We’ve all been asked some head-scratchers during an interview at one point or another.
Q: What would you do on your first day if no one was here?
Q: If you were to give a TEDTalk, what would the subject be?
Q: What’s the worst road trip you’ve ever taken?
These are all random questions I have been asked during an interview. And while researching the product and absorbing a company’s origin story the night before could be of some use, there are just some questions you can’t prep for.
A question more random than Charlie Sheen’s affinity for Tiger Blood.
Here is the question I was asked:
Q: Why is the Princess Bride a Universally Loved Film?
I sat there stumped. This should be the easiest question in the world. And here I was, puzzled over a movie I had seen at least two dozen times.
I freaking love this movie. This should’ve been the easiest answer in the world. The one-liners alone have given me access to parties, fancy dinners and even boyfriends. The quotes I used in every day situations flashed through my mind.
“Inconceivable,” I’ve proclaimed with a lisp as I swipe left to flexing-in-a mirror-selfie-guy on Tinder.
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” I sang to my adversaries as a deadly trail of banana peels shot out of Yoshi’s tail pipe on Mario Kart.
“Booooooo. Boooooooo. Bow Down to the Queen of Slime.” I would yell at my sisters when they walked, talked, and/or looked in my general direction.
A universally loved movie. That I loved. What was the correct answer? Why did I love it? Why did others? I felt my face immediately flush as I searched through my brain’s imdb database.
“People love The Princess Bride because it has comedy, romance, action, and a positive message all rolled into one. It has memorable catch phrases, irony and is relatable…”
I quickly stopped myself. “How were screeching eels and a bottomless pit of despair with 200 pound rats relatable?!”I subconsciously regretted my spoken words.
Meanwhile, I stared back into the blank face of my interviewer wearing an unwavering expression. He could’ve suffered a mild stroke and I would be none the wiser.
I began again. “Well not exactly relatable, as the story is fiction. That’s the one that’s not true right? Hahaha!”
“Buuuuttt… (awkward pause) it has elements that people of all ages can relate to.”
As I dug myself into the deepest of holes, the desperate ramblings of realistically 60 seconds seemed like hours. I searched for the correct answer in what can only be summed up as a “painful performance”.
So, what happened?
I didn’t get the job. There’s not much to it other than that. Who knows what answer he was looking for. But it did get me thinking… What makes something universally loved?
As a movie buff, there are several movies that I would take a bullet for, just so they could be seen by the public. Because I believe good film has the ability to have a profound impact on people’s lives and make up who they are as a person. But to identify the factors that make something loved by EVERYONE is difficult. Everyone has different tastes and personalities.
I started to think back on marketing strategy and how great companies like Buzzfeed make loveable, shareable content. Daily! Hourly! That’s not an easy task. How do they accomplish this?
So, after much thought and research, if I were to go back in time to my interview, here is my revised answer to that question.
1. It Addresses a Problem
If there was never a problem, there would never be a story. If there is no story, there is no point. The Princess Bride identifies several problems. All the characters face trials.
First, being sick sucks and you don’t want your gassy, senile, grandfather reading you fairy tales when you have a pounding migrane and your Sega Genesis is in clear view.
Second, we’ve all been in to a super hot person of the opposite sex. But oh wait, they’re unemployed. Or broke. Or dumb as nails. Heck, that seems to be my personal M.O.. But Buttercup meets Wesley and bam, falls head over heels (who wouldn’t?! look at that face!!).
It’s all good but alas, Buttercup thinks he’s been killed at sea so she mourns his loss and tries to move on. A sore trial indeed.
Meanwhile, Prince Humperdinck A.K.A. money bags makes Buttercup an offer. Become Princess Buttercup and wear custom-made, beautiful gowns of silk or live a poor and loveless life alone. She would have a kingdom and someone to love her but she’d verbatim rather be dead than be alive in his company.
We’ve all been around someone so annoying we’d do just about anything to get away. Not a good situation. Plus, his friend with the six fingers on his right hand is always around and always putting out the creepy vibe. Third wheel much?
Prince Humperdinck’s name is Humperdinck. Humper-Dink. I’ll leave you to put together the pieces on that one.
The three outlaws also face challenges as they were hired by the Prince to kidnap and kill Buttercup but face the challenge between right and wrong, as well as the choice between friendship and fortune.
It seems no one wants Wesley and Buttercup to be together. Throughout the film, they fight pretty much everything and everyone that cross their path to be together, fueled only by their true love. This is a real problem.
Tying this back to marketing, universally loved content needs to address problems that people care about. And these characters have plenty to relate to. Never knowing your father, losing someone you love, being in an unhealthy relationship, being in immense physical and emotional pain, struggling to make ends meet… these are all real life, relatable problems.
Although we all have different problems and experiences, they are all relatable based on the fact that we are all human. The more relatable the problems, the greater the chance the audience can relate to the content.
2. It Gets Emotional
We are all human. We all feel jealousy, anger, pain, love, fear, anxiety, and pure joy. Showing that other people go through the same things we go through allows viewers to share those experiences with the characters. You can get creative to inspire emotion with your content. Whether it’s through visually stunning content, heart warming music, intelligent conversation or just raw human emotion, people will be in awe of what they are seeing.
And NO Fred Savage, we will not skip the kissing part!!
3. Humor- Timing and Delivery
Think of all the viral videos you’ve seen. What’s been the one common theme in 99% of them. Humor. People love to laugh. And timing and delivery is what make a joke hit or miss. The Princess Bride has so many types of humor from irony to flat out silliness.
Humor can relate to something happening in the plot that the viewer connect with or just be completely random. The priest saying “Mawwaige” instead of “Marriage”. So random. But it leaves a lasting impression. You can be 6 or 60 and find that funny. So don’t make the joke too complicated. The punchline should be obvious. And funny!
4. Entertain Your Audience
Your content has to be entertaining and unique for it to be loved. People freaking sword fighting, being tortured, climbing cliffs, and who can forget the infamous throw the sword, twirl on the pole flip scene. (How did he do that?)
They don’t spend the entire move in one setting. Or one scene. Or one costume. They keep you guessing. Don’t spend an entire blog post or piece of content droning on and on about the same topic. Put some pictures in there. Make it interesting. Spice it up. Consumers have short attention spans so if you keep changing the original content along the way, your story will stay charming and not become boring.
5. Throw in Some Surprises
This is basically an addition to “make it entertaining” but important to acknowledge nonetheless. Everyone loves a twist. It makes them feel apart of the “gag” and better able to relate. No one would have ever guessed that Wesley built up an immunity to the poison that both cups were tainted with. Now, that’s good punch!
6. Have a Message (or a point)
Keep in mind this whole story is being read to a child so it is a good life lesson for him. There are so many messages and interpretations one could draw from this story. Overall, it shows that goodness prevails and that if you work hard enough for something, you can achieve it.
7. “I’m kind of a big deal”
People will say they like a piece of content if others say they like a piece of content. Unless they are hipsters or contrarians, some people who haven’t even seen this piece of content will say they like it just to be viewed as smart or “in the know”. If it’s popular, people will want to see it. And say that they’ve seen it. And just like that, you have W.O.M. or Word of Mouth.
You could say a great movie is a bunch of great content packaged into one. And while being able to identify what factors make something loved might not make you the next James Cameron, it will definitely get some sort of response from the people who see it.