Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oldies but Goodies

Last night, my ears were assaulted by an abomination: an a cappella version of "White Christmas" in four-part harmony.

Don't get me wrong. It was a perfectly lovely rendition of the song and I'm sure the band worked hard to make it so. Then why, do you ask, was it an abomination? Because it wasn't the Bing Crosby version, of course!

I believe that certain things have been done so well that they should never be redone. For me, Bing's version of "White Christmas" is one of them. It should be put on the "do not touch list" and enjoyed in its original glory forever.

Oh, sure. I'm all about innovation and re-imagining. I know that there are only 13 plots (or something like that) out there in the world. You could argue that anything I do as a writer has been done before. You'd probably be right.

However, there are lines. And artists of any kind--be they musicians, actors, writers, what have you--should not cross those lines. Some lines are personal. Some lines have been drawn in the collective sand. This is why the movie-loving world cringed as one over rumors that Ben Affleck and J-Lo were going to remake Casablanca.

Again, lovely people... but you shouldn't mess with a classic.

We are all influenced by what we love. We find ways to bring elements of our favorites into the fresh worlds we create. I know exactly why I want to write a longtime-friends-to-lovers romance. It has everything to do with the favorite books of my childhood.

But writing a story about friends falling in love is totally different than writing about a redheaded Canadian orphan falling for her best guy pal. If I ever cross that line, I'll have gone to the dark side. And I'll probably be sued.

Let's face it: Anne and Gilbert, like so many things, have already been done to perfection.

So: how do you re-imagine favorite stories or songs without crossing the line? What movie, song, book, or TV show is on your "do not touch" list? (And if anyone wants to turn this into a rant about remaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer without Joss Whedon, do feel free.)


Vivi Andrews said...

I love the classics, but I'm not against the idea of a remake - as long as whoever is remaking it knows they have to bring their A game.

The revamp has to be unique - not a parroting of the original - and bring a fresh angle to the traditional premise. Even then it will rarely live up, but every once in a while Emma becomes Clueless and Romeo & Juliet becomes West Side Story - and I'm glad they did the remake.

Kate Diamond said...

I don't necessarily think of the two movies (well, movie and musical) you mentioned as "remakes." Those, to me, are re-visionings precisely because, as you said, they are unique and bring a fresh angle.

Clueless has the same storyline as Emma, but a completely different setting. Same with West Side Story.

The twist is what makes it fun and fresh. I love Shakespeare. I love Taming of the Shrew. And I love 10 Things I Hate About You... because it's a variation on the theme.

It's not an exact copy. It's not "now we're doing the same movie, but the actors have better teeth and the actresses are thinner. Oh, and here's some CGI."