Ok, before I leave off talking about what I learned from the Godfather films, this series in particular always makes me think about the Power of Story.
During the course of this story, Michael Corleone has become a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to protect his family and win against the other families. Should we like him? A man who deals in illegal operations like gambling and drugs, who kill people when they get in his way? Should we empathise with him? Should we root for him? Cheer him on? Be glad for him when things in his world ‘go well’?
But In Godfather I, weren’t we just a little happy when he managed to kill Sollazo and the corrupt police captain? And weren’t we satisfied that he manages to kill all his enemies at the end of the story? And in Godfather II, weren’t we relieved when Vito Corleone got rid of the crime boss in the white suit? And at the end of Godfather III, didn’t our hearts break for Michael Corleone when he knew that his daughter was dead?
Does any of this happen in real life – that we can completely empathise with a crime boss? In real life, wouldn’t we all be appalled by people who support illegal gambling, prostitution, drugs and who killed whoever got in their way? But that is the Power of Story! By telling why someone is behaving a certain way, by telling his background and the circumstances that brought him to be where he is, all at once we can understand him.
And suddenly, the Power of Story is not just about what we write, but about how we can view the world. We can still hold someone accountable for their actions, but when we know why someone acts the way they do, it’s a lot easier to offer understanding and even forgiveness.
Of course, we can talk about all the little mechanisms the writers of The Godfather series use to get us to empathise with the Corleones, but that’s for another blog.