In a decade of more reboots, reshoots, and rewrites it’s easy to get annoyed with media. This has recently crossed my mind from the other side of it. I kind of like, or at least appreciate the sense of “reboot” that has been drowning our culture lately, and the anthopologist in me can’t help but be intrigued by what’s driving this.
Without any real test subjects (and a complete lack of re-upping my ESRA certifications) I decided to take a look at myself and what drives my want of some of these reboots, but also drill a little deeper into what I generally like about television and movie media anyway.
Of course, I’m typing this while watching the pilot episode of Smallville for the billionth time.
For me, the easiest way to start would be comic books. In this day and age, it’s easier to use comic books to examine this kind of phenomenon anyway, as comic book movies, tv, and literature are at a peak of getting retold and rehashed in a million different ways.
I mean, we’ve had a ton of Spiderman, Superman, Batman, and Iron Man in the last decade, the comic books have rebooted at least 3 times, and the tv shows have as well. Why?
When I examine myself, I need to first look at the creator. Why have I written fan-fictions would probably be a great place to start.
When I wrote my fan-fictions for Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Superman, and Doctor Who (and Firefly, and WoW, and I don’t even remember what else) I specifically was writing them because I wanted more stories. Only in the case of Star Wars did my fan-fictions aim to change the source material. In the case of every other story that I wrote, I was writing a new adventure so that I could continue my adventures with my favorite heroes. My stories are all born out of a want to continue the story. When a tale that I enjoy ends, I tend to want more. Either in the form of a sequel, a book, fan-fiction, a tv-show, or whatever else I can get. I would write Doctor Who fan-fictions in order to fill the more than a year gap between episodes. My Superman fan-fiction (an exciting work that asks how Superman would deal with an esoteric threat such as Cthulhu) was written during the hiatus between seasons of Smallville. I wrote my Firefly fan-fiction after watching the Serenity movie. My most recent fan-fiction was during the excitement over the release of the new Ghostbusters movie. In that case, people on Reddit were asking what direction the reader would have taken if they were going to reboot the Ghostbusters franchise.
To summarize, when I wanted more of a story, and I couldn’t find the story I wanted, I wrote them.
That leads me to my next drive: I love talking about my favorite fandoms with like-minded individuals. My love of Lovecraft’s work didn’t find it’s strength until I found more people to talk about it with. All of those CW Superhero shows (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl) are a blast because of their shared universe. I can talk to anyone who is watching any one of those shows because of the depth of which they crossover into each other’s worlds. The same happens with Cthulhu and Lovecraft. His world is shared (per his wishes) by hundreds of like-minded authors.
Want to see this mindset in action? Go to any ComicCon. You’ll see thousands of people bonding over their shared fandoms. Their shared worlds.
Flipping the script: Hunters love talking to other hunters about hunting. Travelers love talking to other travelers about the places they’ve been. And foodies love talking about their curly fries.
Everyone’s complaining right now about their favorite stories being rebooted in ways that they don’t like. The reason for that is that we all want our favorite stories to continue our way or the canon way. Canon is the stuff that’s done professionally by the original creators. Less people complain about sequels, for example, than they do about reboots. Reboots change the canon, but sequels are more stories in the universe that we already love.
Why do we want reboots but hate them? Because we want more stories in the universes we love but we don’t want the reboots to change anything. The production companies need to understand that we don’t want reboots, we want things to continue. Reboots fail, but I’ll bet that Blade Runner 2049 is going to be loved by more people than Ghostbusters and Batman V. Superman combined.
But Matt! What about the reboots that worked?
I googled “Reboots that were actually good” and a couple of lists came up, but those sounded very “up for interpretation.”
I think the point that I’m trying to make is that we stories are fun when they keep going, but no one wants to see those stories fundamentally changed.
I liked the Ghostbusters reboot, but I can see why people disliked it. They wanted to produce the story for the a modern audience, but the audience they should have considered were the lovers of the original. The lovers of the original (using only my own mental state as a research study) wanted to see the story that they were already vested in continue. They didn’t want to see someone’s awkward interpretation of a new one. And of course, you can’t mention the new Ghostbusters without mentioning female roles, woman-haters, and or man-babies. Unfortunately, I don’t think the problems with the movie had anything to do with a female cast. The problems with that movie were in the things that didn’t continue the 1984 story. The parts everyone loved (the tools, the car, the firehouse, Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the bust of Egon in Columbia University) were all ties to the original. The love of Holtzmann? Completely because of the magic of mixing Egon with Kate McKinnon. They even gave her the Real Ghostbusters cartoon Egon look, and people loved her. They didn’t love the other characters nearly as much because they had no connection with the original. Hell, nobody would admit it, but if they had made the roles more clearly specific to match the original guys, they would have gotten more love. Because people don’t want new, they want more of what they like.
Ghostbusters isn’t the only example. Batman V. Superman is another great example. I loved that movie, but had a lot of the same problems everyone else did too. The things that I loved, though? Everything that I loved about that movie could be directly tied to the Death of Superman and the Dark Knight comic books of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Superman after getting blasted by a nuke? Friggen sweet. Batman going toe-to-toe with Superman in a big armored suit? Damned awesome (minus the ‘Martha’ thing). I didn’t care that Jimmy Olsen was a girl named Jenny and that James Olsen was some CIA guy. James Olsen seemed shoehorned in, but Jenny Olsen actually fit, really well, and I loved it. The things that I didn’t like were only story-based. Like Batman’s stance against Superman seemed forced for a guy willing to be Judge and Jury. Also, he didn’t weigh the fact that the Kryptonians really didn’t give Supes a chance to change the battlefield.
On that same note, I loved (and I know others probably didn’t) Terminator Genisys. Holy crap, that movie was spectacular. It continued the story, but used the inherent nature of the time travel element to reboot the franchise, but without rebooting the franchise.
Prometheus? Same thing. They’ve just told more of the story, and for that reason, I loved it.
Give me more, not new, and I’ll probably end up loving it.
Anyway, where the hell did all of this come from? That’s easy. My dream is to create a world, like Lovecraft or any of the other examples I’ve listed here, that my fans share and create in. I love the CW shows and their ability to crossover. When I finish one, I can go to the next and get more of the world that I love. When I get all caught up on all of them, I can crack a comic book and get even more. Hell, I’ve read most of the Smallville novels that they used to sell (just to clarify, if all of my favorite fandoms could have book spinoffs, the world would be a much better place. In that vein, special thanks to Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Stargate for keeping the literary love going).
I write that knowing that I have a superhero story (Broken Nights) that I’m working on the sequel of. I write it knowing that I’m also creating other worlds (Andrew Doran, Bridge Over Paradiso, The Sons of Merlin) that maybe I’d like to discover other people have written some great fan-fictions for. Or knowing that there’s such a thing as Kindle Worlds, that lets creators play in professional worlds. That would be a lot of fun for me if Kindle Worlds had access to some of the more fun properties. Seriously, Superman should be Public Domain by now. Somebody look at that and get back to me. Or if you know any shows needed writers, give me a holler.
So, why do we keep getting reboots? Because we want more, the production companies know that and instead of struggling to give us the more we want, they decide to give us more in the form of new. We end up hating it. They don’t know what they did wrong. Then they go and change all the wrong things and reboot it again. We hate them more, and scream “Do it right!” They don’t understand.
This is a crazy long rant, but anyway, I just wanted to put my two-cents in regarding remakes and reboots. Of course, I also used it to beg for a writing job and to inform people that I’d love to find fan-fictions in the worlds that I’ve built.
Oh, and I want Kindle Worlds to get their hands on more properties. That’d be sweet.