Last night my roommate/best friend/blood brother asked me: “What inspires you?” It’s a simple(ish) question that for me, demands a far more complicated answer. The movie-watching, TV-devouring and comic book addicted nature that I have adopted is certainly a routine, but I can sometimes forget just why I do it all. To put it modestly, I am inspired by storytelling. While the majority of our entertainment industry is comprised of quickly made and boisterous productions, there are some flashes of genius in there. Amid all of the noise of reality shows and dime-a-dozen sequels, there do exist men and women who truly believe in what they are doing and want to share their unique vision with their audience.
Take TV shows like Arrested Development and Community (pre-season 4) for example. Here we have creators (Mitch Hurwitz and Dan Harmon, respectively) who made TV series with more methodical and deeply intricate story webs than most standard comedies. These men were so dedicated to telling their story that they constantly faced the possibility of being cancelled and/or fired – which both eventually were. Hurwitz or Harmon could’ve chosen to roll over and make cookie-cutter comedies but they didn’t. I have so much respect for their insane and unyielding visions, even in the face of their own (career) destruction.
What I love about most stories – comic books, TV shows or films – is how connected they all are, even if we don’t realize this at first. Every new story I expose myself to further informs my opinion and worldview, which may seem trivial – but to a pop culture critic – I assure you it is not. Each comic book written by Geoff Johns, each TV series helmed by J.J. Abrams or each movie directed by Wes Anderson raises the bar. They give me a new frame of reference to evaluate other stories with. Similarly each new story has the potential to be the inspiration for a future classic series. After all, it’s no secret that the wunderkinds of Hollywood today were all inspired by George Lucas and Star Wars.
Another thing that I love about the media I consume is the near infinite stories that are told, with comic books especially. You can buy an issue of X-Men, pick a character and follow their entire history through scores of other books – often ranging from months to decades in age. The same thing goes with film/TV – I love discovering a new writer or director and going back to see what work of theirs I missed. In this light we are living in a Golden Age of Pop Culture of sorts – just because there may not be great movies in the theaters doesn’t mean you can’t be newly exposed to films that may have come out years ago; which is especially true with the dawn of On-Demand and Netflix.
Another way that I am inspired by these mostly visual mediums of storytelling is by how they expand their audiences’ horizons and worldview. Grant Morrison is one of the craziest comic book creators I have ever followed, but I am so thankful that he is the way he is. He has opened me up to a whole new psychedelic/philosophical approach that I might not have ever known otherwise. Sometimes the traditional way of learning a subject flies over our heads. Contrastingly I really admire creators that try to convey difficult philosophy and science topics to us on a level that some of us can better understand. Look at Christopher Nolan’s Inception, a drama built upon an extremely heady and off-the-wall concept: dreams within dreams within dreams? Despite how unapproachable it could have been, it reached an audience and became a huge success, proving that you don’t need to dumb down a story for an audience.
I’m inspired that these stories are told, I am in admiration of the people who dedicate their lives to storytelling and I am honestly sometimes astonished that the big publications, corporations or studios allow some of these works to get made. Joseph Campbell spent his life studying mythologies and the cultures they came from; in particular he studied the story of The Hero. The skeletal structure of the stories we tell has been pretty much been the same for a long time. These near-infinite sagas are usually aimed to express an essential truth about ourselves. But what amazes and humbles me is the countless different ways that we still find to tell those stories. This is why I am a writer. I am inspired by the longevity of the story, the myth, or the narrative that humans continue to tell to this day and will go on telling after we die.
Thank you for reading my hogwash faithful readers. Much obliged.