I’m going to attempt to write this piece without using “in my day…”.
I grew up in the 80’s. I remember playing Gauntlet in the arcade, I had a Barbie and Jem and the Holograms sticker book. I collected Garbage Pail Kid cards, even though secretly they kind of grossed me out. I had a slap bracelet, which was just a thin strip of metal covered by funky material to make it seem safe. I played with my Atari back home and later on my Commodore 64 before we got a Nintendo. I even owned a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper at one point.
Back in the 80’s, our sense of nostalgia was over the 1950’s, with girls poodle skirts and guys with pompadours, evident in rockabilly music videos: think “Stray Cats” (which can be compared to this generation’s steampunk). The adults (who were part of the baby boom generation) were still reeling over American Graffiti, and with shows like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley on the air, the 80’s were more inclined to relive the Andy Griffin era via period pieces rather than straight out reboots of shows that graced the black and white boob tube.
We also hadn’t gotten over the 70’s with movies like The Warriors, Saturday Night Fever, Star Wars, Godfather, or Grease. Disco was at it’s final leg, with the closing of Studio 54 acting as the kicking, screaming, glitter and cocaine induced dancing queen, who stayed a little too long at the party.
30 years later, I feel like I’m in a time warp, and I ain’t talking Rocky Horror.
Star Wars is getting a prequel, Ghostbusters is currently filming it’s reboot, Goonies Remake, picked up by Chris Columbus, is in the works, and Creed, the next film in the Rocky series, is making it’s way to theaters this November. Mad Max, based on the late 70’s film, released another chapter several months back, Robocop and Annie were both given reboots and released last year to mixed reviews. On top of that, you have the Jem and the Holograms reboot coming out in October (which has almost nothing associated with the original story line), with the resurrection of X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Full House in production right now. If you think everything looks like a throwback, you’re absolutely right.
These days, it seems like the only time television and film make anything considered “new”, it’s actually from another media format. Some of the biggest blockbusters of this past decade have been associated with books (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, Game of Thrones), or video games (Resident Evil and Tomb Raider). Even television has become inundated with content from other genres, like comic books (The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow). The question now becomes:
Have we lost all sense of originality?
Music, with the debut of sampling, over two decades old itself, has flaunted it’s kinship openly, like a polyamorous relationship. It’s so pervasive in the genre that when you copyright a song, one of the questions they ask is if the song has elements associated with another song previously released.
In an age where fan fiction can become a multi-million dollar industry (Twilight-> 50 Shades of Grey), is there an actual need for originality?
I say “yes”.
However, with so much available content at our disposal, and a ready fan base, will it ever become more desirable for industry to create something new versus rehash the easy money grabs?
As long as the content stays true to it’s original fan base, you will always have buyer. Stray from that and incur the wrath of society (ie. The Last Airbender film).