Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Depiction Part 14 - Depicting Cultural Shifts by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 14
Depicting Cultural Shifts
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here is the index post with previous parts of Depiction.


A friend mentioned watching the new TV Series Lucifer, where the Devil asks what is the one thing you want -- and the plot unfolds from that choice.

I've started watching the show BEFORE Lucifer about a school for young magicians, THE MAGICIANS (which is fairly well made) so I've seen the trailers and the beginnings of Lucifer.

I thought the concept interesting, but in the context of what viewers now will understand about the world decades hence,  I am looking for what KIND of spouse they will imagine for themselves later.  What will the young teens watching these two shows conclude about "happily ever after" and "soul mates" later on in life?

Personally, I expect that in a few decades they will have thrown off most of the ideas presented in these shows, and in most fantasy novels, just as prior generations have. We, as humans, don't believe everything we're taught, especially not by parents or authority figures.

In the meantime, though, a great deal of (easily dramatized) headline material will be created by these viewers as the mature.

Here's one way to look at this whole spectrum of Marketing Fiction in a Changing World -- a subject we've discussed at length in these posts:

Remember how people always say,  "I'm doing all I can" which essentially dismisses the petitioner as irrational for wanting more than "I can" -- saying I'm the helpless one and that's too bad for you.


OK, watching NYPD Blue season 1 from the 1980's I see a pivot point in a related attitude to the helplessness of "I'm doing all I can -- so how dare  you ask more of me!"

Today, absolutely everywhere, we hear the phrase "been taught" or even just "what we teach kids in schools."  Some politicians want to beef up the Department of Education because "what we teach kids has to be controlled so they'll behave properly" -- and other politicians demanding to dismantle the Department of Education and  "let" localities decide what to teach kids.

The unconscious assumption behind that language is that "permission" is required. Never in human history has humanity as a whole accepted "permission" as a limitation.  That's why we have Heros (to depict) and Villains (likewise to depict).

We have internal conflicts because, as a whole, humanity just does not "believe" what we are "told" or "taught" to believe.  We learn it, parrot it back for the test, then discard all -- or at least a few of us discard.

And among those few who discard what they've "been taught" we have major internal conflicts, sometimes psychologically crippling conflicts that cause what appears to be "irratic" or "irrational" behavior, temperamental outbursts and so on.  The subconscious retains some of what we've "been taught" no matter how the conscious discards it.

The subconscious can be reprogrammed though, and that happens with a great deal of DRAMA in life (Pluto is Drama, remember).  Dramatizing those lessons reprogramming the subconscious is what fiction writers do -- and it is the core material for Romance which is why Love Stories must be woven into most other genre fiction.

In truth, Love does Conquer All.  Exactly how that happens is what we write about.

So historically, schools have been putting all LEARNING into the same category as "what I can't do."  You can only do "what you've been taught."

Our current culture depicts kids and the adults they become as VICTIMS of "what they are taught."

Kids and even adults are victims so it is up to the Educators (who implicitly know best) to be sure that kids "are taught" only "right" things.


What has climate change to do with Romance?  Well, along with the unconscious assumptions underlying the dilemma of "what to teach them" (because if you teach wrong, they will suffer and it will be your fault, see last week's post)  we have the matter of teaching "you can't win" and there is no "Happily Ever After" so don't even try.

"You can't win" is taught by demonstrating authority, and telegraphing "allowed" as the key.  Authority must "permit" or "allow" or "provide" -- authority must act first or you can't "have" anything.

"There is no Happily Ever After" is transmitted the student's real life experiences of divorce, job loss, and the constant din of "it is not your fault; the system is broken."  You can't win because you're not permitted to -- permission is everything.

Here is last week's post on Authority, Responsibility and Power in Alien Romance -- how these nebulous concepts are essential to worldbuilding that can cradle a hot Romance.


That "no such thing as Happily Ever After" carries over into what passes for adulthood these days, as people lose jobs to technology and "are doing all they can" to "find a job" and can only "do all they can" which is limited by "what I was taught."

It may be time to entertain the notion that the HEA is possible, but only to those with a Hero's attitude that if you are doing all you can, and it isn't enough, do what you can't anyway.

The whole idea of making college free telegraphs that the real objective is to be certain there is no such thing as a well educated adult running around in the world.

You can't "get an education" -- it isn't an object to be acquired.  It is a condition of the brain, created by exercise.  That exercise is not acquired by "being taught" but by "learning."

 You can learn to live Happily Ever After, but you can not be taught to do it.

Educated adults point out that permission to Live Happily Ever After is not necessary.  You have to do "more than you can" -- a successful marriage requires each give more than 100%.  

Humanity has talents distributed along a curve -- and only 1% are CAPABLE of a university education beyond Bachelor's.  If you try to put everyone through University, it will become grammar school, not University.  Those who want to "get an education" will be happy with their diploma from such a school -- those who want to "learn" will go elsewhere.

That 1%  that can not be kept from learning because they need no permission ignores the "all I can" limit and just does things regardless of whether they "can" or not, regardless of whether they've "been taught."

You can't TEACH that 1%.  What you think means nothing to them.
So perpetuating the idea that you "can't do" what you "have not been taught" is an attack on the 1% by the 99%.

So here's an idea to check out by watching old stuff on Amazon Prime or Netflix.

The 1980's (Reagan) era was a turning point in HEROISM.

Captain Kirk of Star Trek was a 1960's phenomenon popular with people born in the late 1940's -- people who grew to college age seeing their parents succeed against all odds, and thus convinced they, too, could succeed against all odds.  They just needed to learn  how, not to "be taught."

