Cultural Amnesia

We live in the day and age of the sequel, the remake, and most importantly, the reboot. It most be our American “can do” attitude that encourages people that if at first they don’t succeed, bring in another director, another screenwriter, and maybe some fresh faces and try, try again. Especially given the lucrative nature of the reboot, it’s actually not a bad plan. I mean, in terms of stifling creativity and the absence of original works, it’s a terrible idea, but on a very base “Hollywood is here to make money” kinda plan, it’s actually quite genius.

Why? Well, because the American public will swallow it either way. Some people are even naive enough to think that a reboot is indicative of the quality of the first project. When they hear “reboot”, they can’t help but think “oh great, they’re finally gonna tie down the story” or “maybe they’ll actually do the source material justice.” How do I know this? Because I’ll admit that I was one of those naive young folks that felt this way. This isn’t to say that all of Hollywood doesn’t care about quality or even the quality of reboots. I tend to avoid speaking in sweeping generalities, but the fact of the matter is, far too many care about making a quick buck.

But can we really blame this cultural shift of regurgitating pop culture artifacts on Hollywood as a whole? Sure, there are some people who watch the TV to screen adaptations in hopes of something new or something good, but there’s also an entirely separate wave of movie-watchers that must be accounted for. There are those who are completely unaware of the fact that the movie or TV show they are watching is, in fact, a remake or a reboot. They are completely unaware of the origins, or even if they are aware, their familiarity with the original is limited or even non-existent. A good example of this from my childhood would be when Charlie’s Angels got the big-screen treatment. I can only speak for myself when it comes to this example, but I was aware that the show had existed in the 70s, but will confess that, at the time of the movie’s release I had never seen an episode. Then again, I can assure you I’m not the only one from my generation who found themselves in a similar position. I know for a fact that there are even some who had no idea that it had been a TV show in the first place.

To me, this doesn’t just speak to Hollywood and the Television/Film industry. It speaks to our culture as a whole. We’re taught the dates and names of dead presidents, some facts that will never leave our minds, but ignoring social studies and the socio-political construct of our country, America has found itself with a rare type of amnesia; something I like to call “cultural amnesia.” While I’m not arguing for or against social studies, it seems odd to me that there’s no real equivalent when it comes to the world of pop culture. In fact, the only time television seems relevant to our nation’s history is in its invention and its exposure of national events i.e. the first televised presidential debate. Once again, I am not problematizing this, I am merely saying that our nation is without a unified or even acknowledged pop cultural history.

Not only does this seem somewhat unusual, but I would even argue that it is what has brought us here to this moment in the world of entertainment. Discussion of The Munsters being rebooted for television or even the alarming success of the recent A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot suggests that our dismissal of the films and TV shows “before our time” is once again, making producers fat. I’m not saying that exposure to the original The Munsters has the power to stop this reboot, but an acknowledgement or even understanding of America’s beginnings seems like one of the only ways to combat this stifling trend of remakes and reboots.

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2 thoughts on “Cultural Amnesia

  1. There are so many ideas, themes, and characters that have yet to be discovered. We rehash the same ideas because we know there’s already an audience for something like vampires, so it’s safer to make another vampire film or TV show than develop a new monster.

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