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Reboot, Remake, Recycle:
Why You'll Always Let Hollywood "Rape" Your Childhood
By: Mickael
For years I've heard the impotent cries of film fans, pundits, and internet commenters: "Stop doing so many remakes!" they exclaim. "Hollywood is out of ideas," they lament. "My bowels are as solid as a concrete python," is something I assume about them. It seems that all the big movies these days are either an adaptation, a remake, a sequel, or a reboot. In fact, when you go to the theater this month to see the 13th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (all released within the last 8 years) you'll likely be sitting through 10 minutes of "sneak previews" before the movie starts, of which nearly all will fall into the "derivative work" category.

It's a fair criticism, then, that the market is saturated with stories that we've seen before, whether in the form of a comic book, novel, cartoon, or previous film. The thing is, there seems to a rather vocal minority doing all of the bitching. According to IMDb, the "ten most popular" films of 2016 feature only 2 wholly original works: Zootopia at number 7 and The Boss at number 8. In fact, when you look back at the last few years, it's difficult for any original stories to crack the Top 10. These aren't the most popular films by user rating or critics' reviews; these are the top films by box office gross. This matters the most. These are real people voting with real dollars. Any idiot can post a positive review online or cast a 10/10 on IMDb for a film which they've never even seen, but time and again the majority of movie-goers spend their valuable dollars and their even-more precious hours of leisure time sitting in theaters watching the familiar brought back to life.
If millions of people are returning to the theaters time and time again to see the adapted, reimagined, or continuing adventures of their favorite characters, can the remake frenzy really be considered an unpopular trend? Isn't the very concept of a trend being unpopular oxymoronic? The general consensus that big budget Hollywood films are formulaic or derivative is probably caused more by fatigue than actual dissatisfaction. It's easy to take the popular stance by publicly proclaiming that your sick and tired of "gritty reboots" and "sequel-mania", but at the end of the day you're just like the rest of us; rubbing your nipples in eager anticipation of the new Star Wars movies. Here are 4 reasons you shouldn't hide the obvious fact that reboots, remakes, and sequels are your guilty pleasure:
#4: Remakes Don't Kill Your Childhood, They Revive It!
As a child, no single property had a hold on me quite like G.I. Joe. From the toys to the comics to the weekly cartoon show, I was absolutely obsessed with the Real American Heroes. As far as brand addictions go, my childhood G.I. Joe fixation was like crack cocaine; expensive, highly addictive, and something I should have left in the 1980s. I not only based my friendships around who had the best Joe collection to complement my own, I also relentlessly hounded my poor mother with requests for the little plastic figures for every possible occasion: birthday presents, Christmas gifts, Easter baskets, fucking Earth Day... please? They have Eco Warriors, they're teaching me to be responsible! I had a G.I. Joe travel toothbrush. I had G.I. Joe battle paint for my face. I even used G.I. Joe sunblock because I knew the danger of UV rays; and knowing is half the battle.
Other than the ridiculously effective business model of using an action-packed Saturday morning cartoon as a 30-minute commercial for their toy line, I think I gravitated to the G.I. Joe property for personal, psychological reasons. My grandfather, who we call Papa, is a real-life hero and a man's man. Born in 1923 into a large family of immigrants, he broke his back while building a barn as a teenager. After that, despite being deemed "unfit for service" due to this injury, he coerced his way into the Marine corps where he served for 5 years in the Pacific Ocean Theater of WWII. After this, he was a New York City cop for 30 years. He then bought a farm in upstate New York, where he hunted game and raised horses. He is the strong, silent type that didn't much care for complaining and was slow to anger, but defensive of his daughters and family. He is a real life G-I-fucking-Joe. If my addiction was solely based on the marketing, then there were countless other popular brands using the same strategy at the time. I could have just as easily been a mark for Transformers, He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but they just never had the same effect on me. For me, it was G.I. Joe or nothing.
Decades later, as a relatively mature adult making my own way in the world, I still own many of those little G.I. Joes. For many nerds, clinging to a childhood fandom is a way to reclaim the simpler times in life; before their days were dominated with social responsibilities, 50-hour work weeks, and piles of bills. For me, the fascination with those 3 3/4" pieces of molded plastic feels like they help me form a deeper connection to my families' greatest generation. Considering all of this, when the first live action G.I. Joe movie was released in 2009, you would expect me to have an emotional reaction to the film's departure from its source material. Despite the poor character selection, some questionable casting choices, ridiculous compromises (they're an international covert ops team instead of Real American Heroes), and the annoyance of it being an "origin" film; I still enjoyed it just fine. You know why? Because the release of the movie revived both the original animated cartoon (in the form of an official complete series DVD set that had previously not been available) and the toy line itself, as Hasbro began releasing 3 3/4" versions of the movie characters. The relatively poor big budget adaptation actually sparked a G.I. Joe revival.
#3: Sometimes The Remake Surpasses The Original
Despite the internet film community's propensity for underestimating remakes or assuming that they lack originality, there are actually quite a few films that have defied this common wisdom. John Carpenter's The Thing from 1982 was a far superior version of The Thing From Another World, a 1951 Sci Fi film that itself was an adaptation of a novella. 30 years' worth of advances in special effects techniques turned a run-of-the-mill evil alien picture into a modern horror classic. The Thing got the "prequel" treatment in 2011, but at least this one had Mary Elizabeth Winstead so... instant classic.
All types of films can benefit from modernization. Another Howard Hawks-produced film, 1932's Scarface, was a fine black-and-white crime drama from the film noir era. But, 1983's complete re-imagining by Brian De Palma, starring Al Pacino, made for a contemporary classic that is actually rated higher than its source material by just about everybody. Am I saying that it's okay to reshoot a classic like Citizen Kane on a 4k print; starring Bradley Cooper as a news reporter who is trying to discover the meaning of "fleek", the last word uttered by a recently deceased Steve Jobs-ian new media tycoon? Yes. Yes I am.

