Not everything is ‘relatable’

Megan Keane, Columnist

We all know one person that claims everything is relatable, right?

You watch a movie and a character is blown up by a bomb or discovers they have 10 clone sisters and someone declares, “relatable” or “me” or “same” or some variation of that. I’m guilty of saying (or yelling) “me” in response to almost anything. It’s kind of one of those things I started saying ironically and now I’m stuck with it in my everyday vernacular. That’s relatable, right?  While I mostly (mostly) do that as a joke, critics have actually started using “relatable” almost synonymously with “good.”

It’s definitely under the umbrella for traits that make a movie, T.V. show or book “good.” At the very least, it means that it’s popular. Almost any young adult-related work gets the stamp of reliability. And while it is great that forms of media are becoming more representative—representation is everything, let’s not get confused—if we limit ourselves to only appreciating the parts of stories that remind us of ourselves, we’re robbing ourselves the opportunity to flex our empathy muscles.

I think it’s human nature to seek out stories/characters that are similar to yourself, but it curbs the human experience. If we really wanted to, we could live inside an echo chamber—only ever encountering our own beliefs and opinions amplified by other voices in media.You could choose to only consume like-minded media, but you should want to challenge yourself and your ideas of the world.When your friend talks about their problems, are you only relating to them on this basic, primal level of what applies to “me too, oh my god?” And, what if they come to you with something miles away from your realm of understanding? If you can’t relate to them, do you dismiss them? Well, of course not.

Books, T.V. shows, movies—even blog posts and video blogs—provide us with these stellar opportunities to learn about experiences other than the ones we’ve personally gone through. These forms of media give us language to start and hold conversations about issues we never would’ve thought of otherwise because it doesn’t apply to you in the most general sense.

Exercising your empathy skills is never a bad thing.Feeling more than just sympathy or pity for somebody else’s pain, sharing deeper connections with the people around you allows you to see their perspective and have better communication all around.

It seems like something being “relatable” is placed higher on our criteria for what we will and won’t consume as audience members. But to dismiss anything because it doesn’t directly mirror ourselves is like still thinking the world is flat or that the sun rotates around Earth. It’s spending your life only looking a blade of grass. There’s a whole field out there, not to mention the rest of the world beyond that field.

Megan Keane is a senior psychology and English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].