Hello and welcome to the underbelly podcast. Come along and explore the vulnerable underside to story and learn that, in the real world, there are no heroes -- there are no bad guys -- it’s complicated.
I’m Wendy, and I have been paid to tell people’s stories for decades. Along the way, what I have learned is that stories are powerful -- they can heal, but they can also kill. When they are used well, they’re medicine. In the wrong hands, they’re dangerous poison.
Over the next episodes, we’re going to vivisect stories -- learn that the heroes aren’t heroic, the villains are pure evil. We’re going to ask who wrote the story -- who benefited from the story...and who is missing from the story.
We’re going to learn to be wary of one dimensional stories -- to be aware of the single story.
We are going to get suspicious of stories -- be afraid of them
Good stories are simple. They have a strong narrative. You take your hero, throw them into a situation that they resist. Your hero decided to take on the bad guy but needs to learn something first. They meet a guide who teaches them, shows them what they need to learn. The hero trains, fights, loses, gets back up, fights again, gets lost, keeps going. The bad guy’s there, confronting the hero, manipulating the hero, fighting the hero.
It’s dicey, but the hero wins.
At this point, they might enter a cave, assimilate all they’ve learned, then journey back — renewed, stronger, better than ever.
The thing is, stories work. They make us do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. They’re the backbone of propaganda and public relations. When you need an entire population to do something they wouldn’t normally do...use story -- it’ll work. When something uncomfortable and complicated happens...tell a simple story and watch your troubles disappear.
It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, rich or poor -- it doesn’t matter which country you’re from.
We all use, abuse, and are used and abused by story.
We needed women to en masse leave their homes and work in factories: Enter Rosie the Riveter.
We needed women to en masse leave their jobs and go back home: Enter June Cleaver -- never mind that the actress who played June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver was in fact a single working mother.
We needed more revenue before the Christmas rush? Enter Black Friday...and then Cyber Monday..and whatever Tuesday...etc.
Heck, Iceland needed to recover from the 2008 recession so they started telling stories about Iceland and -- coupled with great airfares from Wow Airlines -- a thriving tourism industry was born.
Story has helped keep people enslaved, helped ensure we grew Victory gardens, vilify Hitler, and buy, buy, buy. Stories keep us separated and they bring us together.
When we tell stories, we own that version of truth. We have a great responsibility to tell our story well. When we take in a story, we need to do so with eyes wide open, aware that we are being entertained. Hopefully able to listen and retell the same story from another point of view. Hopefully with full knowledge that the storyteller has an agenda and we’re okay with it.
More Iceland tourism? Hell yes. Buying into a 24/7 consumer culture -- maybe not.
Join me as we explore the underbelly of story.