September 18, 2018

Everything old is new again

Last night, I had two conversations with two different people about essentially the same thing: the insane amount of rebooting movies and extending franchises.


Now wait because this isn’t a “in my day we ate freezing cold gravel, working 29 hours a day and getting up a half hour before we had to go to bed” thing.

What I am talking about is the exponential decline of original stories.

Look at Star Wars. A franchise I love so hard but it’s being beaten to death. After Solo, what’s next: a movie about the Cantina band musicians? Or maybe what really happened to TK 421 before he wasn’t at his post?

I just saw the trailer for the new Mary Poppins movie.

Yup, Disney is on a roll.

It looks well put together. Though I feel for anyone stepping into Julie Andrews’ shoes.

But it looks almost exactly like the original with nods to everything we’d expect in Mary Poppins.

I love the hell out of rebooting properties when it’s done right. Case in point: Battlestar Galactica rebooted in a way that was intense, gripping and pushed the franchise to a whole different level.

They flipped genders on Starbuck. Changed some back stories. Added so much sizzle I remember dying when there was a 6 month wait for new episodes.

But what I’m seeing now in so many franchises is a replay. Let’s hit the same notes (hello Mary Poppins with the chimneys, the Cockney, the animated song and dance, and a father who has forgotten how to have fun). Let’s just revisit the world with some of the details changed.

Oh it’s safe. It’s comfortable.

And yes, it’s even easy money for the studios. Audience built right in.

But do you know what else it does?

It destroys us culturally.

I love fan fiction so much. I’m always in the middle reading at least ten stories. I must read at least fifty thousand words a week easily.

And do you know why I love it?

Because it’s easy.

I don’t have to work to imagine the universe. I don’t have to get to know the characters. I don’t have to do anything but get comfy for a quickie or a slow burn, hanging out with characters I love or love to hate.

I didn’t know it, but back when X files was my fan fic poison of choice, and I think the largest fan fic property online at the time, I was digging my own grave as a reader.

Hell, maybe it started with all the Star Trek books I used to buy, read and horde.

But no matter where it started, whether I’m reading it or writing it, I am stagnating. We all are. I’m not reaching for novels or new stories, I am eyeball deep in AO3.

Yes it takes effort to get to know new characters. Yes, new worlds can be uncomfortable. But are we so desperate for comfort that we put up with the crap just to be lazy and feel good?

I am looking at you, Prometheus and Alien Covenant.

Oy, indeed.

I know I’m not alone in this concern about remaking everything but I don’t care about it from the financial aspect; I’m completely concerned for our cultural futures. When all we prefer to consume are reboots, expanded universes and mashups, we lose on the new stories and ideas and so much more that could be available to us.

I’m saying we all need to do the work. To write the new things. To read or consume the new things. To support the risks creators are taking by spending our time and money on the new things.

So we can have more intense, exciting and mind blowing properties like Stranger Things, and less stuff like Star Wars episode 53: the past life of Luke Skywalker’s Land Speeder.

And I know this is an interesting take from someone who creates transformative works, but damn I want to see where we can go with our stories not where we’ve been already.

Or I will… once I finish reading this story on AO3.