It’s common to hear people talk about the details that authors put into stories. Even things we haven’t experienced can ring true when the nuances are correct. And we love it. But why?
As someone who is on the ASD spectrum, with a child on the ASD spectrum, and possibly a spouse on the ASD spectrum (the jury’s still out on him), I have an uncommon perspective for this. In a world that is more complex every day, with various social groups, each with different rules of behavior, we learn from stories.
The Things We Learn
More obvious examples include dating. We learn what is expected, what is ridiculed, what gets results from what kind of people. We learn nuances of relationships from movies, TV shows and, of course, books. What we learn is far more detailed than simply observing our parents could give.
Another example is workplace behavior. We learn how to behave at a job. We learn how to interview for industries our parents and school counselors may not be updated on. There are ideals and conflict presented in ways that can warn us of how exciting or depressing the work force can be.
This Perspective of Mine
The perspective I have on this, is that I take this socialized knowledge in consciously. Since I tend to miss things if I leave it to the neurotypical subconscious sphere, I often analyze what social situations in media can teach me. I literally figure it out on a conscious level.
This means I sometimes miss things, but I also sometimes see where the lessons are bad ones. Toxic masculinity, socialized misogyny, etc, all creep into the media. Maybe this awareness was why I never liked Friends…
When we take our consumption of media, and the lessons it teaches us by example, to a conscious level, we can also make that consumption conscientious. That is, we can choose to consume lessons that are beneficial to us.
This can be in a variety of ways. It is no less valid to observe negative lessons (what not to do and why) in a dystopian society as to obsorb positive lessons (such as how to communicate healthily). We can use lessons as a catharsis or as a catalyst. And we can use lessons, particularly those speculating on future/dystopian social, political, economic or technological affects, just as a fun bit of trivia.
Stories Expand Our World
Even when we maybe cannot travel the world, and usually cannot travel the universe, stories give us at least a taste of those experiences. That’s why we love them. That’s why stories can teach us.