Thursday, September 20, 2012

Creating Universal Appeal Across Age Lines

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the beginnings of pilot episodes from two TV dramas I hadn't seen before- some networks show reruns before they launch into new seasons. I started watching one show with the anticipation I would like it. But within the first 20 minutes, I turned it off. I watched the second show's pilot straight through and now I'm going through its first season on Netflix. I'm hooked!

The first pilot, I believe, tried too hard to cater to all audiences, from small children to adults. So the parts that were supposed to appeal to young viewers bored me. On the other hand, the  second pilot held my interest even during the parts featuring younger characters.

There are many TV shows, movies, and books that appeal to audiences of all ages. To accomplish this, the writer and director must know how to make the parts intended to attract children engaging for adults too, and the parts intended to entertain the grown-ups also accessible for children. Of course, this is easier said than done. The reason why some animated films, such as Shrek or The Incredibles, appeal to all age groups, is because the writers know how to use humor that kids understand while subtly injecting the wink-wink kind of humor for the grown-ups. 

Audiences and readers also better connect with characters whose  experiences can mirror universal experiences. For example, it has been awhile since most of us have experienced first day of school jitters, but as adults, our response to seeing a child experiencing those things can resonate with the emotions we might feel when we start a new job or move to a new neighborhood or join a new community group. So that could be another way a character's experience can transcend age lines on the screen or on a page.

What other qualities should a book, TV show, or movie have to appeal to more than one age demographic?


Laura S. said...

Love the "wink, wink" humor in Shrek and the Disney/Pixar movies!! They sure do know what they're doing.

Hmm, I think dynamic characters has something to do with it. What made Harry Potter appeal to all ages and genders? I think the unique, quirky characters, the kids and the adults, were a big part of it. Also the plot has to be something a kid can understand on his emotional and mental level, but one an adult can relate to as well. It's definitely not easy to write or film something to appeal to all ages!

Sherry Ellis said...

I think you hit it right on the nail when you said that kid movies adults enjoy have a subtle layer of adult humor.

Nicole said...

Humor and intrigue definitely appeal across age groups. It gets you invested in the characters and their situation.

Cynthia said...

Laura: I agree that well-written characters can also create more appeal across age lines.

Sherry: And it takes good writing to create that balance.

Nicole: Yeah, humor and intrigue do have universal appeal.

Lynn Proctor said...

i am mostly disappointed in today's tv---it's all about the kids

Ella said...

I do think humor has the massive appeal, but family issues, too can bond! Love, the rites of passage and death seem to unite all age groups~
Great post!

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