It’s common knowledge that the recipe for a gripping storyline is interesting characters mixed with an explosive conflict and long-awaited resolution. The whole concept of storytelling is based around the idea that there needs to be some sort of drama in the form of a spell of bad luck, a loss or unlucky turn of events, in order to make something worth reading. This is compelling evidence that the human race has an attention span that is ignited by drama and conflict. The slight difference in real life, however, is that we're not so keen on anything but a fairytale.
I volunteered for a political campaign last year. When approaching people in the street it quickly became apparent that many people had no idea about current events, and weren’t interested hearing what I was saying. The reason, aside from apathy, was that they didn't like what was going on so decided to turn away from it. This was the moment I realsied that a lot of us have a tendency to block out bad things that we're not obliged to pay attention to. To further illustrate this point, Miranda Hart recently tweeted:
'Can I ask you a research question? Oh, thanks. Do you ever feel guilty for not being more political, not protesting, or not understanding?'
Miranda graduated university with a degree in politics.
I stopped following day-to-day political affairs after realising the extent to which it is All. So. Negative. For some reason, however, there are many things I just can't turn away from. I seem to get completely consumed by upsetting documentaries.
There are many documentaries that still haunt me months after watching them. Terry Pratchett's documentary on assisted dying last year was devastatingly sad, and more recently, BBC's 'Protecting Our Children'. 'Secret Millionaire' has also had buckets of my tears.
For the last 6/7 months I've pretty much completely given up drinking, and it's only now that I can see how little maturity many people seem to have when it comes to alcohol . I recently read someone's status on Facebook that reported on her plans to get drunk that night, which obviously made her look impossibly cool and clever through my envious eyes. She said something along the lines of preparing for heart and liver failure. Aside from the complete idiocy of this – it demonstrates a wider problem, in that young adults in this country really aren’t that health-aware when it comes to alcohol. Yet, I’ve curiously watched many documentaries on the effects of alcohol, several that have fuelled my decision to stop drinking. Are we just not tuning in?
I know of someone who avoids watching anything slightly sad like the plague (which, incidentally, they won't know anything about). I think there's probably some healthy balance between the two of us – neither constantly haunted nor ignorant.
It often takes something dramatic to give us an injection of perspective, because it's easy to take life for granted when you've lived it relatively problem-free for as long as you have. I've recently read ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, which, although it has no bearing to my life, has had resounding effects on me. It's a haunting feeling, but I interpret this to be a positive thing. For some of us, it's in the nature of our jobs or lifestyles to be around tragedy, misfortune and sadness. But for those living closer to the fairytale – you've got to wonder why there's so many of these documentaries being made - people have a story to tell and it's up to us to listen.