Bake Green Behaviour Into Your Story's DNA
We need big stories to tackle big issues - think Erin Brockovich or HBO’s Chernobyl. But we also should make smaller, individual pro-green choices part of our storytelling DNA. Just like extreme weather occurrences are now mainstreamed into our daily weather reports, so eco awareness and pro-future behaviour should be mainstreamed in our stories’ plots.
Enter Ted Lasso. Or rather, Sam Obisanya.
Big Choices Are Important
Eco topics have a place in existing, popular shows. More than a place - it’s the perfect place for them. I just started watching season 2 of Ted Lasso, and * SPOILER ALERT * episode 2 slips in a major environmental topic. Sam proudly sends his dad back home in Nigeria a photo from a promotion shoot he’s done with the team’s sponsor, Dubai Air. This is Dad’s response:
Sam, shocked, asks to be pulled from the PR campaign, and in the end not only the team but also boss Rebecca join him in a boycott, at the cost of losing a sponsor and badly needed money.
Sure, this is fairy tale stuff - would never happen like that in real life. Unless… we keep telling these stories and change minds?
But Small Ones Is Where The DNA Changes
So that’s all great. But wait … at the end of the episode, Coach Beard picks up Ted from his flat, as usual, and hands him his coffee-to-go, as usual. In a throw-away cup. Here’s the smaller change that still needs to happen: make it a reusable mug.
This past week George Monbiot, in a grim Guardian article, coined the term MCB, micro consumerist bollocks: the idea that making small changes such a bamboo straws and tote bags actually make a difference. On the contrary, he writes, we think we’re saving the planet, feel good about this, and ignore the real issues (I’m over-simplifying).
He’s got a point, reusable mugs won’t help us achieve the 1.5-degree goal. But if people see their favourite characters make those small choices as a matter of fact, as the ‘new normal’, this can contribute to a changing awareness of the bigger things too.
Boy Gets Girl by Going Green?
So how do we do this in our stories? How about, boy gets girl because he dumped his car and cycles everywhere, and she falls for the lean machine.
Erm - WTF?! That is so 20th century and male gaze… Well, come up with something less clichéd and more imaginative. The principle can still work.
We've Done it Before...
As writers - screenwriters in particular - the advent of mobile phones forced us to make a similar change. We could no longer create suspense because our protagonist was kept in the dark - and putting them in situations where there’s no mobile reception works only so often. Now that aspect has become part of our storytelling DNA, at least for contemporary stories.
Let’s do it again, Sam.