Contains not very recent spoilers for Sherlock, Supernatural, Harry Potter, and uh, It’s a Wonderful Life. And the Bible.
The U.S. author Willa Cather once wrote, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” I think there are more than two or three, but it’s a limited number, definitely.
Some plots and themes get me every time. Combine more than one of them in a story, and you’ve got a serious fan. Here are a few of them.
The Secret Superhero Identity.
As seen in most superhero movies, Thor and Iron Man excepted. It’s pretty easy to understand the appeal. I don’t get to do anything awesome and heroic, and it’s fun to imagine an alternate life in which I do.
Here’s a slightly different story about identity. I love spy stories like Alias and MI5 (Spooks) partly because they often involve people pretending to be someone they’re not. In Titanic, Jack Dawson manages to blend at a dinner with rich people. Maybe the reason I and other people enjoy the imposter story is because we’re often struggling to fit in or be viewed in a certain way, and so it’s encouraging to see someone pull off a deception with panache.
From Sidekick to Ass Kicker.
The Day No Fucks Were Given.
I don’t love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, but I dig the part where George Bailey comes back to his real life and he’s all “Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!” and “Isn’t it great, I’m going to jail!” Sometimes a character just chronically does not give a fuck. In the trailer for Seven Psychopaths, we see this exchange:
Man with gun: Put your hands up.
Christopher Walken’s character: No.
Man: But I’ve got a gun.
Walken: I don’t care.
Man: That doesn’t make any sense.
Walken: [Laughs.] Too bad.
I don’t know if that movie will be any good, but it makes me happy to imagine being impervious to even the scariest threats.
The Huge Act of Self-Sacrifice.
Sydney Carton going to the guillotine in Charles Darnay’s place. Buffy diving to her death to save the world. Katniss Everdeen shouting, “I volunteer!” Harry Potter. Jesus. The big sacrifice, an ultimate expression of love, may actually be my favorite story ever. It makes me think of how much I love the people around me, and hope that I would be that brave if I had to be, and then I get all emotional.
Yay, He’s Not Dead After All!
Also part of the Jesus story. This is the greatest! The guys on Supernatural do it all the time! What I love, specifically, is the “OMG you’re alive!” scene with someone who loves the resurrected person. I’m so looking forward to this in the next season of Sherlock.
I can’t get enough of any story about love between men. It can be a romance, like Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones in Torchwood, or arguably David and Jonathan in the Bible. It can be love between brothers, like the enmeshed Sam and Dean Winchester, or the estranged Brendan and Tommy Conlon in The Warrior. They can be loyal friends, like Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee, or father and son, like Walter and Peter Bishop of Fringe. I love it all.
Finally, I love anything about psychic powers. Reading minds, talking to ghosts? Yes, please.
What stories get you every time? Or alternately, what are some stories you could really do without? (I’ll throw one out: alien pregnancy. Blergh.)