Monday, August 10, 2009

Why My Kids Love Star Wars -- and perhaps a reason talk radio does so well

My kids have been on a Star Wars kick ever since we let them watch the original movie last Dec. Since then, they've watched all six of the movies almost every chance they get to see a DVD. They've read Star Wars chapter books and books that explain details for each of the six movies, including some devoted just to the ships, doids and weaponry. My eldest son studies this as if it were real history.

So, last night, in the interest of providing an alternative to a Star Wars DVD, my wife and I picked a movie we liked, The Pink Panther.

They were a bit reluctant, but my youngest liked it (her older brother said) because of the word Pink in the title.

And while they did enjoy it, I learned something I think interesting.

The bad guys in the Pink Panther are a bit complex, sometimes acting evil, sometimes not. My kids kept asking who was the bad guy was in each scene.

These are kids who understand the difference between all sorts of minor aspects of Star Wars, but they had a bit of trouble figuring out the bad guys.

And that, aside from the special effects, is perhaps what makes Star Wars so compelling to this new generation of fans. It's really easy to tell who the bad guys are. In all six movies, I think there are only two characters who at first introduction is seems good but later turn out to be evil. And (I don't think a spoiler alert is necessary, but if so, you're now warned) we soon find out about Senator Palpatine. (The other character, of course, is Anakin.)

Otherwise, the bad guys are always bad, and some even have evil-sounding music to accompany them.

Meanwhile, all the good guys are generally pretty good. Primarily Han has some momentarily ambiguous elements, but he comes through in the end.

Understanding good vs. bad makes it easy for kids to understand what's going on in Star Wars.

That's why some comedies are more difficult for kids to "get," because ambiguous characters are more difficult to understand.

Ok, so why discuss the nature of good characters vs. bad in movies?

Because I think that's what some talk radio hosts do quite well -- cast the people they like as unambiguous good guys while they constantly depict the others are evil.

That seems to be the M.O. of Rush Limbaugh and others. And that, perhaps, explains their success. It's much easier when you know whom to root for, and whom to jeer.

As companies look at developing story angles, especially in dealing with issues or crisis management, keeping track of the good guys and the bad guys is an important step.

Meanwhile, check out this Fast Company blog post, "What Brands Can Learn From Luke and Leia."

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