It’s Just Not Aimed at You

It’s really easy to write something off as utter crap. Certain products of pop-culture leap to mind, such as rap, country music, Barney, Gertrude Stein, and Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. Somehow it has become socially acceptable (and even encouraged) to reject and deride these forms of expression and their creators. The reason this list creates such avid fandom and rabid hatred can be summed up in one word: audience.

We’ve talked about audience a bit before — by writing from your heart, and writing as honestly as you can, you will eventually find your audience. When something isn’t aimed at you, it’s more difficult to see its appeal. As an audience, we search for things that resonate with us, and forget that sometimes the world as a whole can’t cater to just us. A sumptuous love story that tantalizes a teenage girl won’t be received the same way by someone who only reads gritty thrillers. Music that emerged from cultural roots of one region won’t ring true with people who didn’t share that history.

Barney was designed for children, so it’s pretty clear why college students and adults can’t stand him: they are not his audience.

The legitimacy of a creative work is defined by our life experience, our personalities, and our tastes. When you encounter a story that’s awful, or one of your friends reads your work and hates it, don’t write it off immediately. Stop and ask yourself: Who is the audience?

My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.”
— Ashleigh Brilliant

All religions issue Bibles against Satan, and say the most injurious things against him, but we never hear his side.
— Mark Twain


“Retired Weapon” by Yuji Tokuda and Junya Ishikawa


6 thoughts on “It’s Just Not Aimed at You

  1. brianbuhl

    I think that when you look at the target audience, you may actually find more reason to dislike something.

    I have two examples. The target audience of Teletubbies is really, really young children. The main characters are made up of soft colors featuring geometric features and soft fur. The problem I have with them is that they talk gibberish. Compared to shows like Barney or Sesame Street, the Teletubbies aren’t helping a developing mind learn good communication skills. That, or its aimed at an even younger audience, which has its own horrific implications.

    The other example is one you listed: Twilight. The target audience is teenage women. What is the message about relationships and sex that is targeted towards young women?

    I don’t want to be a complete hypocrite about Twilight, though. My teenage daughter read it, and that was fine. I knew that my daughter wasn’t so impressionable about relationships that she was going to come away with some strange message from the books. And, I can’t knock too hard on books that get teenagers reading.

    But still… having to use vampire fangs to cut through a uterus? Maybe I’ll hate on Twilight a little bit longer, regardless of the audience. 🙂

    1. Setsu Post author

      I think about audience more in terms of “those with whom the material will resonate.” What you’re describing seems a little more like a marketing definition.

      There’s so much hard work that goes into writing, music, filmmaking, painting, etc. – “it sucks” seems to miss a lot of nuance. What one person dismisses might be THE line, or lyric, or vision that pulled someone else back from suicide. As artists supporting our fellow artists – we should be open to that possibility.

    2. toconnell88

      I can see you’re well-intentioned here, and find I agree in theory, but this line of thinking can be problematic. Conservative religious groups took issue with Harry Potter because they believed its themes would be harmful to their children’s development. Most rational thinkers know Harry Potter is harmless, but censorship rages on in certain circles.

      Unless something’s blatantly inappropriate, I think young people deserve the benefit of the doubt. They’re more discerning than most adults give them credit for. That said, I’m not a father (though I did play a semi-parental role to my brother), so maybe I shouldn’t comment.

      I remember, when I was young, I had a friend whose parents denied him a fairly innocuous video game because they believed it would negatively influence him. He could discern the difference between a video game and reality, and found his parents’ assumption hugely patronising. That example always stuck with me, so I’m cautious about telling young people what they can and can’t read.

      Twilight’s fairly offensive on grounds of taste, though. I’ll give you that one! 😉

  2. toconnell88

    Anyway, great post, Setsu. I’m writing an essay for an assessment (may convert it into a blog) that deals with target audiences, so this post was quite prescient.

  3. Lauren Sapala

    These thoughts on the Twilight Series are so interesting! What I find so intriguing about the Twilight books is that they started out as marketed/targeted toward teenage girls but spread to an older reading audience. Now there’s a whole new genre called New Adult based on the themes and protagonists in these kinds of books. I find it completely fascinating how breakthrough genres experience that kind of rapid organic growth.

    Anyway, just adding my two cents on Twilight. Awesome post that gave me lots of food for thought!


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