Cliches as Screenplays

(Above is the top row image one gets on GoogleImage when searching with the phrase “throwing someone under the bus.” 3/15/17)

Perhaps new storytellers who use true symbols and symbolism in telling stories will become the new “magicians” of the world. They will not be “false” magicians controlling others by illusions but real magicians performing real magic. They will be like modern alchemists, transmuting the materials of life into stories. And from these new types of stories, allowing the magician inside everyone to awaken through these stories. Storytellers need to become more engineers of new story structure than practitioners of the increasing segmentation of screenplay theory these days.

Much of Hollywood stories are retreads of story ideas that worked in the past. Films are made around “tent pole” franchises and we get second, third and more incarnations of story ideas that have died yet are continually brought back to life. In a similar way, contemporary culture is good at creating non-thinking clichés or expressions so overused that they lose their original meaning. But they still say something about the symbols of a culture. These days, we hear the cliché “thrown under the bus” a lot. Another way of expressing a bad trait of a lot of our leaders today, sacrificing others to get ahead in life.

Make note that when we identify it as a top cliché of our times, this is somewhat arbitrary but easily found out from a few minutes on the Internet. There should be a weekly list of the top clichés as well as the fastest rising ones so that one might see what would be acceptable in the culture when this cliché rises to the top in culture. Like the pop charts or web ratings.

I’m not up to pursue this right now. Like a lot of things in life that don’t need proving. For me, it is one of the grand defining clichés of modern times and you hear it from all levels of society. But it’s important to point out that this cliché offers itself out as a grand type of symbol out there. A bundled version of something from the past combined with an activity of the present. It always valuable for me to see things with the help of symbolism. To see the dualities between things of the times just as the beginnings and endings of the stories we tell. Or, want to tell but haven’t learned the proper structure to tell this story in?

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The telling of a story using the duality and correspondence of symbolism might suggest the cliché offers an excellent addition of masculine and feminine symbols of the moment. The masculine symbol of the action of throwing outward (opposed to the feminine of receiving inward). The masculine activity clashed with the feminine bus. While it is apparent that the masculine doing the “throwing” activity it is not apparent the feminine symbol participated in this masculine activity. There is the subconscious division that masculine symbol is guilty of crime while the feminine symbol may or may not be guilty as a co-conspirator in this crime. But it is left ambiguous on the feminine side of the symbol, to be filled in by the user of the cliché.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Marshall McLuhan’s dichotomy of “cool” media requiring participation and “hot” media not requiring participation. In Understanding Media, McLuhan observes:
“Francis Bacon never tired of contrasting hot and cool prose. Writing in ‘methods’ or complete packages, he contrasted with writing in aphorisms, or single observations such as ‘Revenge is a kind of wild justice. The passive consumer wants packages, but those, he suggested, who are concerned in pursuing knowledge and in seeking causes will resort to aphorisms, just because they are incomplete and require participation in depth.”
There is a great power in this cliché because it has a moral as well as a literary (and entertainment) value. But more importantly, it is “cool” and invites user participation in it. The participation “invited” in this quote is the modern form of ancient communion, done usually by oneself if one can’t get to go to all the live events. The participation is in a common cliché of the day is a pseudo community of a cliché of the times. The symbolism is close to the ancient participation mystique of joining together into one. The rise of the cliché “throwing someone under the bus” has risen to the top is that it allows this grand participation not in just a conveniently using that phrase of popular culture called cliché.

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It is a particular time when users of this cliché might partake within a type of invisible yet emotional communion with others also using this cliché through their daily lives. Describing themselves sometimes. Others and friends most of the time.

Taking part in the new “communion” of popular themes of the cultural times. It is a time when people are throwing other people under the bus. And not therefore is it a literary phenomenon or what not. But much more. A new form of morality coming in over a particular cult to throw someone under the bus because this is a commonly accepted cliché.

The cliché “tossing people under the old bus” continues to blossom everywhere in today’s culture. Like San Francisco fog moving in over the Avenues in the summer. Not only a commonly accepted phrase over daily activity but a commonly accepted activity. In the common community of users of this cliché.

It has become a leading, common symbol of our time, giving a common cultural acceptance to “throw people under the bus” if they get in the way of one’s career path. Or, just plain path it seems like these days. There is an application of unseen cultural laws for culture has accepted the use of this cliché. (Maybe forced to accept?) It was the life and career and activity of “thinking first of one own path and willing to ‘throw’ people ‘under the bus’ when one thought of one’s own actions.

The mass of clichés users gathered around a leading cliché of culture finds this union or one might say reunion within the cliché. Overall, perhaps somewhat like the ancient action of Participatory Mystique. Participation in the item of popular culture (as it is for other popular items) brings back this ancient participation mystique. The idea used to be controlled by Madison Avenue with their creation of popular, mass products. Of course the products were desired by many. But why were they desired? To pursue one’s masculine freedom in the world or to pursue one’s feminine equality in the world. Yes the old two duality symbols again of masculine and feminine.

