This is my 200th blog post. So I’ve decided that in honor of writing for more than two years on topics ranging from deep dives into storytelling to fun countdowns of inconsequential things, I’m taking a look at the deeper ideas I have been striving to get at. Writing about comic books, movies, television, and more elements of fiction and pop culture can be equal parts carefree fun and the writing equivalent of beating yourself over the head with a rock. The tricky thing is that you never quite know which it is going to be until you start the latest piece.
While entertainment may be one of the least important issues in need of discussion in the world today, a great story can change lives. True art not only helps humans express themselves in beautiful ways, but it can give them a chance to impart love and wisdom to other people in a manner that is impossible in any other form. Yes, there are countless terrible works out there that are simply the product of studios and executives trying to make as much money as possible. But good and pure art has a value that can never truly be taken away. Even a failure has value when it is created by people who are trying to do something special.
Human beings are innately drawn to tell, listen to, and pass on stories. It’s not only how we can connect with one another, but it’s how we form societies and create connections from one generation to the next or between people who have lived vastly different lives. There are core truths to the human experience that we all share, no matter our personalities, preferences, or cultures.
I want to explore those truths. I want to make the most out of something I have devoted huge portions of my life to following. I want to combine my passions and my gifts in order to bless other people, even if that is in some minor and fleeting way.
It matters to me, damn it.
Life in Other Worlds
It was either a big blessing or a huge mistake that I found a connection to so many stories at a very early age, but in either case, I’ve had tales from every medium pressed into my subconscious over the years until they made a permanent impression. If I underwent an MRI tomorrow, chances are that an indent of the Bat Symbol would be found somewhere on my cerebellum. While it can be difficult for me to break out of those references and storytelling conventions when it comes to analyzing serious issues and milestones in real life, the morals and meanings conveyed to me give me a specific outlook on many aspects of life. I try to make the most of them in a healthy way.
Having become a Christian at a very young age, my faith has played a huge part in the decisions I made over the years and the morals I try to pursue in my life. Plenty of Bible reading and church has helped me to maintain a faith and a focus on my beliefs, which are reflected in what I have chosen to pursue and my relationships with others. They also partially impact what stories I love, as themes of sacrifice and forgiveness can hit me especially hard. However, I was also allowed to watch a pretty wide variety of movies from an early age (probably too early), which impacted my values, as well.
I would be remiss to not mention that the radio stories of Adventures in Odyssey – a Christian broadcast about morally-focused tales in a quaint fictional city – were some of the first sagas that I loved passionately and memorized thanks to repeated listens. While these may seem trite and chaste by many today, they were perfect for the young kid that I was. They were funny, thrilling, and instilled morals. Plus, they were truly high quality productions that made me value a well-crafted adventure even before I really knew the difference between good and bad storytelling.
Just as important in my early years was Batman: The Animated Series, which first aired when I was four years old. I literally started watching B:TAS before I can remember. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of watching Batman’s animated adventures on weekday afternoons on Kids WB while sitting on the brown carpet flooring of my family’s home, Dark Knight toys in hand. Little did mom and dad know that they were turning their young son into a borderline obsessive Batman fanatic. I can only be thankful that I was hooked on something as fantastic as B:TAS. The top tier animation, complex storylines, and amazing voice cast meant I was mainlining stories of the highest quality that just so happened to be ok for my age. While other series like Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Pokémon, and Arthur still hold a special place in my heart, Batman: The Animated Serieswas the gold standard that everything else was measured against. It still kind of is today.
Yes, being a ‘90s kid meant Saturday morning cartoons were a huge part of growing up. But there were so many more stories that took up permanent residence in the corners of my brain.
Dad Fights the Nazis and Other Tales of Mistaking Fiction for Reality
Like many others at the time, the popularity of VHS and having parents of just the right age meant that I was exposed to the amazingness that was and still is the Indiana Jones Trilogy and the original Star Wars Trilogy. Yes, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were crucial to the formation of my taste at a young age with these adventures blowing me away at just the right time.
But this was when I was still too young to understand everything that went into moviemaking. So that meant Harrison Ford was the real icon. Forget James Bond, Optimus Prime, and even Han Solo. Indiana Jones was the man. Not only that, but he always reminded me of my dad. Maybe it was just because they looked vaguely similar and my father was the man I knew best at my young age, but the connection was made quickly and firmly. Heroic, tough, witty, and moral, but still human, every boy wants to be Indiana Jones. And an Indiana Jones who is also somehow your dad in a weird way? I still want to be him.
I had quite the iconic lineup of heroes to look up to as a kid – Jesus, Whit from Adventures in Odyssey, Indiana Jones, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman, and Han Solo. Put them together and you have the general idea of someone you really want to be.
As I grew older, I continued expanding my taste. I was a voracious reader at a young age, consuming books at a rapid rate and reading far above my age range. In particular, I adored the Redwallbook series, an epic tale set in a medieval world where talking mice, rabbits, and other adorable furry creatures did deadly battle with snakes, rats, and all forms of deplorable vermin. The world building and massive scope of a story told across generations captivated me and ignited my love for fantasy tales, which would soon lead me to The Hobbitand The Lord of the Rings – a seminal reading experience that is one of my fondest fictional worlds. Having read the series before the films debuted, I was ripe for the Peter Jackson’s trilogy, which would unfold during my teenage years. I also still have a soft spot for stories featuring talking mice due to Redwall, especially if they have swords and go on quests.
Making the Best of a Bad Brain
Age and continued dives into more complex and mature tales helped me to better understand the power of stories until they became a language of their own. Despite forays into terrible taste during my teenage years and a lengthy disconnect with the stories I loved as a child, many movies, TV, music, and books retained power in my life. Some were perfect experiences for a specific phase in life. Others are timeless classics that could remain relevant for me until the end of my life. In either case, my grappling with stories from around the world and across the decades has helped me to better understand myself. Yes, entertainment can be an escape that I use too often to avoid harsh realities. But the best tales force me to confront something about myself or the world that I was trying to forget.
Despite my antisocial tendencies and generally difficult nature, the stories I love help me to open up and express myself. I’m grateful to have people like my wife in my life who I can connect with on every level. In other cases, I know that a connection over a shared love of a film or book can lead to a deeper relationship. After all, we love these stories due to the shared nature of the human experience.
But the only way to bring something truly special out of anything in life is to give it the proper focus and time that it deserves. That means your relationships with friends and family, your faith and beliefs, your goals in life, and anything else that has the possibility to change you and the world around you. I’ve consumed enough entertainment over the years that not making the most of it would be irresponsible. Good stories and the ideas that we perpetuate through the tales we tell, watch, and share with others need proper consideration and time. Without this, people lose sight of what deserves to be passed on through time and what can be left behind. Even the things beloved by countless generations and integrated into our childhood lives need reevaluation in order to be given true meaning for each viewer or reader.
What does that mean for my future? I just want to make the most out of what I’ve been given. It’s probably time to create just as much as I evaluate.