Real stories don’t always have a happy ending but they need to be told - Sophie Mei Lan

We love a good fairytale where we know the plotline, the structure, and the language. Not to mention the gentle tone, the short story, and the happily ever after.

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 4:45 am

But so many of our communities are lost from such plotlines, they are often trashed from the final edit of many platforms.

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They may tick the box conformations of ‘diversity forms’ so that the world feels they are empowering such voices and even sometimes listening to the sound of others’ rally cries – but too often, despite short bursts of ‘emotion’ that we may hear, very little is actually changing when it comes to who is in our well-paid audience of leaders.

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Journalist Sophie Mei Lan believes sharing the stories of real people and the challenges they face can inspire change.

We may have broken through the glass ceiling of allowing such ‘people’ to get in through the polished door but often that human being remains unheard at the same level as those making decisions. We may ‘survey’ them to get ‘their views’, but if we want to actually showcase their values in the work we publish then we need those people to be appointed into higher-paying roles and executive positions.

To do that, we had better start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. We need to actively challenge ourselves and those around us to truly hear one another because unless you’re a fictional fairy, no one’s life story has a straightforward plotline. If we are in a privileged position of power then it is our responsibility to empower and elevate such voices.

Just look at the huge battle that survivors of domestic violence have to face in their own homes and even when reporting such crimes. Police forces encourage people to report hate crimes or domestic abuse, yet often take very little action. Most cases of domestic violence are dropped without charges within six months because that budget only stretched to the rebranding of the campaign, but did it actually help the communities it claimed to want to reach?

What’s the point of an agenda with no actions? A perfectly constructed, politically-correct marketing message without a mission to create change holds very little value and, in many ways, can do more harm than good.

For me, the power of real people’s stories is the way they can shine a light on issues that we need to do more than talk about. It helps to move us closer to a place where the protagonist of the novel is the person who might have been overlooked before, not those who already have a platform because of their social status.

You only have to watch the rollercoaster ride of Maid on Netflix to see how domestic violence ripples through generations. It isn’t always physical or what we have previously seen on ‘posters’, but can take the form of a mesh of psychological abuse.

A lot of people still don’t want to face the complex reality that such unique stories rarely come with one happy ending as there are so many anomalies. Those stories can be transformational but too often we’d rather escape the reality of those communities that challenge our perceptions.

No life is simple but some of our lives are much more privileged than others. Let’s write our own fairytales as it can be cathartic to reflect and then take the lead to re-write the plotline for future scripts.

Visit mamamei.co.uk and yorkshirefamilies.co.uk to read more of Sophie's work.