josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | june 2016
It seems there is nothing original left out there. Nothing.
I was looking at the TV lineup for the coming season and there are nine shows based on movies, eight that are straight-up rip-offs of movies and three that are reboots of old TV series. That does not even count all of the adaptations from the likes of Marvel and DC Comics, or the TV series based on books, or the cartoons based on old movies. Seriously there is nothing new on television next season. NOTHING.
Movies are not faring any better. In 2014, of the top 50 films released, 36 were sequels, adaptations of video games, comic books or novels, based on a TV series or based on something that really happened or on a legend of some sort. 2015 ratcheted that ratio up a bit and 2016 is looking to be the same. None of this factors in the straight-up rip-offs either. How many films did you watch last year that were not in one of those camps?
Why is it so damn hard to do something new? I get it, it's risky, but none of these pedestrian derivatives would be able to be derived if someone had not originally taken a chance on something.
Now, I know that old adage about how there are only 10 stories and everything else is derived from those but I call bullsh*t on that. The creative community is overflowing with unique ideas that no one wants to listen to. Do you know how you HAVE to pitch a movie in Hollywood today?
"What's it like?"
"See, it's like Captain America with a touch of Mad Max but with the heart of Fault in Our Stars."
"What's it like" really means "What else can we market this as that the public will already know so we can put forth the least amount of effort for the most amount of gain?" You should not have to pitch something by using other things as a basis. A good idea should be caressed not slapped.
Does everything have to be a retread of what has come before? Has the never-ending stream of remakes/reimaginings/reboots deadened us to the very notion of something that has not been done before? Why is this so damn scary? Are we so bereft of the candor, honesty and pride that emerge due to achievement that we simply stopped caring?
Quoting Michael Eisner (then CEO of Disney) “We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” And how do you make money? By playing it safe. Original is not safe, original means taking a chance and when money is involved, chances are not taken.
This is the kind of cinematic environment that creates revolutions. In the 1970s when the New Hollywood movement started, it was due to the consumer being so sick of the safe and the same that they stopped indulging. New Hollywood CHANGED the system. The films that came out of the New Hollywood scene were movies of startling uniqueness, which undermined the very core of what "Hollywood" was.
Television had one as well. In the early '80s, TV was stagnating and the audience was tuning out in droves until the First Run Syndication movement was born which, just like with New Hollywood, changed EVERYTHING. Television programs that no network would ever have approved were now getting out there and dominating their big network parents.
These unoriginal projects are made out of fear and out of cynicism and when you make something out of fear it smells wrong from the start and when something comes from a place of cynicism it is corrupt by definition. That is the state we are in right now and one that SHOULD be dreaded not indulged.
The people (as a rule) do indeed want the familiar and hate to be challenged but they NEED to be and so do the industries of film and television. Right now movies are in danger of hitting that malaise that sparked New Hollywood and it may need another kick in the ass to right the ship and that kick needs to come soon and it needs to come from us. If something is a remake, a reboot, a sequel or based on a book ... simply don't go see it. If that TV show is based on an old TV show just turn it off. You have the power here. Exercise it.
A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.