The Stories We Become
I read a tweet the other day talking about how teenagers were staging walk-ins and such in part because the stories that they were raised on were stories of students overthrowing oppressive governments. They said it better than that, but that was the idea. When that mixed in my head with a podcast I heard about how my generation was raised on the notion that we as kids could fight the monster, and solve the problem on our own (think E.T., Goonies, Gremlins, and the like).
So recently I have been thinking about how much the stories of our childhood shape what we think and what we do. The movies of my childhood (80s and very early 90s) were about rising up against the bullies. It was about taking back the school for the little guy or stopping the “local” monster or evil. It wasn’t often about saving the world, it was normally about saving yourself in the moment and a few other downtrodden people get helped too.
The generation today is raised on Hunger Games, The Maze, Divergent*, and a whole host of other dystopian future stories. In them the protagonist isn’t fighting against local struggles, but against all of oppressive society and control.
I was shaped by the stories of my youth. I see myself still as the little nerd who is fighting with his wits against bullies to protect the little guy. The generation graduating from high school this year see themselves as Katniss Everdeen taking on governments and overthrowing whole systems. It shapes the way that they see the world and themselves.
The thing is the generation (I am using that term loosely here) right below them, the middle schoolers of today are not watching any stories. They are watching other people play games on Twitch and watching other people talk about life on YouTube. I wonder what will happen when they grow up. How will a generation raised on YouTube stars see the world?
*OK, so Divergent. As a child of the 80s I like stories that are about the hero becoming more heroic. It is the hero’s journey that matters to me, the saving the world part is secondary. In Divergent by the end of the first book they have already had a revolution. That’s like sticking the Return of the Jedi ending on A New Hope and then talking about the extended universe stuff for the next two movies.