Last night, I wept openly in front of my wife. I wasn't confessing some terrible sins, or cutting the harshest of onions, or recalling the moment my childhood dog first saved my life. We were watching the Netflix series Queer Eye.
For those of you outside the streaming bubble, Queer Eye is a continuation of the hit network series from the early 2000's. The "Fab 5" hosts brought the gay community into the homes of millions, breaking barriers and ending fashion faux pas. It was a fun show, garnering solid reviews and a loyal following. In many ways, it was the television equivalent of "we're here, we're queer, get over it."
Last year, Netflix (future rulers of Earth Sector 7) launched the reboot with five new hosts and a brand-new attitude. Each episode is a microcosm, touching on serious issues in the LGBTQ community (as well as the rest of the country). The hosts bring their pasts along for the ride, sharing personal stories and tragedies for their own journeys. Along the way, they help kids reconcile with their parents, show struggling millennials that they are deeply loved, and repair generations of ingrained fear and hatred against various minority communities.
Needless to say, each episode is a tear-jerker.
Now, you're probably reading this post (hopefully with notepad in hand, taking down each morsel of knowledge I drop tenderly on the ground) and asking "Adam, what does this have to do with writing?"
Well, honestly, nothing. And everything (sweet The Kingdom reference, Adam).
QE offers an emotional release that we all need right. Whether the current political climate has you rejoicing or dismaying, the temperature is a little hot around the country. I can't speak for anyone, but my blood pressure has been through the roof. Having a show that deconstructs our personal anxieties, and addresses so many issues we hadn't considered, is a salve on an open wound.
Dr. Janina Scarlet (a personal hero of mine) was recently interviewed about the effect this show can have on us psychologically.
There's been a movement, recently, to deconstruct the longstanding theories on "being a man," and what truly embodies masculinity. Actor Terry Crews has demonstrated--through his tireless activism and charity--that being a muscle-bound action star and a sensitive artist aren't mutually exclusive. Shows like QE allow us to see versions of masculinity that separate these archaic traditions from the modern counterparts.
We don't go on "the great hunt" to mature from boys to men. We don't bury our hands in ant mounds to prove our inner strength. The lack of a defined journey, plus centuries of indoctrination into some fairly toxic ideology, has produced a modern man lost in a sea of emotions we're "not supposed to have." QE shows us that strength comes in many forms, and that defining your manhood in the language of our ancestors is to live a fragile lie. We are better than that, and we can prove it.
Again, I realize that I haven't really answered your question from earlier. What does this have to do with writing?
Well, writing is empathy. If you want to inhabit your characters, to breath life into them, and to give them journeys worth the page-count, you need empathy. Empathy can hurt, especially nowadays. Have an outlet for the anxiety, even one as simple as a makeover show, can be immensely therapeutic.
Once you've dealt with the pain inside, put it onto the page. Use the tools you've been taught to tell the story you've always wanted to tell. Writing angry may produce some biting political satire or an uncomfortable comedy roast, but it rarely produces a good narrative. When you're angry, the bad guys become 1-dimensional and the good guys become masturbatory fantasy. When you write angry, nobody enjoys the end result unless they share your anger.
When you write from a place of empathy, from vulnerability, you invite the reader to share in that as well. Angry readers might be calmed, frightened readers might be soothed.
Don't hold in your emotions. That's what we did for the last few thousand years and it hasn't worked out too well. It's like trying to rock a Walkman in 2018: It's archaic, and you look stupid. Get with the times, share your concerns, be open to others, and always be write.
Also, watch Queer Eye.