Like millions of other people, I went to see “Saving Private Ryan” in the theatres when it first came out. Want to know what I remember most about that movie? It isn’t what an awesome actor Tom Hanks was (although he was) or what kind of a soldier Private Ryan turned out to be.
No, what I remember most about that movie was nearly tossing cup my popcorn all over the seat in front of me during the opening scene.
Hollywood tends to romanticize the brutal reality of war, right along with abuse and neglect and corruption and a hundred things in between. Being able to acknowledge the abstract reality of what they’re talking about is much more palatable than having to confront that reality face-to-face.
Because it’s palatable, we’re able to disassociate ourselves. Which is great if you’re watching a television show and actually want to sleep at night. (How else do “Bones” fans tune in week after week?) It’s not so great when you’re trying to raise awareness of the unromantic, uncensored reality of the daily lives of those people who have these experiences off of the silver screen.
Experts have said that we as a society have become desensitized to violence, and that Hollywood’s to blame. They’re probably right, but not for the reasons you think. It’s not that there’s too much violence on tv (although there probably is). It’s that we see that violence through rose-tinted glasses that makes it something less than the abomination it really is.
If you want to get your point across when printing your posters, you need to rip those rose-colored glasses off.
I’m not saying you can’t go for a G-rating when you’re printing posters. I’m saying what you need to do is show the reality that these people, the ones you’re trying to help see every day instead of a watered down version that people who don’t see it every day are going to understand.
You’re Going for Sympathy, Not Empathy
Most of the people who donate to your non-profit will never be a wounded veteran, or a homeless child, or a battered wife. Nor will they have breast cancer or diabetes or any of a hundred other conditions that would allow them to understand. They’re not going to be able to empathize with them, so you need to present your case in a way that’s going to allow them to sympathize with them-enough to stimulate their charitable funny bone and encourage them to contribute to your cause.