Enough With the Goddamn Remakes — May 26, 2017

Enough With the Goddamn Remakes

Photo cred: Yahoo (ABC)

In the last decade or so, the silver and small screens alike have been saturated with remakes. From beloved sitcoms like Fuller House to remakes of remakes like the upcoming Mummy film, Hollywood studios can’t seem to get enough of updating already adored shows, films, and franchises.

And I’m sick of it.

I get it. I really do. Showrunners and directors are capitalizing on my generation’s (yes, those Millennials adults on the internet seem to hate so much) collective nostalgic personality. Eighties and nineties babies grew up in a time of rapid technological and cultural growth; many of us remember growing up with VCRs and flip phones and graduated to DVD players and smartphones as teens. We groan at our ’90s and ’00s fashion tastes compared to our current ones and reminisce about summers playing outside until sunset with our friends before we could spend hours inside waiting for our YouTube videos to buffer. And of course, we remember fondly all of the shows and movies we watched growing up, even if some of those gems predated our birth (gotta love cable TV reruns).

I will preface my critique of remakes with an acknowledgment that there are exceptions to the cursed remake trend: any remake of a Marvel or DC film (now with the juggernaut studios that each respective enterprise has) is generally good and acceptable, and long-awaited sequels like Star Wars or Jurassic World can be enjoyable precisely because they are fresh continuations of dated treasures. (Also Ghostbusters was not that bad, just throwing that out there for fanboys.)

But for almost anything else, remakes fall short of the magic of the originals. This is because remaking most classic series or movies entails that those films, in a way, are de-contextualized and re-manufactured with today’s industry trends and cultural norms. And the act of doing that, in and of itself, will doom these remakes to fail.

I write this post with several recent/upcoming remakes in mind. The first and most obvious one is the Dirty Dancing remake that premiered on this past week on ABC. This version was a made-for-TV movie. We can stop right there. How many made-for-TV movies are on your top ten list?

There has been much written even in a matter of days about how bad this version of the 1987 Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey classic was, but without even reading them all I can say what the common theme was; this version did not have the same charm as the original. It was stiff and forced, and made changes to original format and storyline that made the new one feel….inauthentic. The 1987 version made the world swoon because it was befitting of the period in which it premiered. You love Dirty Dancing now because it is so obviously dated, but still timeless. You love it because of its dated charm, not in spite of it.

Another remake on the horizon is Roseanne. Although it will be a reboot rather than a remake of the old series, it will still feel present with the times because, well, we’re in the present. Even though the ending of the series left many fans upset, I still don’t believe that it warrants a new perspective on the Connor family, even if the original cast is on board. Roseanne in particular is an interesting case of a remake. I liked the series growing up, as it was a representation that, at the time, felt different than other sitcoms I was used to seeing. One of the main reasons Roseanne stuck with audiences is because it offered a narrative that countered the typical white, perfect, middle to upper-middle class nuclear family that had dominated television screens for decades prior to its debut. It presented a blue-collar, working class, semi-miserable white family that had children who talked back and a matriarch that wasn’t afraid to stand down to her husband. The two leads, Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, were also fat, which was another representation of whiteness that was subversive in the ’90s (despite it being more normal on black sitcoms). America — or more precisely, white America — was ready for a white working class narrative, and the show’s popularity made sense in an era of Democrat Bill Clinton, the good ol’ Southern boy that became a politician, as President.

But since Roseanne’s rise and end, and perhaps because of it, the visibility of the white working class has increased. The landscape of America has changed culturally and politically. And audiences crave more diverse representations on television, those which include more people of color, LGBT people, and women to name a few. Roseanne was diverse for its time. Television simply doesn’t need its narrative anymore.

Back on the film side, Halloween, my favorite film franchise of all time, is also supposedly getting a remake. The Rob Zombie films of the ’00s were okay, albeit unnecessarily gruesome in parts. But even though this new iteration has the approval of the film’s original director John Carpenter, it still won’t work in 2017. The original film is almost 40 years old, having hit theaters in 1978. It arguably pioneered the slasher genre. With its famously low budget and simplistic scares, it somehow became one of the most commercially successful franchises of its generation of horror films. Halloween’s success rested on its understated production. It was scary without gore; it was a suspenseful story rather than a horrific one. We may scoff at the slasher formula today because it’s been done to death, but for its time, Halloween was hella scary because there had simply not been a film like it before to that point. Therefore, to attempt to add big budgets, special effects, and hitting-you-over-the-head violent death scenes to Halloween would be taking away what made the original film fantastically fearsome. And with the way the genre has evolved, to not do these things would be difficult for filmmakers today and expect the film to break even in profits.

Lastly, let us not forget the trainwreck that was the 2016 made-for-TV production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Starring Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, this production failed to hit with fans of the cult classic. The consensus was that it tried too hard to recreate the quirkiness of the 1975 Tim Curry film. But that’s the thing — you can’t just try to be camp. The very nature of camp assumes that the object, be it a piece of media or clothing, is cheeky without having to try. Campiness is as effortless as it is over-the-top. (See: Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp.”) The original movie was so strange, so absurd, and so kitschy in part because it was everything you loved about 1970s humor, science fiction, and taboo. Now, with drag culture having gone mainstream and Broadway shows like Kinky Boots putting butts in seats, by the time Rocky Horror premiered on FOX, camp had become much less shocking to the senses. The TV musical production became part of a landscape where it is the norm to have a self-awareness of your own exaggerated performance. The ’70s was a period when being “meta” wasn’t a trend, when being campy wasn’t cool. That’s why Rocky Horror worked back then, and doesn’t now.

