In my position as a social sciences major, I have had many opportunities to witness dumb ideas argued intelligently; cases where the stupidest premises imaginable were made to sound respectable and even plausible by academics who were in the habit of injecting cool rhetoric or intellectual claptrap into weak ideas. If nothing else, it demonstrated to me that there are apologists and defenders who invest way more thought into their arguments than other people do into their work.
One case involved a Humanities Major (I assume) arguing that Brittany Spears song “I’m Not A Girl (Not Yet A Woman)” was a possible indication that the then starlet was a closet post-modernist Hegelian philosopher. Another had to do with the hidden genius behind George W. Bush’s many uses of inventive wordplay. And both were patently brilliant in the way they tried to make the completely mundane and painfully stupid sound smart. I tell ya, you have never heard so many smart argument employed in the defence of such stupid subject matter!
But this article really took the cake for me. Entitled “Why Remakes Are One of Our Greatest Achievements as a Civilization”, this article asserts that there is a connection between the many, many Hollywood relaunches of late and some of our most venerated cultural traditions as a species. And here too, I had to doff my cap the writer. Never have I heard so much thought dedicated to pure thoughtlessness, so much intellectual rhetoric employed in the defence of something so undeserving.
First, the author asserts that remakes are really a sublimated form of folk tales, resembling how cultures in ancient times would tell the same basic stories across vast stretches of space and time. Second, they deconstruct originality by claiming it is a largely 20th century construct that was invented by Modernists hoping to make a break with the past. The conclusion? That originality is a myth and that retelling the same story is a sign of organic creativity… I guess.
Ignoring the fact that we are talking about Hollywood remakes for just a second, I noticed two fatal flaws in this argument. One, Hollywood remakes are deliberate attempts to capitalize on old ideas by simply updating them with the latest in special effects, or by simply redoing an old idea which was shown to have worked in the hopes that it will again. Only in the most farfetched ways does that resemble the organic process of how stories spread across time and space, evolving in terms of detail but remaining similar in theme.
Second, originality may have been a Modernists obsession, but it’s hardly a recent invention. In fact, writers of all ages have lamented the lack of originality in their own generation and wishing they had lived in earlier times, when writers of great renown established reputations by being the ones who left an indelible mark on their cultures literary traditions. Ancient Greece’s own Aeschylus said his tragedies were “composed of the crumbs from Homer’s table”. Shakespeare’s own works acknowledge a huge debt to Christopher Marlowe, the man who invented blank verse Iambic Pentameter and inspired many of The Bard’s own stories.
Granted, nobody is 100 % original in any time, but to say it’s a myth is both cynical and a rhetorical dead end. And that fact that I’ve even invested this amount of thought into this argument makes me think that the authors of this and other such articles have pulled one over on me. But really, I just have to wonder… are there really people out there, so educated yet so bored, that they have to employ their argumentative and rhetorical skills to subject matter such as this. Have they nothing better to do?
In any case, here is the article. Note the comment, by me (houseofwilliams) in the comment section. I did my best to argue my previous thoughts in as succinct a form as possible. Feel free to leave your own thoughts, or do the mature thing (which I could not), and not not dignify such arguments with a response. And believe me when I say that I will be commenting on the summer or reboots and remakes shortly, and not in a particularly kind way 😉