When we’re young we’re taught to see the world through stories, we’re given narratives, archetypes, and tropes to live by. Little boys want to be astronauts, and little girls dream of being princesses.
We teach young men that to be masculine is to be strong and silent, and girls are told to be prim and proper. We’re sold these myths through fairy tales, and Disney songs. Life is shown to be simple, there are genres that make it easily definable, and there’s an arc, a progression towards some clearly defined goal.
We buy into these narratives as children, but when we grow up we find that the truths they harboured were illusions, shadows of reality, and we feel as though we’ve lost something.
Mass Media Sells Nostalgia
Then, in a clever marketing decision, adults are sold nostalgia. We’re given reboots of films from our childhoods, we purchase ‘best ofs’ from our favourite (now defunct) rock bands and pop stars, and we buy into the same stories all over again. But we can no longer see ourselves fitting into the archetypes, or the character tropes we dreamed of as children. So we pitch those stories to a new generation and the cycle repeats itself.
Storytelling is innate to humanity, but we rarely tell the stories ourselves. Writing, mythologising, well, that’s best left to the professionals, and narrative film and TV gets even bigger budgets, and it becomes ever more enticing – reality seems so bland when you compare it to the action/adventure/romance myths we dream of.
We’re taught to look outside of ourselves, and we come to define ‘coolness’ and ‘levels of attractiveness’ based on external signifiers. Movie star good looks, and beach ready abs – that’s not the reality for most people, so why do we attempt to embody those images so obsessively?
We seek out archetypes that define us best, but they’re not one size fits all, and so we borrow from parts of others, we steal from the stories that we want our lives to resemble. And it doesn’t work so we become unhappy and disenfranchised, with battered self esteem.
Join the Clique
But the people we perceive as ‘cool’, the accepted symbols of sub culture and revolution, are people like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Che Guevara. They’re not people who led easy lives; they’re people who struggled, who stood out for their individuality. Instead of trying to emulate them, we should learn from their lives, and add our own unique voices to the mix.
‘Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.’
- Kurt Cobain