by Santa Shaara
The topic is reruns a la Hollywood.
|This is for:
Prompt:Write an expository essay about the frequent appearance of sequels and remakes at the box office.
The same old. Batman strikes again and again and again. Spiderman gets sexier, but otherwise, never defeats anyone fatally. The sagas continue, unchanging, unchangeable.
Sequels, the new method for being “original,” or as in my favorite line from Finian’s Rainbow, “Back to the Status Quo,” seem to be Hollywood’s #1 idea. Repeat, replay. It works, so why fix it?
Yes, I know that West Side Story is a remake of Romeo and Juliet. I know that Twilight’s author, Stephanie Myers, claims the same about her Vampire books, but enough. Let’s move on a bit. Let’s journey into the future, let’s bravely go where no man/person has been before . . .
Whoops. Okay, so I cheated there a bit.
I do realize all stories are a format: lovers meet, lovers kiss, lovers engage in a spat, miscommunication entangles the whole, and then it all gets ironed out.
Or, if not a movie of the romance genre, the aliens come, they conquer, we defeat them, despite all odds, despite the fact that we’re weak and not as smart, and plainly less worthy as a species; but in the end because of our courage or tenacity or luck, we win.
Change aliens to any army/nation/kingdom and fill in the salient detail like which spells and potions are used or fancy electronics and robotic weaponry – same thing. Repetitive.
So why does it work? Why do we want to watch the same thing movie after movie, T. V. program after T. V. program?
Duh, it’s the characters!
We are all voyeurs, peeking into bedroom windows, hoping to watch how people argue and make love, what laundry detergent they use, how they like to organize their lives, how they get by day after day. We NEED to see how people think -- their interactions, their solutions to problems, and their methods for dealing with trivialities and catastrophes. They become the grasslands where we forage. We chew and mull and emulate.
We yearn to soak up WISDOM – even if it’s only embedded in the babble of well-rehearsed lines. We prefer such baby food, already masticated and simplistic.
Besides, everyone knows there’s really nothing new out there -- nothing since Beowulf, the epic poem (13th century?) that told of a terrible monster, Grendel, who wrecked havoc in the kingdom. And, don't forget, Chaucer who roamed the Middle Ages telling saucy, raunchy soap operas in his Canterbury Tales.
Oh, sure, Hollywood has added a bit of Disney-like space exploration, futuristic time travel, and alternate realities while throwing in a bit of strangeness – sexual depravities, kinky lifestyles, and racial differences (although, come to think of it those can be found in Beowulf – Grendel was an entirely different race.)
But, again, we’re back to nothing new. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
This past week I served my jury duty, which mostly meant I sat and tried to read my book as I people-watched. The young man sitting next to me drew most of my attention. Just out of high school, nerd-like, and plump, he sat in his chair introverted from everyone around him. He played a fantasy card game by himself, spending hours mumbling as he examined, dissected, and sorted cards full of sorcerers, witches, castles, and dragons.
Women close to his age sat all around. (Men, too, had he an interest in that gender,) but this fellow hardly looked up. He was attuned only to his cards.
Did he like reruns of super-heroes that crept, flew, or zoomed about in bat mobiles? I didn’t ask him, although I did engage him in conversation several times, curious, as always, as to what makes other people tick.
But the crux of the matter is that for me, that self-ostracized youth, was mesmerizing. He is the one who keeps reruns alive. Not because he goes to the movies regularly or buys DVD’s in stacks, but because he was such an interesting character, the kind that spouts a Harry Potter and The Woman with a Dragon Tattoo.
We are all intrigued with odd balls – the more unique, the better: House, where the brilliant doctor has a drug problem, Monk, where an obsessive-compulsive personality becomes addictively likeable, or any Steven King movie -- they all practically turn a character unto his belly, whimpering for us to notice the zaniness, the weirdness until we viewers get trapped inside it, so enthralled we cannot look away.
Sure, I wish the vehicle that drove movies and T.V. could change its wheels and colors a bit, but it’s the characters that pilot them, the ones so fascinating we’ll watch the same old carriage over and over.
For the truth is that Hollywood can change the captains, casts, setting, narrators, and genre over and over again, even if it’s still frozen in a recycling of what has already been seen before, just as long as we’re given interesting characters who open their stomachs and reveal the contents of their lives. Thus, we remain spellbound.