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Packaging Ideas in the 21st Century

May 19, 2018


Kinesthetic empathy.


That’s how Donald Glover, musically known as Childish Gambino, was able to keep people hooked into watching his latest music video “This Is America.”   In just under two weeks, his video has been streamed over 140 million times.  It’s officially gone ‘viral.’


Now, this is not to take away from his song, which he debuted on SNL last weekend.  Glover’s talent as a musician, actor, and director (for his hit show Atlanta), is undeniable.  But what I found equally impressive was his strategy on how to keep people listening/watching his idea- even as his visual depictions were exceptionally graphic. 


Glover created a video (which could also be categorized as a short film) that touches on gun violence, African American children and how they cope with trauma, institutionalized racism, as well as countless other themes.


If you haven’t seen it yet, it is well worth watching.


 Glover’s movements kept his audience engaged- even as some squirmed with discomfort.


In her article “Why the Dancing Makes 'This Is America' So Uncomfortable to Watch” Aida Amoako broke down how Glover managed to do this. 

            “John Martin suggested in his book Introduction to the Dance (1939) that when we watch others dance, ‘we shall cease to be mere spectators and become participants in the movement that is presented to us, and though to  all outward appearances we shall be sitting quietly in our chairs, we shall nevertheless be dancing synthetically with all our musculature.’ “


That was Glover’s trick- and it was genius.  Instead of being spectators, we were now engaging, maybe even mimicking his movements.  Glover knows the brain well. 


Again, from Amoako, “Decades later, inspired by ’90s research on so-called mirror neurons—cells discovered in the brains of monkeys that react equally when the body performs an action as when it sees the action performed—modern dance theorists such as Ivar Hagendoorn and Susan Leigh Foster applied the idea to humans. Kinesthetic empathy, critics like Foster have argued, is what makes dance feel so infectious—and what prompts the body, upon seeing another body dance, to internally simulate the movement.”


When an artist is talking about topics that people shy away from, that are typically uncomfortable and can be difficult to discuss, they must get creative on how they make their ideas heard.


When trying to tell the story of homelessness in California, I resorted to a lot of storytelling.  I knew the brain loves, even craves, stories.  From Carmine Gallo in Talk Like TED, Psychologists have found that stories use the whole brain and activate language, sensory, visual, and motor areas.  Additionally, research shows that personal stories actually cause the brains of the storyteller and listener to sync up.”  That’s why I decided to use storytelling as a major strategy throughout Not So Simple.


Jill Forman’s wrote about that in this week’s edition of The Breeze:

            But as local teacher Brian Galetto knows, it is “Not So Simple.” A multifaceted situation with multiple root causes and no easy answers calls  for careful thought and a big dose of empathy.  How to accomplish this?   “Everybody loves a story,” he says. Poetry is “…telling a story with rhythm.” He was teaching poetry and liked its conciseness, “…a way to get people to listen.”



In a world where our attention is constantly being divided, getting people to listen to our ideas is a challenge.  Using proven strategies to get people to listen, such as humor, creativity and uniqueness, shock factor, honesty and openness, as well as literary devices and fluctuating our verbal delivery can help us share our truth.

Because as Donald Glover just showed us with latest creation, THIS is the America we are now living in.



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