Lately more and more comics and animated features seem to consciously, and more importantly loudly, incorporate political messages in their stories. From feminism to social stratification and discrimination, to racism and xenophobia or even depression and psychological trauma.
This is by no means a new thing, to incorporate themes and messages intended to be gotten across to audiences. The very first stories ever told were likely told with this exact purpose in mind. And it worked, and worked well, and we're still using stories to teach people or stimulate people to think about certain ideas today and likely will for as long as human civilization exists.
The problem that seems to get audiences at odds with creators to the point that entire hit pieces are written in relevant press articles to force audiences to conform to the desired reception of a creative work, is the delivery.
A frequent gripe is that there is a lot of soapbox lecturing happening in stories and very little story telling. Another is that the paradigms presented in the story are such that throw audiences out of the story, for the only reason that in order to create the paradigm the characters, setting or premise of the story is completely bent out of shape.
Another frequent gripe is that the story is rushed, lackluster or not thought through, and thus a message that could come across as organic to the story is in the end received as a gimmicky sketch resembling fanfiction than the original IP, whatever it is.
What I tend to hear as a defense for weak storytelling in stories that are heavily imbued with some kind of political message, is that the message is important to the point that the story isn't. Or, of course, a whole range of ad hominems thrown at the audience, rather than even an argument, which are laughable at best even when directed at one individual let alone whole bundled groups of them.
To this I disagree. I believe that when it comes to storytelling, be it in novels or movies or webcomics, the more engaging and powerful the story, the more impactful the message it carries, whether it is right or wrong.
I wish to illustrate that with a heavily political movie whose message I hated but which was masterfully done in every aspect, from story to direction.
And that movie is none other than The Green Mile.
I won't get into its analysis in this article, but suffice it to say that the message of the movie revolves around a certain Christian denomination's understanding of scripture and/or a take on good vs evil and right vs wrong (including racism and Southern USA politics of 1935).
I profoundly disagreed with the message (and the answers) the movie gave so much so that ever since I have felt a certain kind of contempt for Tom Hanks, whom I used to really like up until then.
But the reason I had such a powerful reaction in my mind and in my heart was because the story was powerful and it was masterfully presented.
That is to say, that the message was woven into the story in three main ways:
1. It was an organic part of the setting, and felt natural to see elements of it (i.e. racism)
2. The characters were driven by their own personal backgrounds and motivations, and felt like real people (likeable or not) rather than like sock puppets for the hand of the author to go in and plant words in their mouths.
3. The issues that were being discussed were being shown rather than told. That is to say, the characters didn't think to philosophize or preach to each other, they interacted in practical manners as befit their character parameters.
In the end, there's nothing wrong with incorporating a political agenda in your story. In fact, one way or the other, we all do whether we want to or not, as we are creatures of our own background and our background's politics will seep through to some degree even if we don't want that to happen.
What should be the case is for this political agenda to be allowed to mesh with the story and the characters, and become part of the story rather than projected onto it.
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, June 15, 2019
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