I took a fair amount of creative and scriptwriting classes in college; it was in one of those classes that we discussed that it is believed that there are really only about twelve to sixteen ideas for stories in the world — and by combining different ideas with each other is how authors have managed to come up with an almost infinite variety of tales.
However, those combinations are not actually infinite; at some point we’re supposed to run out of ideas. Some people think we already have.
And maybe I agree with that. Many of humanity’s greatest works were written hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, and if you’ve read those books, it’s pretty easy to spot a rinse-and-repeat version of it on the big screen.
A non-exhaustive list of based-ons
- “West Side Story” (1961) – Bill S., Romeo and Juliet (written between 1591 and 1595)
- “The Lion King” (1994) – Bill S., Hamlet (written between 1599 and 1601)
- “Clueless” (1995) – Jane Austen’s Emma (1815)
- “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999) – Bill S., Taming of the Shrew (written between 1590 and 1594)
- “Bridget Jones’ Diary” (2001)- Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1796/1797)
- “She’s the Man” (2006) – Bill S., Twelfth Night (written 1601 or 1602)
- “Were the World Mine” (2008) – Bill S., Midsummer Night’s Dream (written between 1594 and 1596)
Following the phrase “There’s nothing true under the sun,” it seems to be that there really is nothing new under the sun.
It doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone, though
I can’t quite join in on the funeral procession that some people are holding for the death of Original Thought.
It’s true that there’s a lot of idea and theme recycling going on; but I consider that less of a commentary on how today’s people can’t think up anything new, and more of a testament to the staying power of some of the classic stories.
These tales deal with some big topics: Love, hate, fear, trickery, discovery, and the importance of not judging a book by its cover. All of these things are still very much relevant to people today, so it’s no wonder that the same messages keep cropping up in our films and television.
For next week…
Watch this trailer. Then go see the movie. You’ll laugh until you pee. Then join me next week to discuss the most recently copied classic: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.