Narrative and Hope – some general thoughts

I’ve been trying to work out why I’m in such a state about DW. Last night, for family reasons, it turned out that I won’t get to see JE until late on Sunday, and I went into meltdown. I felt very guilty because I ought to care far more about the family reunion picnic my hubby’s got organised for this weekend and the fact his elderly dad’s decided having us to stay over would be too much. Good  mothers do not behave like this. They care far more about their inlaws than a couple of fictional people running down a street into each other’s arms.

And yet…plenty of people, mostly male, would react similarly if they were expected to delay watching England vs Argentina in the World Cup Final for 24 hours. They’d competely freak out if some bigmouth told them the score before they got to watch. That seems to be okay, or at least more okay, than feeling like this about a show. But the emotions aren’t that different. If your team missed the final by a free kick last time around and they’re in this time, you’ve waited four years and it must feel the same way.

Today the only thing that seemed to calm me down was listening to The Messiah. This rather horrified me, since I wear atheism like a badge of pride most of the time. But I needed to hear something based on faith, because that’s what is required right now. I think it’s all connected to stories and what I expect them to do in society. I expect them to impose order on a chaotic world. I know that in the real world virtue is, as often as not, rewarded by a kick in the teeth and power is more likely to triumph than good. But that is exactly why I need stories where it turns out differently. I need relief from struggling to adjust to the random and capricious nature of the universe. The illusion that there is some orderly force at work shaping our ends and, occasionally, doling out instances of pure joy and grace.

And if I don’t get that, my last light flickers out. So stories are very important. All cultures tell them and many invest quite ridiculous levels of meaning in them. I’m not saying religion is the answer. It’s not, it causes more wars than it ends, I suspect. (I’m talking Christianity here because it happens to be the narrative for my culture and the one I grew up with. I don’t see why other religions should be different in this regard though. Correct me if I’m wrong).

When I stopped going to church about five years ago I came to the conclusion that for me, the service I choose is basically the theatrical re-enactment of my chosen narrative, the one that imposes order on the creeping entropy of the universe. and therefore comforts me and gives me the strength to fight back against the shit that happens daily. Perhaps because I left behind that particular myth, I now need others just as much, if not more. I never needed fandom until I stopped being a Christian. Arguably I had it already.

So for me, if the Doctor ends up with nothing and nobody it’s a bit like someone proving conclusively that the Gospel, or whatever you believe in, is a load of lies, in a way you can’t deny. I need my stories to be more hopeful and more orderly than life, or I won’t read them. I don’t mean I can’t handle sadness. It all depends how it’s done, and if it’s given some kind of point and meaning I can accept it. But I feel that the Doctor has suffered so much, again and again and again, and I can’t watch any more if it doesn’t stop. I love him, I love what he represents and I love the fact that he tries, hopes and never gives up. And I don’t see how he can go on doing that for ever if nothing ever gives him more than a fleeting moment of happiness that’s cruelly snatched away. I’ve got real life for that, and I don’t need to go looking for it.

People talk about RTD as if he’s the only one who can influence this but there are other people involved, some of whom I’ve invested a great deal of emotion in. DT, for instance, someone I hadn’t even heard of four years ago. I like to think that if you’re a minister’s son, and a basically decent person, you’d rather not be associated with a show that stamps on people’s hope, particularly when families are watching. God, we can all watch East Enders if we want to be depressed. We can watch the NHS fall apart on Casualty or gang warfare and the worst of human nature on Holby Blue. And that’s before we even start on the news. Why is it so cool these days to mock genuine joyful happiness? If I feel David Tennant has willingly chosen to be associated with that for longer than he absolutely had to be, then it will diminish him in my eyes, I’m afraid. So there’s a lot riding on this and I wish there was someone in my life I could talk to about it without feeling a complete selfish idiot. Why is it okay to weep when a ball propelled by a human foot happens not to go between two posts at the right time, but it’s embarrassing and selfish to care about this?

 

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8 thoughts on “Narrative and Hope – some general thoughts

  1. You know, that’s a very apt comparison with sports teams, and your right–anxiety over a narrative show is something that we’re taught to be ashamed of. How on Earth do I explain to most of my coworkers why I’m so distracted this week? Luckily most of them don’t really care. 😛 And I’ve converted one–he’s going to go buy the S1 DVDs this weekend! But that’s a tangent…
    I can’t help but think that this has something to do with the gendering of these two media. God knows plenty of men are fans of television shows–and science fiction in particular–and plenty of women are sports fans, but the assumption is that it’s typically women who engage so deeply on a character and narrative level more than men–and I’d argue that that assumption is largely true, at least outwardly, though I suspect more men are engaged with this stuff than admit to it, because of the assumption that it’s more women’s turf. And we all know that the things that men like are more “normal” and more important than the things that women like.
    Obviously that’s a bit of simplification, but I think it has something to do with why we’re taught to hide our investment in fiction.
    And, FWIW, being upset over having to wait an extra day doesn’t make you a bad mother, or a bad wife, or a bad daughter-in-law, or any of that. It just makes you a person who has to wait extra for something she’s really looking forward to. Naturally you’re disappointed, but it’s not like you love your family any less.

