"It's just a story" - Your Thoughts?


#1

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but one of the things that really frustrates me about the Episode community frequently is this common phrase “It’s just a story”. It’s often used whenever you try to discuss the guidelines, negative portrayals of controversial issues, diversity, or any topic which covers the broader implications of an app aimed at young people. I’m tired of that phrase being used as a way to shut down any argument you have against bad boy stories which promote bad relationships or portraying minority characters in a bad light.

What does “it’s just a story” even mean? I mean, I understand it on face-value, but when you think about it for more than a few seconds, it becomes sillier and sillier in my opinion. For one, stories have been used and censored throughout history because humans have always acknowledged that the way that issues and ideologies are presented to us in art affects the way we think. If you are constantly being told that bad boys are the best choice for a boyfriend, for example, it is a lot harder for you to realise that they’re toxic for you. Stories are not just stories. They reflect the way the writer thinks and have the ability to shape the way the reader does, too.

What are your thoughts?

Check out my blog post here for more details on my opinion!


#2

I get annoyed when people say that too. I bet if these authors experienced the things they write they wouldn’t call it just a story. But because they more than likely have never experienced serious things they write about they don’t see a problem in writing it.

Authors have a responsibility when it comes to writing to not make bad things seem okay.


#3

Exactly! There’s nothing wrong with portraying hard topics. There is something wrong, however, in glorifying toxicity and then pretending your story has no influence whatsoever!


#4

In Japan, at the beginning of World War 2, they made a lot of comics for young boys involving the characters taking up guns and sacrificing themselves for their country in order to instill these values into children. Then when WW2 started, any comics that spoke out against the government’s principles were banned.
It was used as propaganda, and as you say, many people in power throughout history have also banned literature for fear of it influencing the general population.

Just one quick look at history should be enough to tell people the phrase “It’s just a story” is not true, and really quite stupid.


#5

I agree. The phrase itself is very dismissive of the larger issue at hand. Considering that many readers are young girls, what is portrayed as love can certainly leave an impression and holds implications on their self worth.

I think that there is also a definite line between being a “bad boy” and being straight up abusive and overbearing, which unfortunately gets confused sometimes.


#6

It think that words are definitely powerful. And I agree that teenagers are very susceptible to outside influences such as literature.
But, I think what people mean when they say “it’s just a story” is that basically they want to write/read whatever they want. And I can’t argue with that tbh. We all have freedom to do that here (while following the guidelines). And just because some of you don’t like the message certain themes convey, doesn’t mean we should remove the option of having them.


#7

I feel that it depends on the reader.

For example, a story that speaks on suicide.
Someone can read it and say it didn’t really affect them much. Another person can read it and say it touched their heart because of a recent experience in their life where they wanted to commit suicide.
I think past experiences and a person’s maturity level can determine whether a story will impact their life.

In regards to episode stories, many of them go beyond “just a story”.
Some of them contain disturbing scenes which I feel should not be viewed by younger audiences.
However, there isn’t much to do about it because many young people create them and don’t really think about what they’re putting in them.
They just want to write what’s popular and gain views. That affects the mature audience because their wondering what the heck is wrong with the world.


#8

What a great discussion! And I really enjoyed reading your blog!

I recently read a story on Episodes that haunted me for days. It hit very close to home for reasons I won’t go into. The author made it
very clear at the beginning that her story was not sunshine & unicorns, to continue at your own risk-with eyes wide open. As an adult, I accepted that responsibility, and it still got to me. It made me think & feel (even when uncomfortable) which is what I want in a good story.

As a rule, I don’t believe in censorship per se, however imho, I do believe that there should be enforced age levels & a mature age section.
There are just too many sensitive, unsupervised or under-supervised kids without the maturity to fully grasp the gravity of the many stories on here. JMHO and I stand by that!

I also do believe that there are authors who genuinely care about the effect their stories will have on others & will always try to put forth their best work, without worrying about what’s “popular, trending or the amount of reads they might be getting”.

Having said that, I don’t believe it is the responsibility of authors to have to police their work (even when they follow all the rules and the guidelines), but I do feel that responsibility should fall on the App.

Anyway, just my 2 cents, FWIW


#9

I think it depends on the story . . . like if someone said my stories are bla bla bla, I would say ‘it’s just a story’ because I’m not trying to push a message across or influence the reader in anyway.

However, ‘its just a story’ comes up in alot of in gang stories and bad boy stories. I do believe the author, in these cases, weather they know it or not are trying to push the msg that bad relationships are okay by romanticizing it.


#10

Great point but there are definitely way to use a “bad boy” or “gang” theme in a responsible way. And we must consider that these are mostly young girls writing for other young girls. It’s popular, just vampires use to be. It will pass. But in the meantime we must allow expression to flow.


#11

Yeah, a mature age section would be nice, except Episode don’t support the idea of mature stories on the app and yes, they feature some stories that might be some kind of “mature” but they still have their limits, and they don’t feature the stories who don’t answer their content guidelines, remember that.

I completely agree with you about how stories can effect people, and young, immature readers get that to their minds and life even more then mature people who understand these stories better.