To love a piece of media means loving it for everything it is and is not. But to love an old television series or movie doesn’t mean that you want that media text to be brought back to life. Sometimes, loving something means letting it be exactly what it was, forever. That was, after all, the way it was when you first fell in love with it. You can’t force something to be magic again, otherwise it wouldn’t be called magic in the first place.

The Gift That Art Gives Us — March 18, 2017

The Gift That Art Gives Us

Photo cred: Cleveland.com/ABC

At the Oscars, Viola Davis in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress in Fences paid tribute to her craft by eloquently saying that the artist community “[is] the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” While the internet perhaps took too much from these words in the aftermath of the ceremony, I took her statement at face value. Even still, as I heard the words leave her lips I didn’t quite understand them. I appreciated her insight on why art is important for the artists that create and perform, but as the camera panned to an audience of rich actors and producers, I couldn’t connect to her words as a viewer, a consumer of art. Her statement felt very personal to the acting community, therefore I felt distance from it.

But Thursday night as I sat on my couch watching Scandal, the episode entitled “Extinction,” I had a revelation about the meaning of Viola Davis’ words for lovers of art and media. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

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Why Is Everyone So Over Scandal? — April 2, 2016

Why Is Everyone So Over Scandal?

scandal-season-5-february-2016
Photo cred: Hypable.com

I had been toying around with making a blog post about Scandal for a while now, but within the past week or so I was convinced that I needed to get some thoughts out about it. It was a culmination of things I’ve been seeing/hearing concerning Scandal, negative sentiments over the last two seasons.

I decided to make this post in the most unlikely way — after watching a makeup tutorial. I was watching a chatty get ready makeup video by YouTube beauty blogger KathleenLights. About two-thirds of the way through it (around 9:00), she asks her viewers if they had seen the finale of How to Get Away with Murder (which aired March 17). She talks about her reaction to the finale, and then quickly mentions how she’s officially “done” with Scandal. She says it’s time for the show to end and that she’s over Olivia Pope, who in her opinion has become a “stone cold bitch.

I would have ignored her comment — if it wasn’t something I have been hearing so much lately. My mother is similarly as bored with Scandal as KathleenLights is, and has been since season four (Scandal is now in its fifth season). I myself have even gotten bored with the show, which at one time was my #1 favorite television series. But up until the point I watched this video, I disagreed with KathleenLights. To me, Olivia hadn’t been awful enough in season five to warrant the title of Stone Cold Bitch…until this past week’s episode (March 31) that was essentially about Olivia being a Stone Cold Bitch. The conflict of the episode was Olivia’s friends and colleagues worrying that she had taken off her coveted white hat to go to the dark side. But if we consider Olivia in the grand scheme of the television landscape, with anti-heroes at the forefront of almost every major network or cable series, what exactly makes her a Stone Cold Bitch?

I guess I’m wondering, why have fans given up on Scandal, or specifically, Olivia Pope?
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Some Thoughts on the Golden Globes — January 15, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Golden Globes

gaga golden globes
Photo cred: Variety (Variety.com)

I watched the Golden Globes this past Sunday, January 10, and as always, I was left feeling uncomfortable and slightly disappointed. (I don’t know why I still watch award shows, they’re trash honestly. But I digress.) In thinking about the show in hindsight, I have a nagging thought.

Lady Gaga won a Golden Globe for her role as the Countess on American Horror Story: Hotel. And while my visceral reaction was “Wow! Good for her,” I couldn’t help but feel a little conflicted about my initial reaction in the days after. I have been a fan of Gaga’s music, and know about her lifelong relationship with the arts, initially acting before music. I respect her as an artist, and think it’s great that she was finally able to return to the craft she never got to pursue because her music career took off. And granted, now I feel obligated to watch Hotel just to see if she was that good.

But one image got stuck in my mind, both during Gaga’s speech and throughout the show as a whole: Queen Latifah, in her beautiful greenish gown, smiling her regal smile, and nodding. She was nominated in the same category as Gaga, but lost, once again.

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The Challenge: Why We Need to Talk About Cara Maria, Abram, and Signs of Abusive Relationships — January 8, 2016

The Challenge: Why We Need to Talk About Cara Maria, Abram, and Signs of Abusive Relationships

the challenge aftershow
Photo cred: MTV (MTV.com)

I am a fan of The Challenge. So much so that I remember when the show was called Real World/Road Rules Challenge. I’ve been watching the show for a decade now, and it’s one of the few reality television shows that I religiously watch every week (and frankly, the only show on MTV I watch anymore). I live for watching season after season with Johnny Bananas, CT, Diem (rest in peace) and others. But this season I’ve been floored with how awful and problematic it has been. From the misogyny from basically all of the rookies — most notably Dario and Raphy — to KellyAnne commenting on Aneesa’s “black skin” during an argument, Battle of the Bloodlines has been quite the trainwreck of a season.

But with episode seven, entitled “Blood Brothers,” I was left in awe at cast member Abram’s behavior, particularly toward his girlfriend, Cara Maria.
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In the “Game of Thrones,” You Binge or You Die — June 9, 2014

In the “Game of Thrones,” You Binge or You Die

A young woman retrieves four books and three magazines from a nook in her bedroom shelf. She spreads the reading materials out on the knitted bed throw lying on top of her comforter, fanning them so that each cover can be seen in all its glory.

Among the near-collage of posters on the walls of the room, including one large poster of Lady Gaga, boasting the “Born This Way Ball Tour 2011,” two posters stick out from the rest.

Rachel Kucharz, 20, has a bit of an obsession. The two posters, four books, and two magazines all have one thing in common – they all celebrate the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
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