There's also an assumption that all film adaptions of books will be inferior in every way. Again, there are plenty of examples this just isn't the case. Yes, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy had to omit some things here and there, but ultimately provided a very faithful and amazing version of Tolkien's story that surpassed all other attempts at translating his work. The Wizard Of Oz (1939) wasn't just an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's novel "The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz"; it was also the 8th attempt at bringing the story to film in that short time. People criticize the frustrating habit that Columbia Pictures has developed, where they bring us a new Spider-Man origin story every 5 years (spoiler alert: dude is bitten by a radioactive spider) but what if, after 40 years, they finally manage to bring us a Wizard of Oz-caliber, world-altering Spider-Man epic? THEN won't you feel as silly as Spidey fighting The Spot?!?! Nah, probly not.
#2: The Pizza Hut & Bad Sex Theory
The largest restaurant chain in the world is Subway. There are over 33,000 of those sandwich shops around the world, even though you literally can't think of a single person in your life that admits to liking their sloppy, soggy, practically meatless 11-inches-of-child-molesting awfulness. Subway is distasteful in more ways than a KKK bake sale. Meanwhile, the locally owned deli on the corner (you know, the one whose name you can't remember) just went out of business. That's the fifth shop to close in that location this decade.
Each city also has 48 privately owned pizzerias (I know because I've diligently read every phonebook for every town in America), and yet Pizza Hut is still the number one pizza chain in America. Believe it or not, it is 4 times more popular than even Papa John's. They say that pizza is like sex: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. So, even though you probably don't know anyone that will admit to craving a Pizza Hut pie over one that is handmade in a brick oven by a transplanted Bostonian named Sal, billions of people choose them every year. Thus, here we are: $13.3 billion to the Hut, while poor old Sal is kicked to the curb. He's probably forced to sell jars of his famous homemade sauce on the street for nickels. FOR MERE NICKELS. It's all your fault, because you're too chickenshit to try something unfamiliar. You could have had the greatest sex ever, and instead you stuck your dick into Papa John. How do you feel now?

