Western narrative fiction follows a standard formula: There is a need. A character works towards resolving that need. The need is resolved or the character fails. This holds people's attention and gives them a payoff in the end.
The problem is that real life doesn't work this way. Most of our actions do not work towards resolving a well-defined need. Virginia Woolf observed in Modern Fiction in 1919:
Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions -- trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpest of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms, and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there, so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon feeling and not upon conviction, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it... Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged, life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.
But Mrs. Dalloway is not as engaging for most as, say, The 40 Year Old Virgin, because our cultural sensibilities are hard-wired to easily follow these stories. I believe Claude Levi-Strauss wrote on this subject, but I only know it from reading Stephen Booker. Anyway, in order to enjoy a story, we need to in some way identify with a protagonist (there are exceptions, I know, but generally this is the case). And sometimes life really does have well defined goals that we set out to achieve. And some of those are the lengths we go to hooking up.
Some people say we do some things "just for the story" and I don't think that's by itself a bad thing. Why not interrupt a humdrum life to have the kind of adventure that movies and books suggest only happen to others? Why not be a star and be our own protagonist? Beaudrillard would argue that, by doing so, we are modelling our real lives on fake fantasy (Howard Beale in Network has a great line about how TV watchers have been fooled into think "the tube is real and your own lives are fake"). But as long as we live with these stories and fictions, I believe there is some value in being a part of them, too.
The Panel: Kid Korea, Party Cat, Gun Street Girl, Greg, The Gentleman, Buffy