Random Theory: The Inflatability of Relatability

When it comes to considering the popularity of a narrative, we over-invest in the very concept of ‘relatability’.  It’s a largely discursive maneuver, too.  We go to Star Wars because it’s Star Wars, not Farm Wars; what attracts us is the exoticism of space, the novel unreality of a well-detailed realm in which the reliability of physics are defamiliarized by the manipulability of The Force.  We don’t go to Star Wars to get the low-down on how Uncle Owen’s moisture farm is doing–I don’t care how big of a John Deere fan you are–and yet, with all that other stuff of The Force and the Death Star and droids and prophecy, and how do we persist in identifying this farmboy?  But do we need any of those other fabulous elements to be, themselves, ‘relatable’ to be understood?  We might call The Force ‘magic’ or even compare it to religion, but neither can we experience what ‘all’ of religion is like, so we’re still not really trying to relate it to a fundamentally human condition that we feel, for some reason, we can ‘know’ despite the fact that literally 99% of us exactly AREN’T farmboys.

I guess the deeper question might be, then: if we can so readily conceive of so much, in both physical and abstract terms, that is not human, yet we can come to understand it all so vividly nonetheless, why can’t we do the same for subjects we do identify for their humanness, if not necessarily for their humanity?  Is it really such a need of the audience to be able to ‘relate’ to a protagonist somehow, or have we long been sophisticated enough in our discourse to be done with that crutch of expectation?


You know, Heartbeeps (1981) bombed–but I really can’t tell if that supports my point or refutes it.



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