The choices we make about which food to consume are absolutely tied to our overall satisfaction in life. Eat McDonald's and you KNOW you'll feel badly for about 15 minutes. Eat a beef tripe taco from an unknown taqueria and who knows? Maybe you'll be trapped in the bathroom for the next 6 hours, listening to your stomach mimic whale calls while you stare anxiously at your rapidly depleting toilet paper supply; nervously contemplating whether or not you should permanently defile a washcloth, a towel, or the shower curtain. It's this fear of the unknown that causes us to choose the McBoring option instead of staring down our fear and trying out a local place.
We do the same thing with our choices in entertainment. When we amble up to the box office window, our hard-earned dollars clutched in our fist, we survey the options in much the same way we assess restaurants. There's the romantic comedy (an intimate bistro), the action flick (a blue collar bar), an indie picture (some new hipster hangout with gluten-free everything), and a serious historical drama (the hoity toity formal dining establishment with 4 "$" on Yelp). So, what do you choose? You simply ignore all of the niche options, of course! There is always the Hollywood blockbuster. It's the Chili's of film genres. Nothing about this meal will be particularly memorable, and that's just the way you like it. There's plenty of action, a little love story, a sprinkling of comedy thrown in there for good measure, and most of the time nobody ends up blowing their guts all over the table. It's a reasonable, safe choice made daily by the weak-willed, spineless moviegoers that are afraid of challenging themselves. This is why there were 5 Twilight movies, and they all made a profit.
#1: Your Memories Are Safe
The second most annoying thing about the phrase, "thanks for raping my childhood" as a criticism of the remake trend is that it implies that your memories are in jeopardy. That the years of joy a particular movie or cartoon brought you during your childhood is somehow erased by a franchise's reappearance is ludicrous. As though the film maker has gotten into a modified DeLorean DMC-12 and created an alternate timeline where Batman's suit always had nipples, or where Indiana Jones constantly fought big-headed aliens. The thing is, as an adult, you have the restraint to avoid anything that smells fishy. You aren't naive anymore. Film makers aren't robbing you of your innocence at 34 years old; they're simply making something in a way that you disagree with. Wanna change it? Vote with your dollars by avoiding the theater. Your fond childhood memories are safe, I promise!
Throughout my childhood, there were few fictional heroes that measured up to my Papa and his reputation. His exploits were the stuff of legend, with seemingly everyone in the family attesting to the strength, generosity, or intimidation my grandfather exuded. Called "Iron Mike" by his fellow NYPD officers, he had the respect of nearly everyone who knew him. In the mid-1960s, Iron Mike narrowly escaped death when a suspect's revolver, which was pressed firmly to my grandfather's neck, miraculously misfired, allowing him enough time to disarm the perpetrator and take him in to custody. He has continued to ignore death's call to this day. He's now a 93-year-old man, having outlived every one of the siblings, soldiers, and officers that he once stood shoulder-to-broad-shoulder alongside. He also outlived his partner of more than 50 years: his wife, Gladys. As a child, I idolized him; as a man, I now pity his loneliness.

He wanders his 3-bedroom home, a withering husk of the larger-than-life man that I used to look up to. I am perpetually pestered by my mother to spend more time with Papa, because we never know how much of it he has left. For the last 15 years, she's insisted that I attend every Christmas dinner, because it could be his last. That I have to make time for each birthday, because he may not have another one in him. That each Easter, each Thanksgiving, each New Year's Day is more precious than the last; because any given mark on the calendar, she warns, could be the final opportunity to see my grandfather. Whenever possible, I ignore her pleas and make excuses for my absence.
When I was growing up, my grandfather had superpowers. The world's strongest grip, the ability to build or repair anything, and a mastery over man and beast alike; all belied by the kindest eyes and gentlest nature of any person on earth. Now, I see those same kind eyes drooping shut as he falls asleep in his chair every 10 minutes. He vaguely recognizes me when I enter a room, but I know his formerly steel trap memory is failing him. I choose to believe that he simply has too many names, faces, and experiences in his brain to recall any one at will. His mental library is so overstuffed that it has outgrown its Dewey-Decimel System. The truth of it is... I don't want to remember my grandfather this way. I want to remember the version of him that existed in the 80s. The one I grew up with. So, I go to great lengths to avoid replacing those fond memories with these sad ones.

This is no way to live, though. There's room enough in my brain to retain the happiest memories AND still include brief glimpses of this fading legend as a post-script to his story. I should consider his current state as his "happily ever after". So, too, should we disassociate the source material for a film from its reboot, remake, or adaptation. Each film is a work of art all its own; yes, many are inspired by, based on, or adapted from some other concept... but they still should stand as an independent work. New versions of old ideas are simply a part of the maturation process. My grandfather's physical degeneration is in no way a "raping of my childhood memories", which brings me to the most annoying thing about that phrase: the misuse of the term rape. Anyone who conflates a 30-second teaser trailer which implies that the Ninja Turtles may be aliens instead of mutants with a violent, forced, and unwanted sexual penetration deserves to be slowly, yet brutally, raped in every orifice by giant turtle dongs.
So, What's My Fucking Point?
Sequels and remakes aren't really all that bad, when you think about it. Michael Jackson was just a reboot of Elvis Presley. John Cena is a remake of Hulk Hogan. For better or worse, we're all constantly building our art, our careers, and even our identities atop the graves of the Titans who have fallen before us. Revisiting previously told tales allows us the opportunity to fix the orginals' flaws, to share the greatest aspects of our past with new generations, or provide ourselves with the ability to travel back to our own childhoods. It may be difficult for you to see the thing you once loved become altered by the years into a nearly unrecognizeable form. But progress, like time, marches on with or without your permission. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go have lunch with my grandfather. I am, after all, just a remake of him.
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