Why do we watch movies? Every year, the film industry generates hundreds of billions of pounds, churning out hit after hit. It’s big business. But why do we still flock to the cinema when we have access to so many alternatives?
I think it’s to do with the power stories hold over our lives. Evolutionary biologists, sociologists, behavioural economists and historians have speculated as to why that’s the case. The importance of gossip for group safety and the dissemination of information in early hunter gatherer groups is one. But I think it’s deeper. Humans can band together under narratives, recognise ourselves as parts of greater stories – and find meaning in the chaos.
At the start of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, one of my favourite post-apocalyptic films, we see our protagonist return from the first movie: Max Rockatansky. A far cry from the squeaky clean cop of the first movie, he’s described as a “burned out shell of a man” – a wanderer with nothing behind his eyes. He’s lost his family, his job, his world. It’s only stumbling across a group of settlers, under vicious attack from a band of marauding raiders, that he finds a semblance of meaning. He could run, but he doesn’t. That’s a choice. And, just for a little while, his life has some meaning again.
Unlike Max, we don’t live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (yet, at any rate). But we all have our own fair share of problems nonetheless. Apathy, listlessness, cynicism – there’s good reason for feeling all of these things. But you can choose a different path. You can give yourself a reason to exist.
Joe Rogan says that we should all “strive to be the hero of our own movie”. I think that’s a stunning piece of insight. Consider this: next time you face a problem, you feel stressed or worried, simply ask yourself what the heroic, movie protagonist version of yourself would do next. It’s an excellent way of rephrasing an idea that’s been around since the dawn of time – the move from being reactive, to proactive. Having stuff happen to you, or making stuff happen. Deciding what you want your life to be about versus shuffling around vaguely from job to job, one bad situation to another.
Go for that promotion, even if you don’t think you’ll get it (and watch it pay off – one of my greatest friends has just pulled this particular coup out the bag). Get after that workout, despite not feeling like it. Write that blog post and share it, without worrying about your friends laughing at you. You know what it is for you, that thing you’re scared of doing. Do it.
You have to give yourself a purpose.
This is post number 2/100 of a self imposed challenge to write (and share) a new blog post on The Ink every day. Here’s number 1 if you’d like to catch up.
I’ve just set up a Facebook page for discussion, polls and the chance to chat with other like-minded people here (feel free to share it with anyone you know who love reading, movies, philosophy, writing, the creative process and becoming a better person).