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The Truth Is Out There... in Fiction

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Aug. 13, 2022

We like to say that sometimes (especially these times) reality is stranger (or more ridiculous or outrageous) than anything one can find in fiction. And while I do think that this holds true on so many occasions, I also think we're being unfair to how much of the human condition can be found in the stories we create.

I was thinking about how we sat around and watched humanity react to climate change and to the COVID-19 pandemic (I sure hope the sequel isn't around the corner), staring in disbelief at self-destructive behaviors and near-suicidal convictions. (Yes, the ones standing on the other side than you are staring in the exact same disbelief)

But it's all been documented in the world's literature. If you read Albert Camus' The Plague and Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People you get a blueprint of how people react to mass catastrophe. The same with movies like Don't Look Up. How does that happen?

You can say that Don't Look Up is just an allegory reflecting what happened with Covid or climate change. And you'd be right- but so is everything else.

Because humanity hasn't really changed, and we've made the same mistakes in the past (and clearly learned very little). These mistakes are reflected in the stories written, drawn, or recorded by the storytellers of each generation. And I find it charming, fascinating, that they rarely tell the whole story. (We can't all be Émile Zola) Usually the touch of non-realism, the fiction in the fictional story, comes in what the creator (or author or webcomic artist) would like to happen. How they'd like society to progress and evolve from it. A suggestion on how we could leave the scourge we're dealing with behind, and move on to a better human condition.

This doesn't only occur in the recognized masterpieces of storytelling, or even in the ‘serious’ stuff. Watch a Charlie Chaplin movie and the commentary on the problems we face as a society and as humans is right there, for you to think about once you're done genuinely laughing.

How about some Simpsons?

(There are more modern examples but I'm old and haven't watched them. Please add your own)

How about some blockbuster pop storytelling?

The human condition is everywhere in stories, whether they aim to poke at society like Socrates' gadfly or whether they're seeking to simply entertain you. Because we like gazing at the mirror, even if it freaks us out.

In which movies, novels, comics, and webcomics have you found parts of the human condition?

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usedbooks at 5:26AM, Aug. 14, 2022

I love satire. I was warned against reading Gulliver's Travels as a kid, but I loved it. Gaiman and Pratchett are top on my list of authors. The world sucks sometimes, and laughing at it is the only way to maintain sanity. (Also, these particular satirists see the beauty behind the chaos, and that is an amazing and heart-warming feat.)

usedbooks at 5:21AM, Aug. 14, 2022

King of the Hill is the best comedic commentary on how humanity reacts to both personal and large-scale crises. Watching it in times of stress is cathartic.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 12:16AM, Aug. 14, 2022

Well, one example for me is the webcomic Miss Sisyphus which is hosted here on DD. Not to spoil anything, but the story in that comic is basically an absurdist truth manifesto. It's about our human need to seek meaning and ultimate truth and our inability of ever truly finding it. The search for the truth is just an aim to follow, the truth itself lies in the experience we have as we go. It's a great comic and I recommend anyone to read it👍

Corruption at 6:23AM, Aug. 13, 2022

When it comes to truth being stranger than fiction, I see it as this way = "The truth is stranger than fiction: Fiction is limited by imagination and designed to make sense" If you want messed up stuff, read history. Heck, trekkies might call the Ferengi are the greediest beings out there, but when you look at current human societies they seem charitable.

Ironscarf at 5:23AM, Aug. 13, 2022

People tend to forget we are still the same cave dwellers and hunter gatherers, trying to work out what to do with all the shiny things we've discovered.

PaulEberhardt at 5:19AM, Aug. 13, 2022

This is the very thing that makes all those timeless classics so timeless. I thought long and hard about examples, but realised I could list my entire library as well as my favourite list on the Duck for good measure (both are a wild mix of everything, old and new). The best ones are those where the author does not seem to set out to explore the human condition but lets it happen automatically. Mind you, the emphasis here is on "seems".

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