She/he went off the reservation

Another cliché today is the phrase “they went off the reservation.” This use of a powerful symbol in American culture immediately uses a powerful word from American history. The word “reservation.” Of course the word brings up the entire symbolism of the American settlers relationship with the original settlers of America, the Indians. The word reservation symbolizes the attempt to place the original settlers of America into specific places called “reservations.”

The cliché appropriates this word emotionally linked to a particular feeling within Americans today about the word “reservation.” Most likely, a guilt feeling. A feeling of guilt comes with this cliché and becomes a metaphor for a world in current culture. A cliché that the grand symbol makers of culture create and float into the air themselves.

By some form of unseen linguistic activity, the word “reservation” is changed to mean “culture” or “society” today within the cliché. It means everyone who is involved in preserving this common space today. One gives up a certain amount of freedom to get to this space. This symbol. The cliché serves as a secret “code” that pulls people together who consider culture the common “reservation” today for everyone, as it once was exclusively for the original settlers of America. An attempt at transferring a place representing a few to a place representing the common users of the cliché. Really, the popular culture of the time. Interestingly, it offers up an attempt to create a third person narrator, or observer, to the actions of others. Not an actor but rather an observer. A large market out there for observers rather than actors.

The importance of identifying those who leave the “reservation” of culture for one reason or another. Use it every day. Put various people within it. Talk about them. Are they the potential whistleblowers of culture? The ones that leak information that is not supposed to be leaked? One acts as the observer alone in this cliché and not as two people in the “throwing someone under the bus” cliché. The observer in one cliché and the actor and or co-actor in the other.

These clichés seem the nests where the grandest symbols of a culture are born. They arise from the images of collective archetypes in culture. The images come from that subject Jung believed in but many disagree with. The aspect of something he called the “collective consciousness” of culture at a point in time.

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Do clichés have more meaning than a tool for citizens of a culture? Are they also tools used by controllers of culture to keep it pacified and give it little reason to reflect upon its situation or condition? Symbols not used by consumers to give lives a common perspective so that one participates in a vague pattern of the original participation mystique ritual of culture. Here, not gathering around an actual fire but rather the fire of the symbolism of words of a culture at a particular time. control methods and techniques? Do the symbol makers of culture tell culture things to keep pacified? Do they tell them in the form of clichés or word memes that infiltrate a particular time almost like another medium? A medium created from words.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is battling the voices of culture today, those observers in culture, the monitors of the actions of others, in the act of “going off the reservation” or leaving the “reservation” of cultural control. Culture today calls out to all of those who have “gone off the reservation.” The calling out of culture by using this cliché is the voice of modern symbols screaming similar to the Sirens of mythology who beckoned Ulysses to wreck his ship on the rocks in Homer’s Odyssey. Ulysses resists the bewitching song of the Sirens by having his ship’s crew tie him up while they are ordered to block their own ears to prevent themselves from hearing the song.

Modern storytellers attempting to use symbols and symbolism to create new story structure are somewhat like a modern Ulysses. Seeing clichés as methods of control, a modern storyteller has to block out the commands of modern culture to stay on the “reservation.” To define the boundaries of one’s life as a reservation.

The new storytellers not only “leave the reservation” but create new reservations of their own

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The question was (and is) if the two great principles of symbolism – duality and correspondence, difference and similarity – have application to a new form of symbolic drama combining modern screen theory with symbolism.

Is the symbolism of the cross perhaps about telling stories in the present rather than representing a story that happened many years ago? The two great principles of symbolism are represented by the various lines of the cross.

If Aristotle was around today, he might be surprised anyone is asking this question. It was the only question to ask he would say. How can anyone think any differently? He would be surprised that most of the grand story-tellers of the world use very little symbolism in the stories of theirs called films.

An attempt to create a new group of stories by using methods suggested in this book that attempts to bring a true and powerful symbolism back into narratives.

The beginning and ending of story narratives.

Like the two coasts of the nation and most of the nation between the coasts.

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This was what seemed to worry Hollywood (as well as NYC and DC). An outsider to the inner circle was now the ultimate insider. The grand, rusty old boilerplate structure of the nation’s bureaucracy (symbols) could not easily adjust to the faster-and-faster, changing world (of symbols). The view of what the news of America is determined in NYC. The making of the news in DC. The making of stories about all this in LA.

Types of stories created for these times. But the stories quickly come and go like fashions of the times. The story-makers chase these stories and fashions, push them onto the public using old one-way, broadcast methods. There is little desire for any type of audience participation.

But the real thing that seems in need of change seems to be the structure of the stories rather than their type. Structure is the big – unseen – elephant in the room that everyone is aware but that everyone ignores. Of course the establishment controls what structure will be.

How important are stories to their historical time? How important is it that the narratives of the times are created and provided by others and one might accept a common narrative like others in the population? The fact that it is the most popular cliché of the time means that it has been given a cultural Betty Crocker five-star rating. What could be bad about tossing into the participation mystique of this particular grand, cultural symbol and symbolism of the time.

John Fraim

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