Such stories are not just entertainment. In order to live, we need air, water, food, clothes, shelter, friends - and we need stories, because they teach us what is important in life. They give us models of how to live in a complicated, confusing world. Until the last hundred years or so, the most important stories for most people were religious. Today, however, the issue is not whether a story is an ennobling one, a good myth to live by, but the bottom line: will it sell? (from an article in Tricycle Magazine)
It's old news that money is the bottom line in most industries now. But I'm not sure that many people realize - and I believe this to be the case - that stories are still teaching us how to live. Only when you consider that reality tv is shaping your worldview does it become truly important to watch - not just what you eat - but what you watch.
"Ennobling," much like kale, can be intimidating. I also value stories that are lighthearted or humorous, and snacks that are sweet and crisp. And while I'm not sure I'd call Silence of the Lambs ennobling, I do consider it thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting, and even, in some strange way, hopeful - like a bitter brew. So stories that are, say, "nourishing" are good enough for me.
On the other hand, a few days ago a friend turned on Operation Repo. This show is about the bizarre things that people do when their cars get repossessed. My friend thought it was funny. Maybe I'm a sop, but I thought it was mind-numbing and somewhat soul-crushing. I felt like I'd eaten a Big Mac. Which is okay, once in a while, if you enjoy it. Just watch your cholesterol, if you know what I mean.