Living In The Era of Reboots And Unoriginality

This is a collaboration with Mario Castelli and Francesca DiPisa.

Film and television have always been one of the creative mediums that everyone seems to immensely enjoy time and time again. They pose as the backdrop for hangouts with friends, a source of happiness when real life seems to be overwhelming, homework for when award season comes around and an inspiration for careers that people are still trying to figure out as they go along.

So you can tell that movies and television do mean a lot to some people, including myself. And since we are living in a dubbed "reboots and remakes" era now, you can say I am pretty passionate about this subject in particular.

We are now in a phase of film and television where a lot of beloved properties— from children's shows to popular franchises— are either getting rebooted (where the same ideas are recycled and created essentially for a new generation and/or audience to enjoy and characters are played by different actors) or gain a secondary chapter to their stories (like a sequel, if you will, with new characters to love and old favorites returning to move the story along).

Disney has become the heavy hitters at doing this, what with releasing a slew of their classic films in a "live-action" setting where audiences can see the animation literally come to life and experience the magic in a different way. Incorporating actors and legit Computer Graphic Imaging (CGI) work make the magic real. The Disney Channel has even revisited their hit television shows by providing "sequels" to them, where the main characters are all grown up and have kids of their own, such as Raven's Home building upon That's So Raven and Girl Meets World adding layers to Cory and Topanga's love story within Boy Meets World. Even while revising this article, Disney has announced more remakes of their hit films Home Alone and Cheaper by the Dozen for their streaming service that debuts in November of this year.

It's not only Disney that participates heavily in this trend, but superhero properties, as well, are notoriously known for revisiting fan-favorite characters. The X-Men were the first superheroes to have a successful and seriously fun superhero trilogy to start the ever-growing trend of the superhero genre in today's film world; they even went on to have their own prequel trilogy a decade after the original film's release. Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) has had three incarnations in the span of 15 years, not to mention that Batman himself has had his fair share of distinct versions across various films over the years.

Besides longtime television shows and movie franchises that take up our screens almost every year (such as the MCU films and Fast and Furious, or Law & Order: SVU and Grey's Anatomy), the list keeps on growing for reboots and remakes. In television, different titles like Full House, All That and Jersey Shore are amongst the few to receive this treatment. In film, franchises such as Terminator, Ghostbusters and Charlie's Angels have also revisited the big screen. I think you get the idea by now.

There is this huge trend for big properties and beloved stories to be revisited and seen by the masses in today's world, but this trend does seem it isn't dying out anytime soon. It can honestly be worrisome that we are all living in a time where creativity isn't all that present in a creative industry anymore (yeah, read that a few times over). It has become "the new norm" to see reports on a beloved television show or Disney classic getting their own shot at a reboot; and while it does excite the inner child in most of us and makes us want to see said property anyways, there is no anticipating newness to it in retrospect.

Taking a step back and looking at society under a microscope, it's clear that there are many changes evolving from the ancient world that once took hold. In these modern times, equality has many flavors, and it's no longer a taboo to picture how men and women are more alike than originally thought— progress! What has remained the same was the concept of conformity, rather the tendency to adjust our perspectives into a pliable direction of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors with those around us. A strong force that might seem peachy as we flow with instinctual behavior; yet, the attention lacks in the conception of any obvious social pressure or subtler, unconscious influence. For starters, the notion of Informational Social Influence or the change in personal judgments or any behavior that is the direct result of accepting individuals and the information they spit out as accurate. This is usually the final stage of comparing ourselves, socially, to weigh in on the accuracy of particular interactions. (Festinger, Schachter, & Back, 1950; Hardin & Higgins, 1996; Turner, 1991).

According to (Cialdini, Reno, & Kallgren, 1990), having the tendency to follow the behavior of others, and more often than not, entirely out of our awareness is an example of Spontaneous Conformity. This explains a bit as to why the renaissance of popular films of the early 1990s to the present day are following a mold of replication for the younger crowd and hopefully adding additional layers for the seasoned viewers to enjoy. For example, take the original Pokémon series that has aired in 1997— the popularity of animal-like creatures that coexist with human beings and possess mythical abilities categorized into "types" has grown. As the series nears its 30th season, the many reboots have evolved (pun intended) from the companions that accompany people's journey across the globe, to the glorified superheroes that save the very balance of the universe. Moreover, another direction might be in regard to impressing others, and we do so without ourselves in mind; instead, we yearn to satisfy our primal need for acceptance (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955).

This falls into the realm of Normative Social Influence, which is the expression of our beliefs or behavior that seeks acceptance from our peers. Naturally, when we engage in compliant behavior in the result of our society and its contexts we are molding to a "norm," whether we agree with it or not (Cialdini, 1993; Sherif, 1936; Sumner, 1906). This sort of influence outlines the power that sociability has over us. Rather than accepting our opinion and risk possible rejection, we simmer in an egotistical change of thought. Conformity might develop within public behavior even if there is a belief of a different way of thinking compared to what we think of in private. Moreover, human behaviors initially performed out of a desire to be accepted (normative social influence) usually produces shifts in beliefs to match them, resulting in private acceptance.

Subsequently, when the media publishes another reboot, others are likely doing it (normative conformity). The "monkey see, monkey do" phenomenon allows for a distinction that perhaps is the correct course to travel (informational conformity). As a result, the reboot trend is here to stay for a while for copying the behavior of other successful movies while also granting the same validity from the consumer. The audience's eyes call the shots and it's safe to assume they know what sells. (Turner, 1991).

To be blunt, Fuller House can seem quite tiresome because we have all seen eight seasons of a big family going through various situations together and learning from them, not to mention with some of the same characters as before just in reversed roles. With The Lion King in theatres now, any Disney fan can become bored easily because as exciting as it is to hear an amazing voice cast and see the realistic computer graphic imaging (CGI) work, the story is well-known because these same people have watched the animated version a thousand times before.

On the other side of the coin, it does make sense for studios to invest in these kinds of projects because the numbers prove that a remake like Aladdin or a comeback like Will & Grace are quite successful and in turn carries the potential in making a great deal of capital. They are unofficially guaranteed success because they've seen it happen before, they know audiences love the property and there is almost no risk factor since they aren't taking a chance on an authentic idea.

But that's the thing— this industry is all about putting new stories out there and this new trend is preventing that. Not only is there a lack of creativity, but this does keep new talent and creators from being heard or seen because the creators who have already had their shot at the experience the first time are getting a second chance to do essentially the same thing over and over again. It's great for anyone to get work, but what happens when the up and coming workers who are dreaming of achieving the same kind of success for their own careers are overshadowed by the past?

It's way too soon for a renaissance of these famous 1990's-2000's films and shows, and the new generations of today need original stories of their own to be able to look back on in nostalgia the same way everyone else does today. While these properties pose as a financial and well-receptive safety net for casts, crews, and studios, they cannot be afraid to take the leap into the deep end more often from this point going forward; because how did they think these beloved properties came to be in the first place?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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