Political Parallels: The End of Act Two

The majority of narrative films follow a three act structure. This is best represented in the hero's journey narrative, including such contemporary classics as Star Wars, Harry Potter, or The Lord of the Rings (in the world of preconceived franchise films such as these, the same structure also works across multiple films). The opening act establishes the characters and the setting. The hero is in a comfortable and familiar space. At the end of this act, the character is thrust out into a bigger world.
Throughout Act II, the hero faces varying degrees of obstacles, such as trolls, murderous henchmen, etc. This all leads to the end of Act II, which is typically depicted through a different setting (the Death Star, Mordor, etc.) or introduction of something completely unknown. Furthermore, this is the point when our hero is left all alone (usually because of the death of a mentor) and the odds of overcoming the main villain seem impossible.

As a writer, it is difficult not to think of this structure on a daily basis. I am always mentally searching for new stories, so framing the news and everyday interactions from this perspective comes naturally. I find myself thinking about the surrounding story, often overly concerning myself with people's motivations and reasonings. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it makes you look like kind of a douche. Lately, however, it isn't irrational to seek some kind of reasoning, some kind of structural explanation, to the this week's swearing in of the 45th President of the United States and how we got to this point. A point which could easily be seen as America's "All Is Lost" moment and the end of our second act.

With the assist of henchman from Russia and the FBI, the antagonist of our movie knocked out our mentor on November 8, 2016 leaving us frightened and alone. A comic book villain has reached his strongest position of power yet and it seems almost impossible to defeat him. The historical significance of this election can not be overstated. The new leader of the free world is someone who lacks basic understanding of government and, through his words and influence, has normalized hate speech.

There are obviously concurrent narratives that occur over time, particularly in politics, that follow the same dramatic structure. One such narrative will assuredly be articulated by Danny Strong in an HBO movie at some point. I would be remiss if I didn't bring attention to one such extensive narrative today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

If the election of a hateful bigot is the end of Act II, then maybe our outline for this film is as follows:
  • Start of Act I: British colonies formed in the Americas
  • Inciting Incident: The Revolutionary War and the formation of a country built on the backs of slaves
  • End of Act I: The American Civil War and the end of slavery
  • Act II midpoint: The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s
  • End of Act II: the election of the first African American president, followed by the election of a man who attempted to delegitimize said presidency
Now that's a story. A story that has been spoken about before. A similarly compelling story can also be told from the female perspective, cumulating to what could have been the first woman president losing to a misogynist. Same guy.

Ultimately, this story is not just about race or women or jobs or even the man himself. It's about what the country stands for, or at least what it claims to stand for, since its inception.

Despite the compulsion to give up when all seems lost, it is important to remember that the film isn't over. Aristotle taught us that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to every story. I myself find comfort in the familiarity of this structure, which repeats itself through every facet of our existence, whether we notice it or not.

It would be a disservice to our outgoing President to forget the message of hope that got him elected eight years ago. I find hope in the structure of stories and the universe, but hope and awareness can not translate to passiveness. It must translate to action. When all seems lost, you must fight even harder to stop the villain. It is not my job to tell you what to do. Or how to feel. Or how to act. Or not. But there is a story going on and it is our job to tell it.

Our Act III struggle will last for quite a while but lets make sure it doesn't last more than four years. And that it gets better after two. In the end (spoiler alert), Luke still blows up the death star, Harry still defeats Voldemort, and Frodo still destroys the ring. And progressives always win in the long run. 

Unlike the writing on a page, the tide of history flows left.


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