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William Lashner's PI-Writing Blog

Why Important Films Always Suck

Sunday, July 8, 2012

We talk about stories having a good message.  Actors want to act in them because of the politics, writers bask in the glow of the acclaim for taking on big issues.  It’s not just an action picture, it’s a call for responsibility in buying diamonds from Africa.  It’s not just a raunchy sex comedy, it’s a story about the importance of family and personal responsibility. But isn't all that lily-gilding a perversion of what a story is?  Doesn't a story's beginning, middle, and resolution provide all the meaning it needs?  There is a corpse.  The questions is who did the killing.  Isn't finding the killer answer enough?  The very existence of the story provides its meaning.  Adding some soppy message on top of that is just a cynical way of selling the story to an audience intoxicated with its own sincerity.  In that way stories are better than we are; they never need occupy themselves in a search for their meaning.

A person without meaning is lost and pathetic.  A story without meaning is Hamlet.