Appealing Texts are Like Reflection Pools
Appealing texts are wide and deep enough to allow audiences from different cultures, ethnicities, genders, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds to project their personal thoughts and feelings into the text and make it their own.
People find a text more appealing because it allows them to pour their personality, worldviews, and experience (traumatic or pleasant) into the entertaining text.
An appealing text places the protagonists in conflicts that resemble real-life choices, yet at the same time allows the audience to tiptoe into the reflection pool of emotions and fantasize about their choice.
From the BBC’s Masterpiece Theatre to reality TV and action movies, text that appeals to people meets the audience where they’re at, allowing them to project their identity and become the object and the story’s subject simultaneously. For example, such a text might offer the audience a fantasy of being the hero and their love interest at the same time. When the protagonist of 500 Days with Summer gapes at Summer, unaware of his adoration, the movie tells both the story of him and the viewers, who long to be able to gaze at a love interest and be looked at, at the same time.
This is what Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, 50 Shades of Grey, Dallas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Friends, Survival, Dolly Parton’s Jolene, John Lennon’s Imagine, and Die Hard have in common. These vastly different entertaining texts are meaningful across cultures, technology changes, and generations because they take the audience on a personal journey. They are not judgmental, culturally specific, or on the nose. They allow width.
Their reflection pool is open and wide enough to encapsulate different people’s identities, desires, and fantasies.