Monday, February 8, 2016

Star Wars Storytelling = The Struggle for Balance

Recently I stumbled upon this ScreenRant video that gave a fascinating take on the Star Wars saga. If you want to watch all or part before reading on, take a look. (By the way, the narrator delivers his theory in a normal voice with no gimmicks, sound effects, silliness or outrageous rants, and backs it up with clips and thoughtful commentary on various scenes, which I greatly appreciated!)

Though I'd never looked at the Star Wars saga in quite this way (and will probably never see it quite the same again), I think this theory carries a lot of weight.

And this had me do a lot of thinking about storytelling in general.

In a real universe, things aren't all black or all white--it's all about the struggle for balance. Moderation. Harmony. About the pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other, trying to find the perfect middle ground.

Having peace doesn't mean there's no conflict, only that the conflict is less dramatic and savage than that of war. The struggle is more subdued. The pendulum wants to come to rest at the very center, where the forces are balanced, but it will never happen. Because different people or groups want different things. The pendulum wants to center itself, but a major force will always be exerted that sets it in motion again, swinging from one extreme to the other. That motion creates upheaval and struggle in the universe.

And that's where the story lies.

If the pendulum isn't centered, an individual, based on his philosophies and experiences, is going to view the circumstances as either being bad or good. But that's only one perspective. Those with different beliefs may believe the opposite.

Great epics must be told from one perspective, but that individual--like Anakin, Luke and Kylo Ren--must always struggle with the pull of the opposite force that is attempting to re-attain balance.

In the Hero's Journey model, the hero must always face life-changing choices--and usually must be forced to do the very thing that he has sworn he will never do, or go to the place he has sworn he will never go--because that's what shapes his character and makes him evolve into something greater than he was. That's what the pendulum demands of him.

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger...indeed.

That's why when some sagas flip perspective and show us the so-called villain's POV, it can be so fascinating. It presents a way of looking at the situation we hadn't considered before. It shows us new things, new ideas, and new ways of thinking.

When the "villain's" version is contrasted to the "hero's" version, we begin to understand the total dynamics. Were the Jedi truly forces of good? That's open to debate. They began influencing and molding minds of very young children when they indoctrinated young Padawans into their way of thinking. Some might call that brainwashing. They didn't believe in love or marriage, warning it would lead to the Dark Side. So in that frame, there seemed to be no true good or evil, only the striving for balance. Anakin, Luke and Kylo all struggle with the opposite extreme of the Force from the one that they've chosen.

Every story requires reversals of the pendulum, struggles with the forces at play.

This has given me a new dynamic to consider when crafting a story. I now see how storytelling can be viewed more as a side-to-side motion as forces in the particular universe attempt to restore balance than it is climbing a mountain, which is more how I had envisioned the plot process in the past.

In closing, I'd like to offer another video to take us back to the Star Wars saga. This one presents a fan theory about Rey's true history in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it seems to further compliment the Struggle for Balance theory. See what you think.

Have a great week!

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