It seems like every years is the year of remakes and reboots. Jurassic Park and Mad Max being the newest franchises to be hit with reboots with rumors of and Indian Jones reboot coming. The Internet is full of mashups of every kind. I know some people find our cultures seemingly insesent need to revisit past story lines and characters annoying and a sign of creative death but I just can’t see it that way. Mainly because it’s something we’ve always done as storytellers.
Even Shakespeare was a ripoff. To bitch that The Hunger Games is a knockoff Battle Royal or get all high and mighty about their love of La Boheim over Rent I want to remind them that I liked Romeo and Juliet better when it was Pyramus and Thisbe.
Being a writer is all about playing with other people’s thoughts. They need to make you think and feel a certain way to make a greater point, even if that point is just to have fun. Having a shared culture means that as a creator you know that certain characters or plot lines elicit a shared understanding of meaning and tropes, which are great tools for us to build on. I can play with your expectations because I know exactly what they are. Some writers do it poorly ofcourse but that’s like damning singing cause not everyone rocks at karaoke. Not every story is good period. It is a common insult thrown at romance novels because people don’t understand that the bones of plot the meet cute, the emotional conflict, the happily ever after aren’t important it’s all about the details, the fine muscles. What we love about romance novels is the creativity it takes to tell an incredibly common story in a new way.
Familiarity with plot or characters isn’t what makes a story bad, poor writing makes it bad. Personally I find something lovely in mashups and reboots especially fan made ones because it feels very interconnected. A nod to all our common likes. So when someone posts a fan art mashup of Adventure Time as Mad Max Fury Road it makes me reflect on the grittier side of the Adventure Time narrative and the cartoonish aspects of the violence in Mad Max. It’s a fun thought experiment. It causes us to think more critically about our media because we learn to compare and contrast between tales. The first three Films in Star Wars changes how the last three films are perceived. Hindsight changes the present view. But as viewers we can choose how to approach these stories, what details to make significant or not.
We even have a cultural equivalent to a magic creative eraser in the form of retains. Seen most often in the comic world a retcon is when a story is written that cancels out action in a previous story. The writers fix it and from then on a different story can be told. This is maybe one of the things I love about comics. We see here’s grow and change over and over but always retiring at their heart to the thing that’s brought us to them in the first place. No matter what Batman does he will remain a man devoted to justice and we can tell that story a thousand different ways.
Good story telling is a bit like Mindcraft world building, you all have the same tools the point is to build something new.