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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts about the Demise of Originality in Entertainment--Thank Marvel Comics for Sparking This

Okay, apparently I am finding things to rant about lately more so than usual. I'm typically a very laid back, I-don't-get-my-knickers-in-a-twist kind of person, but occasionally I need to point out a few things.

Recently, Marvel announced that someone new was going to be wielding Thor’s hammer in the comics. In a nutshell, the new “Thor” is going to be a woman. Here's an article about it:

As much as I always want to see new superheroines in the comic book market, this touched a nerve for me. First, if Marvel wanted to have a new female superhero that is like Thor, why not use one of the Norse goddesses to create a new, interesting focal character for the Marvel Universe rather than just lazily taking an already established franchise and slapping a different gender onto it? Heck, the Thor comics and movies established that the goddess Sif is as strong, stubborn, and skillful in combat as Thor, and she has personality to boot. And Thor himself would still tie in to the story; so why not just make Sif her own superheroine? Or they could create a completely new superheroine from any of the dozens of other Norse goddesses: Freyja (goddess of battle, also a character in the Marvel universe), Hlin (goddess of protection), Vor (goddess of wisdom)…there’s plenty to choose from if you want a “Thor-like” superheroine who isn’t actually assuming the role of Thor.

But I’m getting off track. What got me irked isn’t some feminist agenda—this isn’t the first time Marvel or DC have taken established male superheroes and passed along the role to a new female counterpart—it’s that rather than taking the effort to create an original superheroine, they instead ripped the packaging off another character and slapped it on a woman in order to appeal to the cosplay audience (apparently, it’s popular for women at sci-fi conventions to cosplay as their own version of Thor). Hey, Thor’s popular, so that instantly guarantees the female Thor will be too, right?

Which segues into my broader question: why has the entertainment industry become so cowardly?

I apply this to almost every facet of the entertainment industry. Every movie nowadays is based on either a pre-existing franchise—whether it’s a book series, television show, a movie reboot, or it plagiarizes a previous movie so grossly you can barely call it its own idea—I can’t think of the last time a (GOOD) original screenplay came to theaters. Looking at what is currently in movie theaters, the few movies that look like original screenplays have gotten such atrocious ratings and poor audience turnout that it shows that Hollywood isn’t even trying with originality anymore.

There are still hundreds of great stories out there to be turned into excellent, one-of-a-kind films. Why is the entertainment industry picking the absolute worst ones to put on screen? It’s almost like they want audience to think that originality is dead, and good material can only be harvested from what came decades before.

Television shows sometimes produce some good original programming, but it’s few and far between as well. And sadly, the book publishing industry suffers from this cowardice too. How many “Hunger Games,” “Twlight,” “Harry Potter” and “Divergent” rip-offs have there been since the boom of these books’ popularity? Why aren’t bigger strides being made to find the next great never-before-seen storyline?

So Entertainment Industry: Stop. Being. Lazy.

Take risks. I know it’s just business—you want to make money and you know what audiences respond to. But you’re also not giving them much to choose from. You’re giving us rehashes of the same thing so of course we’re going to go see them because everything else you’re throwing at us is half-baked.

None of those pre-existing franchises would even be here if their creators hadn’t pursued their own visions—not what numbers and ratings dictated—and brought them into existence. If you put as much time and dedication into originality as you do into some of these “based-on” franchises, you could produce some truly era-defining work.

How will people fifty years from now remember our time? What memorable movie, book, or media will be what symbolizes our social, emotional, and personal outlook on life? (Dear God, do not have Twilight or Shades of Gray be the only phenomenons that “represent” the early 2000s)

Create. Discover. Defy the odds. And give original characters a chance rather than making them doppelgangers of already well known characters. Who knows, you might just create a brand new icon for a generation who can be truly super.

Thank you.