Kids born in the 1960's became 20-somethings in the 1980's experiencing families (and kids their age's families) that were more loosely constituted (sometimes parents lived together, not married), increasing divorce rate, both parents employed (that was rare in the 1950's before "labor saving devices" made "housework" less than a full time job), and families being moved across country as the Dad "climbed the corporate ladder."  Neighborhood friends, school friends, extended family -- all temporary.

Kids who turned twenty in the 1980's "knew" from experience that all personal ties are merely temporary, so don't invest your heart in other people.

The cell phone, Facetime, text chat, and so on, changed all that and today's children hold friendships no matter where they are physically.
Here's the essence of TV Drama popular in the 1950's and 1960's (Star Trek) and 1970's.


The feminist movement (1970's) destroyed that whole philosophy (fiction themes are philosophical statements) by blaming "winning" on "guy-ness" not on "good-ness."

So women learned to become "bad-ass" in order to win because goodness doesn't win.

Then another generation tackled the whole "goodness" thing with the idea that everything is relative and "fairness"="goodness" because fairness means everyone gets THE SAME THING regardless of their personal merit.

The concept of GOODNESS that drove the 1950's got thrown in the toilet.

Then GOODNESS was replaced with Political Correctness -- the values of which are reflected in the TV Series Lucifer where "Lucifer" is the the protagonist, who always wins.  Everyone else is the "problem of the week."

In the TV Series The Magicians the theme is stated as Magicians can't do anything about real world problems.  Goodness, and Power, are not part of "the real world."

Political commentary on TV "non-fiction" news often states that  "Race is important to Democrats, so therefore Hillary must win the Black vote."  Or some variant on "must win the XXX vote" where XXX is whatever block of voters they are trying to trick you into thinking "are all the same."

In our new 2016 reality there can be such a thing as a "race" all voting as a Bloc.  And it's not racism to say "they" all vote the same way.

A Theme for a novel series might be rooted in the concept that the phrase "win the Black Vote" is racist.  It's based on the idea that all members of a group are identical to one another.  All the "isms" make that assumption -- good novel themes come from those unconscious verbal habits.  That gives you the "internal conflict" for your main character.

And it is objectively true - can be measured by statistics.

Why do the stats show there is a "woman's vote" and a "black vote" and a "Jewish vote?"  WHY????

Because there really IS.

How did that happen?

Maybe by forbidding kids to read the entire textbook before going to Class 1 of the course?

Or perhaps by forbidding kids in grammar school from teaching themselves and defying "the teacher" in every particular and making the teacher PROVE what they are teaching before the class, and not simply parrot what they learned in Education Classes?  Just because it's written in a book doesn't make it true. Prove it.

Teachers teaching today WERE TAUGHT that they can only do "all they can" and so 99% of them don't dare do anything beyond that.   The remaining 1% of teachers are making waves,  big time.

Authoritarian is the word for what has changed our culture.

To "depict" that Cultural Shift in a way that has verisimilitude enough to carry your reader into your artificially built world, you need to know what it was "before" -- what it was in transition -- and what it is "now" relative to your story.

Here's a clue - about reducing stress on the beleaguered victims who are "being taught" instead of learning.


Then you need to explain that change to your reader.

One great way to grasp this idea is to watch the British TV Series, Downton Abby -- that starts in a 'before' culture and depicts the shift into World War I, and the gradual rise of socialism in the UK that changed the whole class-based, landed gentry culture of the 1800's.

Note the relative ages of the characters.  The elders were raised in a before-culture -- the adults are striving to maintain it -- the children are throwing off the traces and running wild into "the future."  And all are righteous about their beliefs and attitudes..

So, in tracing the cultural shift your reader understands, look for old fiction where THE GOOD GUY WINS BECAUSE HE'S GOOD NOT BECAUSE HE'S A GUY.

A good theme might be, "There never was any sexism, and there is no such thing as a 'women's vote' and never was."  Everything in your reader's reality (and yours) says that is nonsense.  Convince the reader otherwise.  The technique known as the "twist ending" is where you suddenly "twist" the fictional reality you've invented back into something resembling the reader's everyday reality.

Look for old fiction where the difference between THE GOOD GUY and THE BAD GUY is that the good guy is GOOD and the bad guy is BAD.  No shades of gray.

Shades of gray in theme material was injected in the 1970's and 1980's as viewer's real-reality shifted from "black and white."

That pivot point in development is important to understand.   It happens so gradually that the Characters don't notice until one day they wake up and the world has changed -- they can't talk to their grandchildren anymore.  New world. New language.

Depicting that generation gap lets you give your Worldbuilding a dimension that feels like reality to the reader.  It is verisimilitude.


That post has a link to Part 1 -- and it's about depicting Verisimilitude.

What is good and what is bad can be a matter of thematic argument among the characters in a work, but GOODNESS always wins.

The writer's job is to show the reader (not tell!) the mechanism of reality (of the build world this character lives in) that CAUSES goodness to win.

The entire HELLENISTIC CULTURAL attitude underlies our modern USA culture -- teaching that winning is good, and that in order to win someone has to lose.

Today's school sports custom is to deny that there is such a thing as losing.  This will create a huge cultural shift, and perhaps we will see that as the current turning-18-year-olds vote.

The Hellenistic culture survives in that two-valued Aristotelian "logic" that divides the world into black and white.

Remember in the heyday of the Hellenists, the world was flat, on the back of a turtle, and if you sail to the edge you fall off.  This week, they discovered gravity waves as predicted by Einstein, when they observed two black holes colliding. This is not an either/or world, at the particle level or at the moral level.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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