Saturday, July 25, 2009

What do I mean by ‘disembodied narrative’?

Originally stories only existed in people’s heads. Before writing, ancient cultures passed stories on orally, and each recipient could make what they wished of them in their own interpretation or retelling. Then people started making marks on things, voila we have writing, and now there is a much more accurate way of passing stories on. Skip ahead a whole bunch of centuries, and the majority of all stories, the ones that define our culture, are contained in books.

Since then a plethora of other media have developed that offer a variety of means for telling stories. We have come to think of these as what stories are – books, movies, plays, tv shows, but really the stories have always been in our heads. We know that books and movies etc can have as many interpretations as the people that consume them – but until recently the public perception was that author’s should limit the range of interpretation. There have always been authors who make their work deliberately ambiguous, forcing the audience more overtly to find their own interpretation and make their own story from it, but I would assert that this type of work has not been valued by the majority of our society. Then we got video games and Web 2.0 – and, well, as a culture we are still coming to terms with that, but we are slowly beginning to place more value on the interaction and contribution of the audience. We are in the midst of learning to appreciate that stories are as much what the audience brings to them as what they are given.

This is all very esoteric, but I do also have a much more tangiable concept of what disembodied narrative is. Media conglomerates have brought us some amazing franchise stories (and not so amazing) in the last few decades. There is the quintessential example, Star Wars, though there are many others, including Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, The Matrix, Harry Potter and Batman, just to name a few of the larger ones, but any book, movie, tv show, comic, etc that has been reimagined or extended into some other form fits here. Typically these stories all have a central text that is privelidged above all other texts, which are considered subsidiary. With Star Wars it was the ‘original’ movies, Batman was a comic, Lord of the Rings a book. Even the Bible could be considered the central text in the Christian story franchise. Yet why must we consider one text the most authentic source of the narrative, while others are secondary, just because they came after? Both the Matrix movies and video games where authored by the Wachowski brothers, yet the films are considered the ’source’ material. I would argue that The Animatrix, although created by different directors, and therefore not as authentic as the films, is actually, better and perhaps closer to the narrative I took from the original Matrix film, then the shoddy sequels Reloaded and Revolutions. This is becoming an irrelevent point, as media conglomerates put into production many of these elements simultaneously these days, with books, games and toys ready to go at the same time as a film. When all these things are essentially created all at once by an extended creative team, how can form of the narrative seriously be considered more authentic then the others?

What will emerge in our coming culture is a form of story-telling not embodied in a single text, but rather extant as disembodied narratives accessable through multiple texts in a variety of media. I’m looking forward to these stories with bated breath.


  © Blogger template 'Minimalist E' by 2008

Back to TOP