Hypocritical Rant on Nostalgia Exploitation in Film & TV Culture

Robocop. Fargo. Hannibal. Ghostbusters. Jurassic World. Terminator Genesis (No, I’m not spelling it the dumb way they do). Mad Max. Total Recall. Annie. Westworld. Poltergeist. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes. Police Academy. And, as I found out today, Galaxy Quest.

All are recent or forthcoming remakes/adaptations/reboots/reimaginings of past television and film products that were much beloved and, for the most part, have stood the test of time. Some were appreciated instantly, some became cult classics – all are being relentlessly exploited. Not because they required or merited further exploration and development, but because the cabal of studios, networks and producers who decide what does or does not get made knows that brand-recognition and exploitation of nostalgia equals box office.

I fuckin’ hate it.

It’s only a short list from off the top of my head by the way – there are tens, maybe even hundreds, of examples from the last decade of so. Didn’t somebody say that pop would eat itself? If so, some 80’s and 90’s appear to be the starters, the 70’s and 60’s will be the main course, and we may just have enough gut-space left over to squish in the highpoints from the golden age of cinema. Yum.

Of course, I have to hold my hands up and say that sometimes this results in good output: Hannibal is a cut above most television shows and has developed its own cult following, while the recent TMNT film was nowhere near as bad as some had made out. Both surprised me with their relative success. Hannibal Lector and the cast of characters in his universe are endlessly fascinating, so it should not have been so strange to me that it did well, but the Turtles film… Even though it wasn’t abysmal, it was still unnecessary.

The prospective Ghostbusters film has me quivering in anticipation because of the direction they are going with it – even if it doesn’t succeed, to my mind it will have been worth the shot. Why the apparent cognitive dissonance? Well, I could rationalise it as the potential Ghostbusters always had for further expansion; the whole notion of a ghost-hunting team in NYC is something you could derive all sorts of entertainment from. There are plenty of themes you can explore. This, however, is a bit of a smokescreen on my part, as it is a post-hoc rationalisation of an immediate positive reaction I had upon reading the details of the new production.

Essentially, what I am saying is that regardless of results, the motivation for going back, picking a successful show or movie, then remaking/adapting it for a current audience is entirely dictated by profit motive. At best, they will bring something artistically fresh to the table because they will play around with the source material; Hannibal twists so much in terms of characters and even canon, while the Ghostbusters all-female has already made ructions in the fan community (only a good thing in my opinion).

The one thing you never see, or almost never see, is a remake of a bad movie. A movie where it did badly at the box office or was critically panned, but could have been a success with a few tweaks here, a clip or two there, better casting, a capable director, one or two less cooks spoiling the screenwriting broth…

No, instead we are subjected to the industry incessantly rummaging around in the our collective conscious, desperately searching for yet another pop cultural artifact that hasn’t had it’s bones constructed into a marionette that can be made to dance for a new bunch of suckers – DANCE, SKELLINGTON, DANCE!


Here’s a brief list of films and television shows that I would have another pop at, either ‘cos the originals were shite, just missed the mark, or just require a new slant:
Black Hawk Down, Piece of Cake, The Beach, A Long Way Down, practically every videogame adaptation ever made seriously you guys, The Help, The Guarantee, Frontier(s), the Star Wars prequels, Bad Day At Blackrock aka What Richard Did, World War Z, 12 Angry Women why not, It’s A Wonderful Life, Actual Anarchist Insurrectionary Club because fuck the subject for Christ’s sake, V-for-Vendetta, It Happened Here, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from the Chief’s perspective like in the book, Inception, Downfall the Stalin edition, Jane Bond or better still trans James Bond.

Ok, so some of those weren’t serious. It’s just that I can’t remember off the top of my head all the (many, many) theatrical and televisual productions that demand, at the very least, a facelift. I’m not even going to try listing all the films that should have sequels or could be expanded into TV serials!

That’s enough waffle for the day. Some would say too much.
They’d be right.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…


About Seba Roux

Gooner, Socialist, Historian, Slacker. That's pretty much all you need to know.
This entry was posted in Films, Gibberish and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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