My husband insisted I watch the first episode of Bates Motel. I stuck with it for the first fifteen minutes, admiring its style (directed by Tucker Gates) and hating its content. I left the room in a huff after Vera Farmiga’s character was brutally raped and then she brutally stabbed the rapist to death. Brutal. And I didn’t want that in my brain.
I want happy thoughts. I want curiosity and wondering and warm memories and love. I want love for my life and for my work. As an audience member, I want to see love and as a director, I want to give love. Not just to my cast and crew personally, but I want to tell stories that feature love, not fear.
For that’s what the two ends of the storytelling spectrum are, love and fear. The fear may be cloaked in anger or hate or revenge, but underneath it all, it’s fear. Fear of losing identity. Fear of losing a loved one. Fear of being beaten in the power game. Fear of being a loser. It’s loss vs. gain. Fear is a losing proposition, love is always a gain. One is detracting, one is adding. One is generally violent, the other is based in emotion. Speaking in huge generalities, one is an action adventure appealing to men, the other is a rom-com appealing to women.
So many stories are fear-based today. (Any show about vampires or zombies; any show about predators, any show about crime.) And many in the audience enjoy them, as the ratings attest. And directors love to commit to a fear-based story, because it’s dynamic and scary and interesting. Director Danny Boyle, who directed the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire as well as the Summer Olympic Opening Ceremonies in London this past summer, talked about the dichotomy between directing with a “good” point of view as opposed to a “bad” point of view in the April 2013 issue of the magazine Wired. “When you’re doing something like the Olympics, which is socially responsible and family oriented, the dark side of your brain doesn’t go to sleep. It’s still there, fevering away, wanting to do something dark and unacceptable.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that conflict is necessary for good storytelling. There is no story without conflict. There is no light without darkness. And I’ve shot my share of mayhem and murder, even rape. I did it because that was the job: I’m hired as the director and I must tell the story as best as I can. In fact, the rape scene I shot was so disturbing that the network affiliate in Salt Lake City cut some of it out – but censorship is a blog for another time. Where I am now in my life, I don’t want to see it and I don’t want to shoot it. This world doesn’t need another Bates Motel. It doesn’t need more fear. It needs more love.