For example:
I see bunch of clearly little girls (under 14 can be even 11 I don’t what they even do on episode) on Episode social media that have problems with really simple things people say.
Like about drinking, sexual-ish stuff (which they either have a problem with or tell people- mostly women)
they are married, why do they talk like that even if it’s about a character in a story or something like that like geez…

If they have problems with the fact there are grown people around, they shouldn’t be there at all. (And I’m not talking about the nice ones who just stay out of stuff or respect them and if they are under 13 they shouldn’t even download the app because Episode is literally 13+ rated)

People should still go by content guidelines aka Episode rules for what you can/ can’t put in your story by content.
I personally think it’s important and in bunch of stories with horrible stuff going in them people ask authors if they are based on a real story, and I think it’s important for people to mention at some point that it’s not, or sometimes people take facts from their real life (like idk medical problems/ injuries/ they had or some kind of crime kinds/ cases they have experience with) even just some experience they had or something they did can be real but everything else isn’t and the story plot isn’t and they say * some * of that is based on real stuff and people freak out so they should really tell in the beginning the story is not real/ some parts are based on real life (not like I don’t have things and knowledge I have from my life I can get in my story/ stories I made something about a birthday cake once it was comic and I actually uploaded an overlay of that cake it was half based on a real life experience aka someone threw a piece of my birthday cake on someone else in the story a character threw the entire cake on another character. (Lol it was my birthday and some kid from my family took a piece and threw it on me, yeah, me)

btw what story was that? Sounds pretty cool


#12

Often people use “It’s just a story” as a way to dismiss any discussion about whether or not stories on the app are good for young girls or counterproductive and dangerous. People are entitled to write what they want (as long as it sticks with the guidelines, sure), but we are entitled to criticise and discuss the stories that are out there, too. I feel like these people think that just because they wrote a story that belongs to them, they are supposed to be free from criticism, and they use “it’s just a story” as an excuse to avoid this criticism.

That’s not helpful to the community at all! I mean, stories do have broader implications. Plus, once you release a story on any platform, it’s not just yours anymore! It belongs to the community, too, (if in a different way) and so criticism is inevitable. Writers do have a responsibility: if you disagree with abuse, for example, don’t glorify an abusive relationship and then hide behind that phrase.


#13

I think you need to be careful with that. Whether you mean to or not, all stories do have messages and it is important to make sure yours are good. It seems those people are thinking more deeply about the story than you intended. That’s a good thing! It means they’re really engaging with it. However, even a story that you intended to be just a story has a message.


#14

I used to agree, but then I realised something: maybe older readers are more susceptible to these things because we think we are above it. We think we’re too old and wise to be affected by these stories, but we can be just as impressionable. The fact that we believe we’re immune is probably even more dangerous for us because we don’t look out for it.


#15

I think we need to seriously consider to what degree we’re going to prioritise the freedom of expression over its implications for an audience. Is complete freedom on an app like this really the most important thing when we have such young readers who can really be affected by stories which are in poor taste?


#16

I agree, older readers are not immune.
When I said “mature audience”, it didn’t apply to a specific age group. Younger people can prove themselves to be mature as well.
I put more emphasis on young people because more than half of episode readers are children. Many of them lack
the experience or wisdom to decipher fantasy from reality. They’d suffer more of an impact from these stories because of that.
A person who’s wise would have a good sense of judgement. They could determine what’s appropriate and what’s not. They’d experience less of an impact than someone lacking mental maturity.
If someone believed they were too wise to be affected; they wouldn’t be wise, they’d be a fool. Their lack of admittance to susceptibility shows their lack of intellect.


#17

I don’t think it’s just about being able to decipher fantasy from reality, though. Even in stories that are almost entirely fantastical, there will be messages that ring true of our society, political agendas and general attitudes towards difficult topics. For example, in a society where there may not be a lot of cultural cohesion, art can really affect the people’s opinions of other cultures and ethnicities, regardless of age. While the story may not be, in its entirety, about race or different cultures, the ways in which the author treats the topics of diversity may affect the old and young alike. That’s an extreme example, but it’s not just about the broader story at hand, but rather what we see as “good” and “bad” when reading a story.

If a lot of the villains in stories are from the same country, religion or sexuality, it can be easy for anyone to begin to associate that minority with villainous behaviour even if we’re aware of the differences between fantasy and reality.


#18

I think most of us would be lying if we said we weren’t, even when we grew and became more mature, affected by the art we see, especially in terms of politics and broader transferrable themes and topics.

For example, a sad story about a bad dog owner could make you want to give to a dog charity or help dogs in some other way, whether or not it’s real.


#19

Sorry for the late response; just getting out of a religious meeting.
I appreciate your comment.
You’re right, it’s not just about being able to decipher fantasy from reality. That was just my input to the thread.
It’s not the only reason why people may be affected.
In regards to the sad dog story/example you gave, what moved that person to give? An underlying emotion. Probably pity. Either way, they experienced a feeling in real life that caused them to act on what they read.


#20

Poor taste according to your standards and possibly general standards in society. I’m not saying I agree with all story themes or that freedom of speech means the youth should be reading all type of content. But what I’m saying is creativity is fluid and personal and we cannot start censoring certain themes just because we think them inappropriate for teens. We have a right to disagree on this just like everyone has a right to read what they choose to read. If you think that other authors aren’t writing age-appropriate stories, then you can take it upon yourself to write stories you feel are or to search for stories that are and support an author with low-reads.