In this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to find something that is original. Everything, from books, to music, to television, to movies, to products, is a remix. Don’t believe me? Think of anything you like, anything in the world, and it can be traced back to something else that it stole from.
Hollywood is full of remixes. There are so many movies that are sequels or based off of something else; or both. The Avengers, Transformers, Harry Potter, Fight Club, The Social Network. Most movies are based off of books, comics, real events, or tv shows. But why stop there? Pirates of the Caribbean and Tomorrowland are based off of Disneyland rides. Amusement park rides! But even the movies that are not based off of anything share common themes. Avatar, one of the highest grossest movies of all time, is not original. There are so many elements in that movie that are cliches and taken from other movies. The hero starts out as a “villain” but realizes the error of his ways. The hero betrays his friends and has to redeem himself. There’s a big misunderstanding and the hero is shunned. An important sidekick dies. The hero dies and comes back to life. I mean come on. For how great and awesome that movie is, it’s really not that great and awesome. Oh, and since I mentioned it, any character that dies and comes back to life can be compared to Jesus.
A lot of controversy with originality has circled Harry Potter. Whether it being the originality of Harry Potter itself or others copying and riding the success of Harry Potter. Obviously, Harry Potter is going to share many themes with other properties in its category. You can’t say that wizards and magic is copying because they’re just common. But there is some pretty strong evidence to show that maybe Rowling lifted some ideas from other sources in media. And then some things that came after Harry Potter are just so laughably ripoffs.
But despite all of this, is all the stealing and remixing and borrowing really that bad? We seem to be in a world where everything that can be done has been done. And even if you try to do something new, chances are it will be compared to something else. But I believe that this should be embraced. Jim Jarmusch, a major player in independent cinema, once said, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” And I think that it’s a wonderful thing. People have even made a living off borrowing content. Weird Al purposely takes old songs and remixes them to be his own. And they’re really freaking awesome! The Scary Movie movies did a great job of parodying the genre and they made no attempts to hide it. It’s actually the purpose of it.
I think that we’re stuck in a world where everything that can be done has been done and originality is gone. We can only recycle old ideas. So the trick now is to be able to take something old and make it new again in a way that people haven’t seen before. So maybe that is the new originality.