who we believe them to be. The misconceptions, mischaracterizations, and misnomers of people across identities are perpetuated by not just those media representations but all of us who buy into them, demand them, and reify them. If what we see, hear, read, and experience is largely negative then that is the story we hold in our hearts. If we get to see a full spectrum of people's experiences, their ideals, their actions, their words, and their emotions then we also learn that their story is multifaceted, complex, and unique. That lesson is not always present but it needs to be. People are more. Their stories are varied. No two stories are the same, and we know that or maybe we don't. Why then do we fall into the trap of stereotypes, profiles, and prejudice?
 


It can be so easy to blame one another for how we treat one another, and most definitely, we are always and ultimately responsible for how we interact with others, but it is worth critiquing the media. By the media, I mean we as a society, because that is what the media is. - nothing more than reflections of we the people. We see our brightest hopes, dreams, and fantasies come alive on pages, over airwaves, and on screens. We also see our darkest fears, hatred, and insecurities come to life. We bear witness. We feed the beast. We play ourselves, and we play ourselves. We're all actors. We all directors. We're all novelists, commentators, and artists. If we want better representation we have to demand it. We have to do the research, the homework, and the method acting ourselves. We have to expect better of ourselves, and of those around us. It's up to us to fill in the details. We have to be not just be representations of ourselves but what we aspire for others to be as well. We have to retain and maintain our individuality, give space for others to be their immutable selves, and appreciate the diversity of all of our experiences. We have to leave room in the margins to make edits, to insert new information, and to make changes as we continually learn about ourselves and those around us.
 
We cannot let fear control us or our actions. A life lived in fear is not a life lived at all. The world is big world. People are too awe-inspiring. Life is too abundant to be restricted by oppression, bigotry, bias, and most of all fear. Everybody, and I mean absolutely everyone, has a story worth sharing and experiencing, if only we allow them to do so. Stories are what fill our days, our hearts, and our lives. Stories give meaning to mundane, the marginalia, and the obscure. Stories provide context, purpose, and fulfillment. We ourselves dictate our own stories but we must be cognizant of how the stories of others, and those that others tell about us affect our own. All of our stories are valid and true - point blank, period, full stop. We only know our own stories and have no right to anyone else's. It is a privilege to hear someone's story - we should treat it as such. Sometimes our stories may be mainstream and other times the might be counternarratives. No matter what, those stories matter, unabashedly, unapologetically, undeniably. All of us, across identity, experience, and position. May we never lose the light, hope, and acceptance to take in another story. That's how we build community and libraries of stories, representations, and narratives in spite of fear, division, and separation. We tell stories. X

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