One of my screenwriting teachers turned me onto this idea of impressive failure as an important tool in getting your audience to bond with the protagonist of your film. Think of Luke Skywalker and all the ways he fails in the first hour of Star Wars…
- Tries and fails to convince his uncle to let him join the Rebellion
- Tries and fails to rescue the droids from the Sand People
- Tries and fails to learn how to use the Force with his lightsaber
- Tries and fails to rescue Princess Leia (leads her into trash compactor)
- Tries and fails to save Obi Wan
When we watch a character try so hard and fail, over and over, we are increasingly bonded to that character. We desperately want them to succeed. This often works even when the character is trying to achieve some goal that we would normally find reprehensible. And thus we often find ourselves rooting for gangsters and bank robbers.
It recently occurred to me that the same kind of thing goes on in parenting. You spend so much time watching your child try and fail to do the most basic tasks. Rolling over, grabbing a pacifier, sitting up, crawling, walking. There are hours and hours of attempts before it actually works. And with every failed attempt, you feel more and more bonded to this little human.