Nick and Judy: Why are non-human heroes so great?
Why do we love Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps from Zootopia; the Beast; Leo, Raph, Donnie and Mikey - and all the rest?
1. They have feelings and emotions: as long as the characters are relatable, it doesn't matter what species they are.
Affection, fear, happiness and sadness (at least) are all feelings I think most people will agree are common to animals as well as humans in our world.
Think of Ninja Turtles, Zootopia, Monster’s Inc., Lion King… they all tell very powerful stories, and we don’t feel distanced from those characters. We feel the feelings they feel!
2. Non-humans have some cool advantages (and we all like to imagine life with a new set of advantages). Fangs, claws, speed, strength, super-vision, improved natural armour… You know you love Simba’s slow-motion run to heart-pounding music. Like superheroes, animals come with advantages that we humans often dream of having. I know I prayed for wings as a child.
3. The what-if factor: having a non-human world brings in new angles to have fun with. What if we all were different sizes? What if we could fly to work? A fictional world can become so rich simply by adding in what-ifs (Monster’s Inc is a great example of this). Most stories are built on the premise of ‘what-if’s, after all.
4. The right amount of un-relatability: as viewers we're distanced just enough (I mean, no one knows what it would be like to go through life as a bunny) to move beyond distracting thoughts about whether this or that is plausible - and focus purely on the emotional potency of the character's struggle. Maybe we can experience a more emotionally vivid story.
5. And maybe, because we're not actually expecting a non-human story to hit so close to home, it hits us all the harder. Like kids, we are caught unawares.
What do you think?