Matriarchal Storytelling Is The Visionary's Choice: Norman Lear's Contribution to the mother of all storytelling structures

I get a lot of snippy comments about my discussion of Matriarchal Storytelling, especially with the implication that I have somehow suggested that I invented this structure. I have labeled it Matriarchal, used it, and talked about my observations about it, but it is my specialty, not my invention. But we have had it for a long time. We allowed the Patriarchal to dominate too much for too long, yet there have been great successes in it. Dick Wolf's Chicago web of shows is a great example of employing some elements of the Matriarchal, let alone Disney's Marvel and Star Wars franchises.

But then there is Norman Lear.

He used Matriarchal repeatedly with resounding successes with his ground-breaking comedy shows of the 1970s.

The structure of the shows were all Patriarchal at heart, but the soul was Matriarchal.

Archie Bunker was the backbone and the flagship character whose vehicle All in the Family got the ball rolling, with spin off shows all having a connection to the main show.

Maude was the liberal arm with the titular character related to Archie's wife Edith. The Jeffersons was the upwardly mobile African-American couple who were neighbours and foils to the bigoted reactionary Archie. Even Good Times was a spin off of Maude, and when Edith died, a widow-era for Archie had its own show, Archie Bunker's Place.

These were diverse shows with progressive characters who were incubated and then given the wings to soar elsewhere.

It is the reason Matriarchal Storytelling is the structure of choice of visionaries with an eye to the future: we don't have to shove radical concepts down viewers or readers' throats: we let characters slowly take root and blossom naturally and wait until their time has arrived for them to properly deliver.

With reactionary gut reactions to anything novel, people are averse to adapt to change, but the Matriarchal is about embracing and getting to know different people. It is not some one night stand: it about commitment to the love of life and living.

So Lear was a Matriarchal storyteller and there is a lot we can learn from opening our eyes to the fact that not everyone is like us. We can grow and change as we allow others the same basic courtesy. Lear was a clever visionary: he began with a xenophobe as the story began to expand to those very places he feared the most: strong women, successful minorities as the storyteller showed they were all flawed, but family-oriented people with dreams and ideas. It was a fantastic way of reflecting the changing times, and it is because the Matriarchal is the flexible structure to allow visionaries to show the rest of the world what lies in their own ever-expanding hearts.