Paul Schrader about 'narrative exhaustion'

edited June 2009 in Story Games
Interesting essay in The Guardian newspaper yesterday by Paul Schrader. I wonder how our storyjamming or social storytelling, story now basically, fits into all this.
Beyond the silver screen.

Schrader's point is that as a culture we are now so bombarded with stories and storytelling (films, advertising etc etc) that we are fed up with the way we construct stories. That's why the audience are turning to alternatives, such as "reality TV", videogames or documentaries. This is just me paraphrasing, his points are more complex, but he calls this the rise of the "counter-narrative entertainments".

I feel his pain, but someone should invite him to a game of Contenders. Or Shock. I'm happy to host.


  • edited June 2009
    Very cool. Thanks for sharing that. I love Paul Schrader.
  • I disagree with his premise, but kinda agree with his conclusion. I don't believe we're on "narrative overload", in fact, I think the rise of these "counter-narrative entertainments" is actually a sign that we're starving for *more* story.

    The issue, IMO, is that we're on "bad narrative overload". Story-telling has become a business, rather than an art form. Movie and television studios aren't (usually) willing to take creative risks, which leads to the production of mediocre stories. I think people are exploring alternative narrative outlets because the traditional outlets simply aren't up to snuff any more.

    Just look at the success of, say, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight". They blew up at the box office, but why? It's not because they were terribly original, it's just Batman after all. Rather, they focused on good story-telling in a way that most "blockbusters" have abandoned.

    (Actually, I think the big studios are coming around a bit. You see more dramas on TV, and there seems be a rising class of mainstream "story-telling directors" like JJ Abrams, Peter Jackson, etc.)
  • Posted By: timfireMovie and television studios aren't (usually) willing to take creative risks, which leads to the production of mediocre stories.
    Video game writers/producers, too. Compare the mightily successful Halo series with... well, just about anything on Play This Thing!.
  • Its an interesting article, but I must disgree with it and side with Tim.

    The money people that are actually in charge of getting those stories in the theaters or one the air arent' out to make art. They want a guarenteed moneymaker.So, they do their best to make the story as "acceptable" to the greatest number of people possible. So, they follow what they consider to be current Trends. Whenever someone comes out with an winning idea that makes a lot of money, everyone else rushes in to ride the bandwagon.

    A primary example would be "Star Wars". This movie actually created the concept of the Summer Blockbuster. After it came out, a slew of Sci-Fi movies were released that tried desperately to capture the audience that George Lucas had found. Bigger Budgets. Lots of Eye Candy. Skimper Plots.

    In my opinion, Lucas himself feel prey to this type of thinking himself.

    Trend-following has led us to have 3 sets of "CSI" and "Law & Order" on TV. These are both successful, but are still highly formulatic police procedural shows.

    However, in defense of the entertainment industry, the veiwing public tends to reject anything that is too far outside what they condsider to be "acceptable." A couple of decades ago, vampires were considered to be creatures of semi-erotic horror. Now they a high school girl's perfect boyfriend. ("Twilight") Also, Asian-style action movies were considered to be too weird by the general public, ("Big Trouble in Little China") but now they can become big hits ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.").

    Trends exist and have a purpose, but we need the trend-breakers to get anything new.
  • Interestingly exactly the opposite phenomena appears to be happening in literature in the re-emergence of story. Modernism, and thus the twentieth century, was dominated by the novel of the 'inner-self'. This seems to have played itself out and the spillover of titles from children and young adult fiction into mainstream adult fiction comes from the fact that these still have stories. We are story-starved.

    A joke on British radio went something like: (man's voice) "I am a 40-something literary novelist living in north London who writes important novels about the struggle of being a 40-something literary novelist living in north London" (woman's voice) "I am an 30-something novelist who writes young adult fiction set in a world where magic is real. My novels are unimportant, only concerned with the struggle between good and evil".
  • "My novels are unimportant, only concerned with the struggle between good and evil."

    Because, you know, the struggle between good and evil is completly unrelevant to anyone. Could someone please tell George Lucas, J.R.R. Tolkien, and whoever wrote the Bible that?
  • Alexander, I think that's the joke. She was being sarcastic and making fun of the literary modernist's self-absorption at the expense of, y'know, story. :P
  • edited June 2009
    Oh, I was pretty sure it was a joke - I was further expanding it with a joke of my own.

    The internet, sadly, does not always communicate intent properly.

    Edit: Oh, and Alex is fine - I only put Alexander when I signed up to be official.
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