Storytelling is subjective

I was talking to Kairi and Enzo on twitter about Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, and how I was enjoying it so much. I was surprised to learn they weren’t so keen on it.

To me, it’s all about art. Kaori—when she’s not acting like a blonde ogre—speaks to my creative soul. Speaks for it … I find myself cheering as she says many of the things I would say myself. I love seeing the stuffed shirts freak out, I love seeing her flout the rules, and I love seeing her play for herself and the audience, not for the prize. It’s not about the music, it’s about the art, and it calls to my artist’s soul even if my art (writing) is different.

But Kairi and Enzo focus more on Arima’s trauma, and when I went back and read their posts, I immediately saw the truth in their points. Where I saw Arima’s trauma as a little too unbelievable—losing the ability to hear one’s own music seemed like something made up for TV, though I admit it’s certainly possible—they saw others bullying Arima into confronting a deep-seated psychological issue that he wasn’t ready to deal with.

I’m not arguing that they’re right, or that I am. We both are, to the extent it matters. What it reminded me of is how subjective the storytelling experience is. Where I see an uplifting story about young artists, they see something deeply troubling, and both are valid.

We all bring our own worldview to every story we experience, and you better believe that includes the stories that are “true” (politics, world events, business, social lives). That’s how someone can despise what you absolutely love. For truth is, to some degree, negotiable.

Completely unbiased

If you hear someone claim they’re completely unbiased or totally objective, they’re lying. Either to you or to themselves.

No one is unbiased. We’re all biased. It’s called having a worldview, and it’s something every human has. We are predisposed to certain opinions based on natural inclination and personal experience.

Of course, when most people say they’re objective they mean “I’m 98%+ objective”, because only the most deluded of souls would claim to be 100% unbiased, and even egomaniacs will allow for the possibility of them being wrong, though the chance will be low and you’ll never catch them admitting a specific mistake.

But words are powerful. When someone says “I’m unbiased”, it’s the same as saying “I’m the best.” They become complacent. They stop trying. They stop being scared.

Fear is good. It keeps you from being a crappy person. We’re all biased. The key is to be aware of your biases, so you can watch them. They’re lurking monsters which will get you into trouble if left unchecked, so they must be watched.

Those who deny their biases are deluded. Those who admit them and endeavor to overcome them are to be applauded. They might not always be successful, but at least they have some idea of what they must correct for. That’s far better than denying the problem even exists.

I was thinking about this in regards to blogging, but it’s true of news, politics, and arguments with your friends. That’s why I’ve never claimed to be an objective critic. I’m well aware of my biases, including the ones that drove me to write this post, and I’m watching them.

If someone says they’re totally objective, they’re lying. Watch out for them. It’s usually those people who are the most biased of all, just as those who claim to “hate drama” or “hate politics” often turn out to be the most dramatic and political of them all.