Blog Post

The Unreliable Trope Of Mythology

Jan 4th, 2016

A recent article in the Economist calls upon the usual trope of a shared cultural mythology as reason for an audience's attraction to story:

What explains the power of all this modern-day mythology?...audiences take comfort in the idea of superheroes who ride to the rescue. Modern myths also have the power to unify people across generations, social groups and cultures, creating frameworks of shared references even as other forms of media consumption become ever more fragmented. Ultimately, however, these modern myths are so compelling because they tap primordial human urges—for refuge, redemption and harmony.

Unfortunately, Not Everything is a Hero's Journey and this drive to siphon great storytelling through mythos fails to tap into the real reason why: Great stories connect because they model human problem-solving. This is why the cultural divide does not matter; we all have the same "hardware" that makes up a human mind. Our language and our symbols may be different, but we're all still essentially working off the same operating system.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens connects because it stays true to the mind's problem-solving process. We all know when a story is broken or has "holes" because we all instinctively know how to solve problems. The Force Awakens honors this process and in turn reaps the benefits of an Audience engaged.

The Dramatica theory of story lays out this problem-solving process and provides a model for writers and producers to use as a guide in their own stories. Understanding this process--or even better, working with someone who does--removes the reliance on shaky mythology that can often result in rote storytelling.