Recycling Plotlines: Has It Gone Too Far?


Journalist Christopher Booker famously said, “There are only seven basic plotlines in all stories in the universe.” Most of what we see in books, movies, and all forms of stories is a derivative of something else. This is extremely visible in present-day Hollywood, where most new films and TV shows are remakes, sequels, spinoffs, or adaptations. It is much easier to secure funding and studio support for remaking, adapting, or continuing a movie that has demonstrated prior success. New ideas foster new controversy, and above all, the entertainment industry is a business with the primary purpose of generating profit. However, this practice occurs at the expense of fostering bold, exciting, original ideas. Much of what we see on our televisions is formulaic and bromidic. 

A recent example of such conduct in Hollywood is the celebrated film CODA, which tells the story of a girl with deaf parents who has a passion for singing. CODA won the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards and received great accolades from the Sundance Festival. What many viewers do not know is that CODA is an American remake of a 2014 French film called La Famille Bélier. Nearly every shot in the two films is the same, and all rights for the remake were obtained legally. Yet, the movie serves as a reminder that what may appear to be groundbreaking, novel, or authentic, may not be so.

CODA is still a beautiful, well-executed film deserving of its praise. The movie cast more deaf actors than its French counterpart and used comedy more effectively as well. This said, audiences should be more aware of its origin, and allow their opinions about the movie’s creativity to match its echoic beginnings. 

The immensely popular HBO Max series Euphoria also has roots in foreign media. The show is adapted from a 2012 Israeli show of the same name. Again, the rights to the story were obtained legally, but very few are aware of the show’s origins. Euphoria has been praised by critics as being “ripped from the headlines” and being a “unique and illuminating series,” without acknowledgement of the source of its ideas. 

The recycling of films visible in American cinema is a long-standing practice intricately tied to capitalist ideals. Big studios with resources to distribute widely have slowed their investment in fresh, legitimately new content because of the lack of financial security these prospects provide. According to the magazine Film Stories, 113 sequels to previously-made films are set to be released in 2022. The 2021 Academy Awards set the record for most remakes nominated for Best Picture in 86 years. Though this strategy has proved to be effective for generating huge amounts of revenue for studios, audiences will eventually grow tired of regurgitated content. It is disappointing to see Hollywood prioritize finance at the cost of art, and we can only hope that in the coming years, audiences will become more aware and demanding of original content.