This is great. Not all stories are worth telling the world about, that’s for sure.
One of the very smartest things I’ve heard in a very, very long time
Thank God someone has finally said this.
adteachings - you circulate such great stuff. Thank you.
I watched this video this morning and got really pissed off. I was going to let it slide, but as I was going about my day it got under my skin more and more and I’ll tell you why.
This guy is so full of shit.
I know it’s easy to like this video because he’s a famous guy and he’s kind of funny and snarky and he calls somebody “fuckhead”, but if you unpack it even a little bit you’ll find that his platitudes about storytelling are absolutely false, hollow and pretentious.
First off uses the word “storyteller” as if it’s some qualitative badge of honor. Something that must be earned and is only bestowed upon the truly gifted. This is like when people go to a museum and see something that’s outside of their realm of comfort, understanding or preference and say “that’s not art”. I’m terribly sorry but you don’t get to choose what’s art and what’s not art. You can subjectively choose whether you like it or not, but either way it’s art. That’s why it’s so fascinating in the first place, because it’s a fluid notion and it’s sticky and messy and not clearly defined. You have to think about it and decide for yourself.
It’s the same with stories, if somebody is telling a story they are a storyteller. You might think Michael Bay’s movies are horseshit (I don’t) but he’s still a storyteller. I don’t care if you think a story is worth telling, or boring or bullshit. It’s still a story and to say otherwise is paternalistic and elitist.
The second part that pisses me off is his notion of what a story is. He exclusively cites people who write novels and make feature films as people who “actually tell stories”. This is the most dull, narrow understanding of what a story is that I’ve ever heard.
First off, do short stories and short films not count? What about paintings? This painting by Edward Hopper packs more story and emotion into one canvas than many feature films can fit into two hours. How can you not look at this for even five seconds and glean a dozen things about these people, their relationship and their lives. Is this not storytelling?
What about this photograph by Gregory Crewdson? It’s pretty hard to look at this and say that photographers aren’t storytellers.
Painting and photography feel like kind of a given, what about music? Are you saying a symphony by Dvorak doesn’t tell a story?
You can go even further down that path if you choose. What about dance? Abstract art? Architecture? What about SnapChat and vlogs? Are these not considered storytelling? You may not necessarily like or understand how a particular medium could tell stories, some of them may not be considered classic or “highbrow”, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re storytelling.
One of my favorite plays is Art by Yasmina Reza which is about a man who buys a painting that is just a white canvas with three faint lines drawn on it. The man’s friends lambast his purchase, descrying it as bullshit, meaningless and pretentious art with no worth or story behind it. But as the play goes on and they vigorously argue and discuss and ponder both the piece in front of them and art itself, they eventually each find their own personal meaning and narrative in the work.
That’s what art and storytelling is all about. Serving as a mirror to ourselves, showing us bits and pieces of our own personalities and lives. Storytelling doesn’t have to just be a traditional, linearly structured narrative. Sure it can be, and it’s great when it is, but at it’s heart it’s about the transference of emotion, history and experience from one human to another.
I feel that Mr. Sagmeister doesn’t want to take the time to think about art and stories. His wants his stories spoon-fed to him in neat, traditional narrative arcs that take the form of novels and feature films and that’s fine. Clearly I love both. But to say that anything else isn’t storytelling is pompous and completely untrue.
There are many different kinds of stories out there and I’m happy to enjoy them all.