Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Emotionally connecting with an audience

Last night, as I struggled to keep myself from checking my e-mail every five seconds waiting for a possible reply from an agent, I settled down in front of the television. After a marathon of Killer Kids, a special about Casey Anthony came on. I had already seen it but was still trying to keep myself off my hotmail account, so I rewatched.
Back in July, most of my free time was spent watching the Casey Anthony trial. I laughed at the stupid questions her lawyer asked, cried along with her mother when she recounted the night her granddaughter disappeared, and felt like the world was going to end when Casey was acquitted. I was angry for a long time, but eventually recovered. From this, anyway.
But...why? Why was I so wrapped up in the murder trial of a victim and accused killer I never met? And while we're on the subject, why did my junior high friends and I spend so much time watching Titanic over and over and lusting after Leonardo DiCaprio? (Scratch that -- we STILL do that ! :])

My point is...you can't emotionally connect with someone you don't even know, right? Wrong.

It's an artist's job to connect with an audience. There's a reason why Titanic is still popular today and why suckers like me will shell out a ridiculous amount of money this month just to see it on a screen as big as our wall. There's a reason why teenage girls (among others) stand in line for hours just to see a movie adaptation of Harry Potter or Twilight or The Hunger Games. There's even a reason why they stand in line to see the actors from those movies, or their favorite musicians or athletes. Every one of these people and/or stories has something an audience can connect with.

Back when I was younger, teenage girls swooned over Leo. Now, we still watch Titanic because Rose, like so many others, is trapped in a life she doesn't like and doesn't think she can escape. We swoon over Edward Cullen while reading Twilight but so many girls identify with Bella, who is awkward and has yet to find her place in the world. We watch The Hunger Games and marvel over the scenery of the Capitol, Suzanne Collins's beautiful prose and even Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. But we also identify with Katniss, who initially struggles just to survive. We dress up in wizard robes and go to midnight parties, but we also identify with Harry Potter, who lives in a world that is so marvelously different from our own...but not as different as it seems.

Even the celebrities we read about in magazines appear to be like us. Taylor Lautner and Josh Hutcherson are swoon worthy, but appear sweet and down to earth -- something so many girls want. Female musicians like Demi Lovato and Katy Perry sing songs that other girls can identify with and project the image that they are "just like us." Maybe these stars' appearances are genuine, and maybe not. But they all have something that their audience can identify with. Because if you can't identify with someone, not only is that emotional connection lost but you feel isolated. Humans are social creatures, and there's nothing worse to most of us than isolation.

I'm always so baffled when people don't understand why someone connects with a celebrity they don't know or a movie character who isn't real. Sure, we have people we know personally that we can connect with, but it's not always easy. Everyone goes through times where they genuinely feel that nobody they talk to can understand them...but, as always, that book or DVD or CD is just one click away. If that celebrity or character didn't have something their audience could connect to or identify with, they wouldn't be that well-known in the first place.

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