by GARY YAMASAKI Have you ever had the experience of sitting in a movie theatre, and becoming so engrossed in the movie that you forgot you are in a theatre? This happens to me often. . .this becoming lost in the story world of a movie. And this dynamic isn’t restricted just to cinematic stories. This can happen no matter what the story, whether it be a novel, or an audio book, or a comic book, or a biblical story.
What is not often understood, however, is that when you become completely immersed in a story world, you yield yourself to the will of the storyteller. And this includes allowing the storyteller to set the rules that are to be in play in this world. So, if the storyteller establishes a rule that stipulates, “Animals can talk,” then that’s simply accepted. When in the real world, you would say, “It’s ridiculous to believe that animals can talk,” but when immersed in the storyteller’s world, you play by the storyteller’s rules, and this sometimes means having to “suspend your disbelief.”
At first glance, this appears to be no big deal; it simply means you spend a couple of hours watching animals talk without thinking twice about it. However, digging a little deeper, it quickly becomes apparent it can be a big deal, for a storyteller’s messing with the rules can bleed over into values. For instance, a storyteller can construct a story world with a set of rules on what is moral and what is immoral that runs counter to the norms of society, and those who allow themselves to become immersed in that story world will abandon their real-life values in favor of the story world’s values. . .at least for the duration of the story.
In this post, I related my own experience of becoming immersed in the story world of a movie involving an assassin hired to take out a president, an experience in which I ended up pulling for the assassin to make the kill. While immersed in that story world, my real-life values were abandoned in favor of a different set of values.
To be clear, this adoption of the values of a story world does not occur every time one experiences a story, and that is because one can simply refuse to suspend one’s disbelief. One can just say ‘no’ to becoming immersed in the story world–and its values–and thus, remain in a position outside the story world from which it is possible to evaluate the values permeating that world. But immersion in the story world results in one’s matrix of values being taken over by the story world’s matrix of values.
A storyteller has various means for building a matrix of values for a story world, and one that has gone largely unrecognized is point-of-view crafting. Who Says You Have to be Objective made the point that filtering the events of a story through the point of view of a particular character leads the audience into developing a sense of empathy for that character, an empathy that results in the audience wishing the character success in whatever they do. . .including endeavors that run counter to the audience’s real-life matrix of values. To put it another way, establishing a character as the point-of-view character of a story contributes toward making whatever values he or she possesses normative for the story.
And, as posited at the end of that post, being aware of this point-of-view dynamic possibly opens up a whole new way of evaluating the actions of biblical characters, with the establishing of a particular character as a point-of-view character being a subtle means of leading the readers to evaluate the character’s actions positively.