As storytellers, we agonize over avoiding clichés.
At least, I know I do. But the truth is, once you boil them down to their most basic structure, most stories are clichés: boy meets girl, world gets saved, growing up is hard.
What turns clichés into fresh, original stories that we obsessively rewatch is perspective. What starts as trite, say forbidden love, branches into a million unique stories: Star Wars, West Side Story, or Call Me by Your Name, to name a few.
Stories come alive when we infuse ourselves into them. We may share similar “clichés,” but they look different based on our own lives.
Around this time of year, I notice a lot of clichéd aspects of my own life. Without fail, my mom will cry when she watches The Family Stone. If I’m with my family, we’ll talk about whatever kooky thing my grandma said most recently. And at any table, someone will ask me where my fudge pie is.
Maybe yours look different, your mom’s favorite film to cry to might be The Notebook, your family’s discussions might center around German Expressionism in film, or your signature dish might be pear and walnut salad, but no matter the specifics, I’m guessing you can relate.
Clichés are cliché for a reason. We reach for them because of their simplicity and relatability.
Go ahead. Embrace the clichés in your own life but keep the perspective. As trite and cheugy as the holiday season can be, the meanings resonate for a reason.
So be gracious, take a step back, appreciate the people who support you, and most importantly, the diet can wait, eat the pie.
– Ellie Powers