Sunday, 10 July 2011

Myths and stories

It was my wife that dragged me to the London Film and Comic Con yesterday (honestly.) While I don't have a lot of time for celebrity worship I still managed to find myself in a queue to meet David Prowse and there is something that stirs a childish excitment about chatting with film stars which got me thinking again about the role of myth and stories in culture.

I suspect the association of film stars with their characters is the source of our adoration of them and it is therefore the characters and stories that they portray that are important. Stories are an important part of culture, they help us frame issues and help us understand our own challenges.

The "hero's journey" type story of Star Wars or Harry Potter are little different to older myths of Robin Hood, Arthur or Taliesin (not having read any classics I can't comment of Greek Mythology but I suspect the same is true). In times of crises, we need heroes more than ever, but it's not just a single leader / hero figure, it is understanding the role models that we should aspire to. And in times of crisis, the world will not change with a handful of people - although small numbers of people can have a big impact - but we need a change in mindset and wider change in communities, grass roots movements and so on, and these stories can sometimes engage in wider communities than real life heroes (try discussing Gandhi and Potter with a 12 year old for example). So the chance to meet a real hero (or villain) provides an even greater connection to the stories that are important in our lives, even if they are only the actor who played that role.

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