Same old story, told once again
Published 6:23 pm Friday, February 11, 2022
Do we just like to enjoy the same story over and over?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (more commonly known as “The Academy”) released their nominations for The Oscars this week. The annual award ceremony to crown the “best of the best” movies, documentaries, and short films will be held next month on March 27.
As usual, I barely recognized any of the nominees, and I hadn’t watched a single one of them.
To be honest, the only movies I saw in theaters in 2021 were two Marvel movies (and one anime movie, but that was while visiting my friend in Washington DC. No theater anywhere close to home was offering it).
The pandemic, of course, played a part in my reduced movie theater visits, but not 100 percent. I just didn’t see many movie trailers that interested me enough to seek them out.
Many people nowadays don’t even bother with the movie theater experience. They can get their fill of movies from Netflix and all the other streaming services that are available. Those services provide not only new releases, but also several classic favorites for us to watch again any time we want.
Which brings me back to my original question: do we just like to enjoy the same story over and over?
The video rental businesses of the past, the advent of DVDs and Blu-rays, and now the booming streaming service industry certainly provides us all with the opportunity to watch old, familiar favorites over and over again.
Personally, if I sit down to watch TV these days, it’s usually to pop in an old DVD and watch something I’ve already seen 100 million times already. If I wait long enough, I’ll have forgotten enough of the story so that it’s like I’m watching it for the first time. But also, I think it’s fun to rewatch in order to pay more attention to details I might have missed the first time, like noticing what’s going on in the background or focusing on how a side character is reacting to what’s happening to the main characters. And sometimes, it’s just comforting to know how a story is going to end, so you can relax and not try to guess what’ll happen next.
Maybe that’s just a weird thing I do, but I sort of suspect I’m not the only one who does this.
But it’s not just the practice of literally watching the same movie repeatedly. There’s a big trend in Hollywood, especially over the past few years, to simply remake old films. Sometimes this turns out well with a thoughtful interesting twist on old material, and sometimes it turns out very poorly where you probably should just stick with watching the original instead.
Of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture this year at The Oscars, at least two of them (“Dune” and “West Side Story”) are familiar names that have already had film adaptations in the past. There could be other remakes on the list, but as I noted previously, I’ve not actually seen any of these movies.
Disney, in particular, has been making live-action remakes of their animated films for the past several years. It’s cool to see a story retold in a different medium, but I’m usually left thinking “why did you bother?” afterwards. It’s almost always just the same story with different people.
At times it feels like Hollywood is getting carried away with remakes and new adaptations instead of developing original material. I recently learned that there will be four different Pinocchio movies released in 2022 (one of which, of course, is another new Disney version).
Seems excessive, right?
I suppose it’s easier sometimes to just spin an old story instead of making a new one.
But, to be honest, even the building blocks of stories can be just as repetitive. There’s a website I like to browse sometimes called tvtropes.org which catalogues “tropes” that are found in any kind of media.
According to the website, “a trope is a storytelling device or convention, a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognize. Tropes are not the same thing as cliches. Tropes are tools that the creator of a work of art uses to express their ideas to the audience. It’s pretty much impossible to create a story without tropes.”
Some examples of tropes from the website include “Crazy Enough to Work” (basically whenever an insane suggestion somehow works) and “Nice Job Breaking It, Hero” (when the good guys accidentally make things worse) and “The Calvary” (when reinforcements arrive dramatically at the last minute).
These are just a few examples generally from the action genre, but tropes span all different kinds of storytelling. Writers can mix and match these storytelling tools to create something new, but the basic elements can all be the same.
I guess maybe the answer to my question is yes, we do enjoy the same story over and over. It might not always be as obvious as sitting down to literally rewatch your favorite movie once more, but it’s definitely something we do.
I just think it’s interesting to think about.
When its time for the awards to be given out at The Oscars this year, I don’t know yet if I’ll tune in to see who wins. But no matter which movies end up taking home the fancy trophy, I’m sure we all might be able to find something old and familiar within something new.
Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7206.