I think listening to Welcome to Night Vale’s “A Story About You” fundamentally changed the way I viewed the consumption and production of art–or perhaps it helped me to articulate something that I was beginning to learn but was yet incapable of fully expressing. I definitely attribute listening to this episode as my primary influence in writing so much of my short fiction in the second person but that is neither here nor there.
I love this episode because it is one of the most beautiful pieces of meta fiction that I’ve ever seen. Almost every single long running series I feel has its meta episode, but I think Night Vale’s is the one I like the best.
Hearing Cecil state that “this is a story about you” is inherently an act of validation. Many times I feel that people who are marginalized by oppressive mainstream narratives are told that the only appropriate response is simply “Write your own.” Such a statement is fundamentally wrong because it ignores how important it is to see yourself in a story, to see that you too can be part of overarching narratives that traditionally only belong to a few, and which serve to perpetuate and sustain oppressive systems of power. Such a statement presumes that it is possible to cloister one’s self behind a wall and become untouched by listening to the damaging stories surrounding you.
All this is false, of course. Even if it were possible to become completely untouched by the narratives that surround our very existence–why should someone isolate themselves simply so that other people can continue telling their damaging, harmful, and oppressive narratives? It would be better if people told stories that did not harm people at all.
Such a statement is also dismissive of the the fact that even when people do tell their stories, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be accepted or welcomed by editors, by publishers, or other establishments of authority. Such a statement does not address how establishments use their authority to keep people out. Such a statement does not take action against these establishments of authority. Such a statement does not provide platforms and space and tools for people to utilize to tell their own stories so that their words can reach people who do need to hear about themselves on the radio.
This is a story about you, said the man on the radio, and you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio. […] But there was a time, one day, one single day, in which it was only one story, a story about you. And you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio. [x]
Everybody should be pleased to hear about themselves on the radio or on the television or in that book or in that song–not hurt.