rogues frame
If stories are all we are, and if we see everything through frames, then we should be able to figure out how others think and feel, and understand why we don’t understand them, by first trying to appreciate their favourite stories. Some of us liked The Rogues, and others liked Walker Texas Ranger. These series used diametrically opposite frames and approaches. The Rogues lasted less than two seasons, while Walker lasted eight. What does that tell us?

This will probably be a work in process. As I’ve previously admitted I don’t understand the conservative mindset, so it’s hard for me to resist parodying the conservative stories. So I’ve tried to be equally over-the-top in both directions. Here goes:

Liberal-Frame Script Conservative-Frame Script
Action Story:  A country has been turned into a police state by a bunch of rich overweight white guys. A brave resistance group forms, they have a lot of discussions and plans, and they take back their country by simply refusing to deal with the companies and groups aligned with the corrupt state. Passive resistance and cleverness works, and the frustrated baddies are outwitted and defeated by the sheer intelligence and ingenuity of the resistance. No one is killed, and the baddies are finally convinced by their wives, who have joined the resistance, of the error of their ways, and decide to devote their lives to charity. Action Story: A small-town sherriff has to deal with an influx of swarthy unshaven bikers out on early parole who threaten and harrass the townspeople, give out drugs to the kids until they’re hooked, and finally kidnap, molest and torture the sherriff’s wife and daughter. The sherriff rallies and deputizes the confused and frightened townspeople, and in their SUVs with gunracks mounted on the back they storm the gang hideout, where they disarm the uzi-toting swarthies (unfortunately, the sole black townsman, originally opposed to taking the law into their own hands but finally won over by the ruggedly handsome sherriff, is killed by a barrage of bullets in the process), and rescue the hostages. All of the bad guys die slow, painful gruesome deaths, except the leader, who escapes to plan his revenge for the sequel.
Drama: Two women, abused and mistreated by their husbands, boyfriends and/or bosses, quit their lives, meet each other by an amusing accident, and travel across the country together looking for something. On the way, they encounter people and have experiences that show the ignorance, intolerance and unfairness of the world as it is. They happen to meet two dysfunctional and unassuming but generous and caring guys and they fall in love. A huge number of long, clever and passionate conversations occur. They’re all good for each other and end up living in a quirky village doing something very artistic and/or humanitarian. Drama: A family man’s son falls in with the wrong crowd, seduced by an amoral girl who has already had three abortions. Soon she is pregnant by the boy, and both of them are addicted to heroin. The boy refuses to have anything to do with his family. Thanks to the boy’s former girlfriend, the tenacious daughter of the local minister, the family decides to rescue the boy from his life of sin. After a failed hold-up to feed their drug habit, the amoral girl frames the boy, the minister’s daughter and the boy’s father together confront the amoral girl, save her life when she’s accosted by her dealer, and she repents, takes responsibility for her sins, and decides to have the baby. The cleaned-up son is torn over his responsibility to the unwed mother and his newly-realized love for the minister’s daughter. Dealer kills unwed mother in drive-by shooting as she’s on the way to church for the baptism. Son and minister’s daughter wed and adopt the baby.
Horror: A virus turns all the women and children of a liberal eastern suburb into cult followers of a deranged bible-thumping minister. While the men turn to the local scientific research lab for rational answers, the women all quit their jobs, go off the pill, murder the local abortion doctor, burn down the liberal churches, television and radio stations. They stop reading and discussing, and talk only in passages from the bible. The children start wearing suits and ties or long dresses and address their fathers as ‘sir’. The women chide their husbands for not being dominant and aggressive, and say that if their husbands won’t be man enough to keep them in line, they’ll have to get the minister to do so, proudly showing off the whip marks he has inflicted on them. Horror: Horned devil appears in liberal eastern vacation town during summer vacation. The parents of all the teen-agers both work and are always flying all over the world on business, so they’re never around. The unsupervised kids have wild drug orgies every night in which a lot of expensive things are thoughtlessly broken and set on fire. The devil slays the kids in bloody and excruciating ways right before or right after they have lurid sex.
Comedy: A bumbling, dictatorial boss tries to keep his free-spirited employees in line. His company plans various actions to exploit the workers and ravage the environment, but the quick-witted and creative employees, who engage in constant clever banter, foil all his plans in ways that actually make the lives of workers, the community and the environment better. But they still make lots of money for the shareholders, so the boss has no basis for firing the employees, and has no alternative but to take credit for the generous, fair and egalitarian actions of the company. Comedy: A group of dysfunctional yuppies representing every type of minority group struggle to get by in a decadent liberal urban wasteland. The unmarried professional woman, the gay guys, the mouthy maid, and the lazy rich woman, vie with each other to see which can be stupidest, meanest, and ruin each other’s lives the most. The audience laughs to see these liberal stereotypes portrayed as completely irresponsible, moronic, emotional wrecks. Hey, that sounds familiar. Let me start again. Two incredibly rich girls, one white, one black, with no family values are forced to live and work with a southern farm family…

What do you think? What other genres do we need? What’s the archetypal liberal-frame and conservative-frame children’s story script?

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  1. Dermot Casey says:

    Dave just a little over the top :-) Its a good idea though.I’d like to throw what I see as a defining frame out there for you. (and something I emailed to you back in January related to another great post you made on stories) Frame: Man is born in sin and need to be saved.Alternative view(liberal or buddist): Man is born goodI think these are powerful framing devices… RegardsDermot

  2. Mike Fried says:

    The liberal children’s story might be the one where little Sally has 2 “dads”, is well adjusted and living in a peaceful setting. Theconservative story would involve a Big Bad Wolfthat is killed, or at least banished.Understanding the conservative mindset is a challenge but notice that the more uniform orisolated a group is the more conservative theirviews can be. Notice that most diverse areas are the most liberal.The more uniform a group the more stark alternate views, looks or lifestyles appear tobe. It seems that the large uniform group takeson a tribal or pack-like attitude where anythingdifferent is a threat. While the diverse grouphas long gotten over the insecurity of “different= threat”.

  3. Derek says:

    > Liberal Comedy:> A bumbling, dictatorial boss tries to keep his free-spirited employees in line.Wasn’t this the plot of “9 to 5” ?

  4. kuros says:

    something with gay people coming out or growing old and/or with aids

  5. dilys says:

    This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics — — amplifies how the two frames view each other negatively. And as for genres, the inspiring mythic motivator frame would have a lot of practical importance.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Dermot/Mike/Dewrek: Good points.Dilys: Excellent link, thanks. What is missing from ‘This Blog Sits…’ (or perhaps it’s my mindset) is that conservatives have a morality that accepts that ‘the end justifies the means’. In other words, it’s OK (ethically right) to rig or steal the election (ethically wrong) in order to overcome the majority of a deluded and dangerous liberal voting bloc. Liberals are morally paralyzed by ‘fairness’, part of their moral compass, that would preclude them fixing or stealing an election. That puts them at an enormous disadvantage even if they’re the majority — they can’t be ruthless.

  7. Jon Husband says:

    Have a look at the movie Pleasantville for the intersection, clash and denouement of two large frames meeting each other.

  8. Dermot Casey says:

    Dave there is a difference between fairness and rolling over and playing dead. You can be tough and fair. No one would accuse Ghandi or Martin Luther King of being ‘flip-floppers’. You knew what they stood for and what they believed. And they achieved much because of it. Dermot

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