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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Morality in Stories

No one likes to be lectured. Sure, we all want to learn something new, but we don’t like seeing a finger pointed at our faces while we hear it. This can apply to one on one conversations, online chatrooms, or, as this article will focus on, storytelling. While most stories don’t end with “…and that’s why you never ever (insert moral here) …”, there is still always something that the creator is trying to tell their audience. Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people say that they don’t mind morals in stories, but they just don’t want to be beaten over the head with it. Is subtlety important? Does the obviousness of a metaphor matter so much?

Well, it depends. Subtlety is certainly an effective tool in any storyteller’s belt, there’s no denying that. Those that catch subtle hints and references can dig deeper into these things on their own. It encourages more audience participation and leaves someone with more to think about. It can teach people certain morals without them even realizing it. They just know how they feel about what’s happening in the story and may end up reframing real-life occurrences around that feeling. 

However, there are great things to be said about straightforward metaphors. Automatically, the person reading the story knows what the artist is talking about, so there is no way to ignore the issues the storyteller wants to confront. If I were to watch “Star Wars”, I could easily ignore its anti-imperialist messages. Someone could see the entirety of that movie and still support the things it is opposing. By making elements in a story more obvious, there is no way to pretend there is no deeper meaning. You are forced into the analysis.

Now, I definitely feel that some stories could benefit from being less obvious with their message. Every once in a while, a work of art makes me feel like I’m having some finger pointed at my face while some self-appointed wise soul tells me why they are objectively right. It doesn’t happen all that often, (and if it gets that kind of reaction out of me then there is probably more wrong with a story than just a painfully obvious message), but it does happen. I hesitate to admit that because it reminds me of the endless critiques of franchises “going woke” and discussing social issues. Some would argue that it would be best to forget about trying to give a story any sort of moral. Would that work?

To be blunt, no. If a story has nothing to say at all, then why should it even exist? What would that even look like? There couldn’t be any sort of opposing force to the main character, because that would require the storyteller to infuse their own morality into the tale. If the main character fights an empire, that is probably because the storyteller is against empires. It is impossible not to put messages into a story, or good ones at least. I don’t know about you, but I’m not wasting any time reading a book about someone who sits around thinking about nothing in particular, not really feeling strongly about anything, and trying their hardest not to get involved with any potential conflict. 

I think Stan Lee said it best. “…A story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul” (1). To be human is to question everything, trying desperately to understand the world around you, and where you want to be in it. All art is a reflection of the artist’s inner journey, and no one is completely removed from morality. 

  1. https://www.houstonpress.com/news/what-stan-lee-had-to-say-about-politics-in-comics-11035025

About the Contributor
Kyle Makkas, Humor Writer