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Positive and Pleasurable Stories

I discovered Vincent’s website a few weeks ago. The most recent post at the time was discussing A Princess of Mars, a book I had recently began listening to. I really enjoyed Vincent’s review and these two paragraphs really stood out to me:

A Princess is the kind of story I think readers may be yearning for. It offers the kind of adventure and romance that is sadly lacking in modern fantasy fiction in favour of deeply disturbed characters struggling in worlds where, despite all their efforts, yield little to no positive results. We seem to relish the misery of their lives in an effort to make the difficulties in our own seem less grievous.

It seems considered atavistic to enjoy something because it’s positive and pleasurable. Unless a story is emotionally scarring, requiring PTSD counselling afterward, it’s somehow deemed unworthy of our attention. These stories have their place, but stories like A Princess should be just as well regarded because rather than dwelling on what makes people so awful, Burroughs writes about what can make people better than they are.

I’ve been beating this drum the last few years. We, as a society, have embraced the complex, depressing, and traumatic as our entertainment of choice, and I don’t think it’s doing our mental health nor our society any favors. Sure, it’s something we can all relate to, but where is the escape? Where is the relief valve? We need to laugh, enjoy, be entertained, and amused. It’s part of what has drawn me to reading old pulp stories and heroes, and even revisiting various comics and superheroes, who aren’t struggling in the depths of darkness.

Just a little over a decade ago, the USA Network launched their Blue Skies format, which featured television shows that made folks feel good. Nothing was too serious, there weren’t major consequences to the actions, and the locations were beautiful. It was truly feel-good TV. Try finding a television show currently airing like this today? It’s not easy.

I love a good, complex, dark story as much as the next guy. Heck, Andor was my favorite piece of media last year, but I need adventure in my life. I need to be amazed without being bogged down by politics, religion, diversity, climate change, or whatever. Sometimes, I just want to enjoy a story, about the good guys winning without having to take on the entire world’s problems while doing so.

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