Last year I was astonished to see how many blogs I frequent gave synopses and/or critiques of Game of Thrones. Then I noticed how many referred to the story lines of Breaking Bad and Walking Dead, with further comments about how the show’s writers were going with the story line. As if they were movie reviews. Or, god help us, book reviews. Surveys of viewer reactions. Social commentary.
Then I saw how some of my “friends” on Facebook said they were binging on certain series with streaming subscriptions. How my husband, once we got Apple TV and Netflix and HBO and shut down cable TV, watched every episode of Sopranos. I’m not innocent either—I binge-watched Carnivale because I could never it figure out when we sporadically rented episodes on DVD.
I binge-listen to audiobooks. I love the performance values, the writing, the stories. I have listened to every recorded episode of the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters; Gabriel Allon by Daniel Silva; Cork O’Conner by William Kent Krueger; The Camel Club, Will Robie, and King and Maxwell series by David Baldacci; Amelia Peabody by Elizabeth Peters; Lewis Trilogy, Enzo, and Chinese Thrillers by Peter May; Shardlake by C.J. Sansom; Tony Hill by Val McDermid; The Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell; and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve also subscribed to the streaming series of Outlander on STARZ.
So rather than waiting for the weekly episodes of I Love Lucy or Maude, among so many hundreds of others, we can now watch as stories develop in one continuous framework or listen to multiple book releases. Again and again.
Why is story telling important to us? I think it is very simple: story telling connects us to other human beings. We might, in the end, be described as no more than a few minerals floating in a bag of fluids, but that “bag” is a singular intellect, always seeking how to proceed in the world, how to put life in context to make sense of the past and to hope in the future. A story not only entertains us, but gives us information and an emotional connection outside our skin, beyond touch or voice. It’s who we are and who we want to be. We experience through another’s experience, which consolidates learning far more effectively than mere rote memorization of facts. It’s why story tellers have been revered or despised throughout human history from its beginnings. Why we spend so many hours around the “fires” of our screens every day and night, listening.