I saw “Monsters University” recently and thought it was great, but at first I wasn’t sure why. I thought maybe it was just because I got to see one of my favorite movie villains ever, Randall the invisible purple lizard, grace the screen again. But as I thought about it a little more, I realized I liked the way the movie didn’t pander to its audience. It would have been easy to do a movie where Mike and Sully went to college, became friends, graduated, and went to work at Monsters, Inc, and lived happily ever after, but that’s not what happened, because the people who made this movie expected as much from their audience as their audience expected from them. This isn’t as great a movie as previous Pixar offerings “Toy Story 3” and “Wall-E,” but part of what made those movies so good is here in Monsters. The people in charge thought the most of their audience, and it showed in the dialogue and the nuance of the characters’ emotions. They weren’t worried anything would go over the audience’s heads.
Seeing “Grown Ups 2” around the same time helped me realize why I liked “Monsters” so much. “Grown Ups” was hilarious in parts, but I got the impression that the people who made this movie thought their audience were idiots and that every joke had to be spelled out in neon letters and punctuated with exciting noises. Both movies were entertaining, but only one of them made me feel like I was a intellectually capable human being, and because of that, I was much more invested in the story and the characters. I think we as audiences project our emotions on characters we like, so if a movie makes us feel worthwhile, it improves our opinion of the characters.
So as I thought about people’s estimations of others, I realized that a lot of the time I’m too much like the people that made “Grown Ups.” When I say or make or write something, I often feel like I’m doing it for people who aren’t like me and who won’t necessarily understand what I’m doing without a little help. And maybe sometimes that’s true, but I’d bet most of the time it’s not and it detracts from whatever I’m doing or saying. I think if we all had a higher opinion of our audiences our messages would come across clearer and be received better.