What's it to be, psycho or socio?

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Rich.

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Hi everyone,

Almost a year ago an article appeared in Scientific American that picked apart the final season of Games of ThronesThe Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones. And I've been mulling it over ever since. The article contrasts two modes of storytelling – psychological and sociological – and makes a case for the latter (in a nuanced and complex way, not simply an either/or choice). It also argues that the lack of sociological storytelling in modern culture is one reason we find it so hard to understand and react to social change.

The basic idea (I'm simplifying here – the article explains it better) is that psychological stories focus on the internal (often, exclusively, the hero's journey).

A gang member strives to become the undisputed leader of her manor. She comes from a broken, violent home. Is she cursed to repeat the mistakes of the past?

Whereas sociological stories focus on how characters react to the social structures around them, and then rationalise their own actions to fit. These stories are as much about institutions themselves as they are about characters (so, for example, you're free to kill your protagonists, à la Games of Thrones, because the story is about more than their personal journeys).

A gang member strives to become the undisputed leader of her manor. What else is a bright young thing to do given the available options?

If you have time, do read the article. It gives rather better explanations than my ham-fisted version above.

So anyway, what do you think? Have you come across this distinction before? Do you like it? Could we do with more stories told in this mode? Any other thoughts?

:)
 
Songs tell stories. This song is about both. We know what they were fighting. And that matters a huge deal. But what is it about this song that makes it so very poignant...forgetting for a moment the story of Marvin himself.

Marvin's version knocks spots off the one that comes after.

For me it's the line 'can you tell me where he's gone?'

For me that's the killer, because that's the thing that happens to us all. That sooner or later, one way or another we're dealing with that question.

 
A fascinating, fascinating article. After reading it, I'd say sociological is more true-to-life, reacting to the world characters inhabit. Like real life fascinates people, so should sociological stories. We clearly need more like this... maybe they could help us to cope better with what's happening? I'll have to ponder that article too, some great stuff in it.

Thanks for sharing :)
 
Yes, fascinating, though leaned rather heavily on the earlier GOT series or The Wire killing main characters off. Sociological storytelling doesn't need to kill the MCs and the good guys might still win over the bad guys. I think the main point is that each character gives the reader a reason for empathy as we see how and why the environment/experience impacts on the way they behave.
I watched a great documentary once about what makes a psychopath. The presenter was a geneticist with a group who isolated a psychopathy gene (could be a type of combination, I can't remember). The presenter had the gene. Was he a psychopath? No (he hoped) because psychopaths aren't born, they're made. The gene gave birth to potential. The man could have become a psychopath but had grown up and still lived within a supportive and caring environment. Some with the gene grow up in a supportive environment with situations/opportunities they encounter allowing success but somewhere along the line their gene is triggered (e.g "gangs" in school, overly high pressure for academic achievement leading to an internal obsession with success). They become powerful and ruthlessly so (though the ruthlessness may not be as apparent as killing people off). I know a man like that (to my knowledge, he has never killed. I'm sure he never will). He can be very nice, but is ruthless if people get in the way of his path/his vision. He knows if he's hurting someone but doesn't care. He won't say he doesn't care; his brain is able to justify his behaviour.
The program looked at the background of serial killers who are also psychopaths (not all are) and each person in the program had suffered a traumatic environment. Many also had early age brain damage (e.g. from baby shaking or being thrown against a wall) or had seen extreme violence within their environment.
So, kill baby Hitler? He may have had the genetic potential but Hitler was a man made by a combination of internal and external dynamics.
 
I'm with the argument that indicates the sociological is made by the everyday interaction with what surrounds them.
Discourse creates and shapes perception, as one philosopher states.
We become who we think will make us part of the whole. And that is also psychological. We need to be part of something that gives us our identity, our drive, our people.

GoT, at its baseline, is a game of power within families and 'the things I do for love' of family. Which means it's not only the external sociological drive, but also the internal psychological drive. I don't think we can separate out one from the other, because, as a community, we need and do both -- to survive. The lone wolf dies (or makes her own pack [fits in]), the pack survives.

The last season of GoT was a disappointment to me because it rushed the last part of her journey and didn't give me (the viewer/audience) enough (and definitely not as much as the buildup to loving her) of that journey. She reached a peak through long, hard seasons and then, suddenly, she falls like an arrow? No. I want to see the stumbles, the cracks, and more than just a word, a tear, a single loss of a friend. It wasn't the change from external to internal, it was the lack of the final journey.
 
George never made me give a crap for the people of Westeros. They all pretty much sucked to a person. And the only characters he managed to convince me were worth believing in, were just cheap props he used to manipulate my emotions to serve his overall purpose to attempt to convince me that life is pointless and magic is ugly. Or I guess I just missed the genius of it.

But otherwise, yes that article definitely made me think about the stories I love in a new way and its influenced the politics in my WIP as well.
 
George never made me give a crap for the people of Westeros. They all pretty much sucked to a person. And the only characters he managed to convince me were worth believing in, were just cheap props he used to manipulate my emotions to serve his overall purpose to attempt to convince me that life is pointless and magic is ugly. Or I guess I just missed the genius of it.

But otherwise, yes that article definitely made me think about the stories I love in a new way and its influenced the politics in my WIP as well.

Not a GoT fan, lol?
 
I've just finished watching a BBC adaption of Normal People by Sally Rooney which is supposedly faithful to the book. Sure the two MC's were normal but it shows how diverse normal is. At first, it is all sociological but as it develops so it explores the psychological traits of both characters.
My feeling is both styles can play a part in the one story. The bigger picture is sociological but individuals act out their psychological preferences. I think GOT did that in the earlier episodes. It showed families acting through sociological pressures but the individuals were all pretty much crackers in their own way and acted accordingly. Only at the end did it go all psycho.

You can see all 12 episodes of Normal People on BBC iPlayer. Worth a watch.
 
We need to be part of something that gives us our identity, our drive, our people.
I agree with that. It's the need for a tribe. The need to be loved and accepted. Both 'safety in numbers' and 'procreation' are at its basis. Human instinct of survival of the species, and all that.
 
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