In the past couple of years, an unprecedented amount of films to hit theaters have been remakes, sequels, or reboots of older blockbusters. The phenomenon puts into question the creativity — or lack thereof — that lives in Hollywood studios, prompting viewers to question why exactly this regurgitation of content has become so popular. Both profit, as well as lack of creativity, play a large role in this unfortunate new time for media.
Out of the highest-grossing movies of all time, an overwhelming majority of them are sequels or remakes. This can be attributed to a number of factors, most notably the comforting appeal of these reboot-type films. From The Matrix to Jurassic Park, these movies have a surefire way of attracting viewers by using their pre-established cult fanbase’s devotion to ensure box office success.
This is not to say that remakes and reboots have no value. Recent examples, such as Little Women or Dune, allow older stories to be told in a new light, and use a modern context to frame timeless ideas and narratives. It’s when these remakes become the only source of new content that a line has to be drawn.
While reintroducing older themes to modern society can have teachable moments, it’s also indispensable that we allow new ideas to be brought to the table, something that is inevitably much more difficult if we remain on this “do-over” course of action.
So how can we try and influence Hollywood to stray away from these kinds of movies? Promoting a culture in which more original films, rather than a few remakes, are produced, could be a solution beneficial to all involved. And if the remaining problem is uninspired scripts, a potential fix, albeit one that’s long been looked down upon by media executives, is fan fiction.
As a fan-run, predominantly female industry, the world of fan fiction is rarely taken seriously. Although recent films, such as the After or The Kissing Booth series, are famously adapted from popular fan fictions, these movies do nothing but perpetuate the stereotype of fan fiction as inherently hypersexual works, lacking in many of the subtleties and literary devices attributed to formally published books. This idea is severely misguided.
Fanfiction took off on several websites in the early 2000s, with the most notable being Wattpad and Archive of our Own, popularly known as Ao3. Originally, these were stories depicting fan-created endings or spin-offs of their favorite shows or films, but as time went on, Ao3 became an extremely popular base for creative writing. What started off as rewriting specific moments from a show became novel-length stories, using characters loosely based on those from authors’ favorite series, or often, completely original characters. Many of these stories received millions of “hits,” or reads, and every single one of them published receives no monetary compensation. What this means is that we have in our hands a seemingly endless source of mostly original material that is evidently popular among massive groups of people. So why does this well remain untapped?
Most evidently, copyright issues. Creators have rights over their own characters, and you can’t produce new media with those same characters, at least not without paying a price. However, this obstacle really doesn’t present much of an issue. Not only are there thousands of stories written on these websites that are detached from other media content, they also give easy access to hundreds of popular authors — most of whom are young, college-educated women looking to work in writing. Considering all this, it’s almost unthinkable that all that raw talent and material would never receive any “official” recognition, especially when the scale of people it reaches is so extensive.
Of course, there are other ways for Hollywood to promote creativity, but this actually seems to be the most secure, especially when it comes to popularity. The media industry has the opportunity to hear and spread new voices, and propel a culture in which we can destigmatize independent creativity and imagination, and put it to good use.