How the Anthropomorphic Storytelling of ‘Planet Earth’ Lets Humans Feel Empathy for the Animals

Debra Minoff and Susannah McCullough of the television and film analysis site ScreenPrism posited a very interesting question regarding the Planet Earth series of videos narrated by Sir David Attenborough, particularly why it has continually ranked higher than popular scripted shows such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad ? In answer to their own question, they explain that the universality of animal stories from childhood, combined with the poetic license of anthropomorphic storytelling, the attribution of both good and bad human qualities and immediate stories of good versus evil, allow humans watching feel a true sense of empathy for creatures in whom they see themselves.

The number one reason we love stories is this: we feel empathy for the characters. Empathy is distinct from sympathy. It doesn’t mean liking the characters necessarily it means seeing parts of ourselves in them, recognizing our shared humanity. So how do you make us recognize our humanity in animals? Planet Earth achieves this through anthropomorphic storytelling. The animals on screen are accessorized with human-like sentiments and thoughts.