  2. SPOILERS: I am talking about the finale
    I rarely care about family reunions. I didn’t choose my family, I inherited it like debt. My interests however I choose freely and invest my happiness in them.
    Football is a weird thing, and for me at least is a male outlet for emotions. Men in our culture are beaten and teased if they show any emotion other than anger and lust. With football, they are allowed to be passionate. To delay them their football is reinforcing the idea of anger/lust only. I personally don’t like football, but I get bargains on ebay when big matches are on because there is no-one around to bid against me.
    I did postulate in my journal a while ago that the Doctor behaves like someone who is chronically ill. The happy endings normal people get are elusive to people with long term illnesses. It’s a constant disapointment navigating from one crisis to the next. Having said that, I don’t think the Who team are intentionally writing the Doctor with a chronic illness.
    I do worry about the emotional depth that can be achieved when there are so many people in the finale. I laughed at the Ten/Rose reunion. Does that make me a bad person and get me kicked out of shipping communities? Probably not. Do I expect a kiss? No, because these two have such communication issues. Unless Donna grabs them by the neck and throws them together, of course. This should be Donna’s episode above all else; her decisions and sacrifice. What I do expect from this episode is the Doctor to realise he’s not alone because his companions love him unconditionally and through that are prepared to fight the good fight when he can’t.

  3. Re: SPOILERS: I am talking about the finale
    That’s an interesting observation about chronic illness. I suppose the Doctor’s story is further complicated by his need/drive to throw himself into situations that make his problems worse, and then not admit to them.
    But since I suffer from chronic depression myself, and several other health problems, maybe that helps explain why I invest so heavily in this particular story. Normally I don’t even watch TV much.

  4. For some time I’ve felt that the depth of investment that people, especially the ones who exhibit inappropriate entitlement*, have for their screen fandoms or their sports teams or their political agenda is a side effect of the un- and anti- religious trend in Western civilization for the last one to five centuries. I suspect the human psyche requires having faith in something; and if it isn’t the religion or the family you were brought up in, then you turn to the Los Angeles Rams or computer hacking or Doctor Who. I’ve yet to articulate this enough to write on it for even such length as you have here, though.
    * The fact that you are asking yourself these questions demonstrates that I don’t classify you in this category. If you were wondering.

  5. Interesting observation. Huge emotional manipulation + complete powerlessness = bad shit going on.
    I suppose if someone straps a bomb to themselves and shows up at the Upper Boat we know you’re on to something.
    Have a pseudo-religious icon.

  6. Nowt wrong wit’ Messiah :), although I think I’d go for JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor or something by Arvo Pärt myself.
    Separation, reunion, happiness, tragedy. They’re all the stuff of story, the ying and yang.
    Oh, and football bores me…

  7. So for me, if the Doctor ends up with nothing and nobody it’s a bit like someone proving conclusively that the Gospel, or whatever you believe in, is a load of lies, in a way you can’t deny.
    Amen, sister! I’ll tell you something. It is something you may already know about me. I feel that the storytellers direct or perhaps a better word would be predict the direction our society takes as a whole. I believe storytelling is a vital part of who we are as a species. I know people tend to think of the stories we tell as simple entertainment…but the fact is that all we have are our stories in some ways.
    This is what we do to identify ourselves as a group. You mention the Gospel…a collection of stories, really. And for the longest time now…our stories have been hopeless and painful. As a reaction to the cookie-cutter, happy hippie views of say…1950-1979…humans embraced what they thought of as “reality.” We started telling stories where lovers died or cheated or disappointed in so many ways. Love we were told over and over and over again…was pain.
    When, in fact, love is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. Often relationships carry a painful burden of work and sometimes no amount of work can salvage something that is dependent on two people working together…but just as often…50% of the time if you believe statistics…relationships DO work out. That is the other side of that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Even if we add in say 30% of the people still married and miserable…we have 20% of them married and happy.
    So happy ever after is certainly a lot more of a possiblity than we are ever told in our stories. And if you take life day to day…the precentage of happy to unhappy goes up quite a lot. I mean, even some of the most unhappy people on earth…have mostly okay minutes and hours each day.
    And I say all this to say that whatever RTD does…it is about damned time our stories started reflecting reality a bit better…because reality isn’t unhappy or painful or terrifying all the time. Reality is actually rather bouncy and fun most of the time…even in war-torn countries…even for people with terrible illnesses…the human spirit leans toward happy. And so, of course, we deserve to have things work out every so often in a story.
    Especially a story like this one of the Doctor and Rose…I mean…come on…nobody else has EVER suited him so well. You can’t tell me that the Doctor and Rose wouldn’t be happy together, even if they were living in a two room flat with cold water and had to both work in the salt mines to make ends meet. They would still come home and fall into bed and look up through the window at the stars and he’d tell her stories of fantastic places and she would giggle and snuggle close. They would be happy together. RTD has made this abundantly clear. All he has to do now…is seal the deal with some SciFi magic.
    Will he do it? I really think he has the ability to make this all come together in part 3 so the “ranch is saved.”
    Rae

  8. You can’t tell me that the Doctor and Rose wouldn’t be happy together, even if they were living in a two room flat with cold water and had to both work in the salt mines to make ends meet. They would still come home and fall into bed and look up through the window at the stars and he’d tell her stories of fantastic places and she would giggle and snuggle close. They would be happy together.
    Exactly. That’s a story I’d like to hear told, though it never would be on TV. In a way it was a little, in the “Stuck with you, that’s not so bad” scene on TIP. I often wondered why that went in and I could see it coming full circle at the end of JE.
    He’d feel he had so little to offer her. No TARDIS, no excitement, not even much idea of how to make his way or earn a living. And she’d take hold of his hand and say, Stuck with you, that’s not so bad. And that, to me, is the most beautiful ending we could have.

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