This post is a little bit different from my usual ones given that I haven’t previously used my blog to discuss matters pertaining to popular culture. But I would actually like to expand the topics I write about beyond my own books and publishing journey, while still remaining within the realms of speculative fiction, and recent developments in Hollywood has given me the perfect opportunity to do so.
Last weekend there was a huge outcry across various social media platforms caused by the announcement of a reboot of the cult TV show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, with the lead role to be played by a black actress. This outrage follows hot on the heels of the ongoing umbrage at the imminent arrival of a reboot of the TV show, Charmed, starring three POC actresses, that will be airing on The CW later this year.
It would be easy to claim the acrimony is the result of certain people objecting to the ethnicity of the actors playing the lead roles, originally portrayed by white actors (and I’ve no doubt that a small minority of detractors are of this mindset), but I would rather focus on what I consider to be the main issue raised by these two remakes: risk-averse storytelling.
For the past decade or more Hollywood has increasingly been relying upon remakes/reboots etc. in preference to coming up with anything new, when green-lighting projects. The reasons for this can be debated, but the trend is ultimately because the suits who make the decisions believe that trying anything new and original is an unacceptable risk; that the only sure way to make money is to insist that producers and screenwriters play it safe. The end result is that any film or TV show that was successful in the past is fair game for a cash-grab remake/reboot.
This mindset is obviously not unique to Hollywood. In publishing you frequently see something similar where, in response to a book becoming an unexpected financial success, publishers start falling over themselves to acquire clones of that book. Likewise authors who “write to market” will identify trends that are currently popular and write stories tailored to following those trends. There is nothing inherently wrong in authors and publishers chasing the money, but one of the inevitable consequences of lazily trying to ride the coattails of other people’s success is that readers end up having to read the same stories, told in the same way, again and again.
A decade ago I was an avid urban fantasy and (to a lesser extent) paranormal romance reader. Eventually, the acute sense of deja vu I would feel whenever I read a “new” UF or PNR book put me off both genres―to the extent that I now rarely dip my toe into either. Inevitably, I grew tired of finishing a book and feeling as though I had just read the poor man’s version of the Hollows or the Black Dagger Brotherhood.
While it may be true there are only a finite number of stories that can be told, there’s no reason for stories published today to simply be rehashes of stories told in the past. Writer’s who are prepared to take the risk can still conjure up something new and original with well-worn tropes. Failure to do so can only mean even more re-tellings of older works, and more intentional mediocrity to make a quick buck. That maybe fine with most readers today, but as we are currently seeing with the Charmed reboot, and the proposed Buffy reboot, eventually there will be a vocal backlash against it.
Next time on lonelyboy1977: Who can say for certain? Even I’m not sure.
Thanks for reading,