Why tells stories?

Storytelling is one of the many characteristics that is unique to humanity. It allows us to escape from reality, engage with our emotions, connect with members of the community, and it provides entertainment. In some cultures, theatre is used as a ritual aspect of worship, connecting humanity to their faith and deity. Storytelling commemorates history and teaches valuable lessons.

Washburn says, “We’re drawn to different stories depending on the circumstances of our lives. I find it interesting that many of the stories that have changed within our lifetimes are science-fiction pieces that were considered to be cartoonish in their initial phases but have gradually acquired gravity.” She specifically sites Batman, which has developed from a light comic to the dark Nolan trilogy.

Mr. Burns similarly explores the gradual and major changes a single story can undergo with time and people. Act One demonstrates our limited ability to remember stories. Though the survivors remember a great deal, there are many details that are overlooked. For instance, Sideshow Bob writes with blood, not ketchup. Matt misremembers the tattoos on Sideshow Bob’s knuckles. In Act Two, Terror Lake changes to Terror River and the names of the other episodes alter slightly. The troupe adds commercials and music. By Act Three, the characters no longer resemble The Simpsons and the story has changed significantly. Now the story involves the nuclear apocalypse as well as the final part of “Cape Feare.” Sideshow Bob has been replaced with Mr. Burns and Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie are killed. The music from Act Two has become operatic and ingrained into the storytelling. The final act also utilizes ritual aspects, noting the change in the value of storytelling- from entertainment and escape to ritual and community engagement.


A Brief History of Storytelling

  • Oral Tradition- myths and epics are passed down from generation to generation.

  • 28,000 BCE- Rock and Cave Paintings document history and cultural values.

  • 3,000 BCE- Hieroglyphics become one of the earliest written languages documenting religious and survival information.

  • 770-750 BCE- Homer writes The Iliad, the oldest story written in Greek.

  • 1440- The invention of the printing press brings written stories to the masses.

  • 1826- The invention of photography leads to naturalism and realism in literature and theatre.

  • Technology leads to film, radio, and television.

  • Modern storytelling includes fanfiction, where stories are adapted by fans, and social media, where short stories are shared constantly.

A word cloud demonstrating the most commonly used words in the script. The large the word, the more it is used. 

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