Everyone has sacred cows, which is a phrase that both confuses me and makes me want a hamburger, but as shorthand for ideas that are simply so far out of scope as to be inviolate, it’s something that the Internet firmly believes. The idea that there are some elements in our lives that are above reproach, far beyond anyone’s reach, and practically set in stone is often belied by the efforts put forth by Hollywood when we hear announcements of reboots.
“Don’t touch my childhood, Hollywood!” should be a bumper sticker that people can just slap on any old thing, considering how often it’s used on social media. You’ve no doubt seen it driving by when the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was announced. I’m sure it was in full force even as far back as The Transformers movies were mentioned. Remember that Facebook-true story about how they were going to remake The Princess Bride? I barely escaped those riots with my life. Those were dark, dark times.
Aside from the emotional weight that people are ascribing to something so humanly insignificant as a movie or TV show, here’s a few things to consider before Tinsel Town schedules a re-visitation to your favorite franchise:
1. The Franchise Isn’t Yours
How we came to be right now is very important to us, and while our mothers would surely credit the fact that they all made us eat our veggies before we could leave the table, the entertainment we absorbed played just as much a part in the formation of our personalities and our interests. As such, we guard those specific elements jealously, like the idea of letting them out of our control would somehow sap us of our identities and dilute our high-octane personalities.
We could never claim ownership of what we consume. Even in the age of EULAs, the idea that we only “rent” our entertainment is pretty much a scientific fact. Any claims we think we have the right to make under some misguided “nostalgia clause” is just wishful thinking at best.
2. Hollywood Can’t Take Your Memories
Don’t get me wrong, guys. I grew up in the 80’s, the hey-day of fertile ground that Hollywood is currently sowing with it’s attention. I really enjoyed He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, and The Transformers back when they were brand spankin’ new TV shows (and glorious, glorious toys). I’ve also gone back and tried to watch the exact same episodes that wallpaper my memories with happiness, and you know what? I cannot fathom how Filmation got away with using just three frames of animation over and over again for 130 episodes, and I certainly can’t understand what the hell is so nostalgic about that.
There is absolutely nothing that Hollywood can do to touch the memories that we have and that mean so much to us. The presence of an updated MacGyver or a reboot of Miami Vice is absolutely no threat to the times we might have enjoyed the originals. Seriously! It’s not overwriting what we experienced, but is just adding on. Hell, in some cases, reboots actually provide a version that’s superior to the original.
3. Consider That You’re Not The Audience
So let’s say that you can’t abide a specific remake of a specific franchise. Maybe you love Mel Gibson’s mullet in Lethal Weapon so much that knowing that any modern reboot would simply not include such an outdated hairstyle renders any appeal to your fandom DOA.
That’s OK, because maybe Hollywood doesn’t care about you this time. Let’s face it: you’re older, maybe a little
wider wiser, maybe have less hair and more wrinkles. You’re no longer in the same disposable income bracket as the kids that have always been the target of Hollywood (and TV, and music, and fashion, etc). At some point we get cycled out of frame while the next generation is forced center stage and fawned over. To them, these IPs might be fresh, and with modern sensibilities appealed to, could end up being blockbusters that leave you scratching your head wondering how anyone could have enjoyed such an obviously inferior product. Just sit back, gramps, and practice your cane-waving for the next time those kids are on your lawn.
What we think we remember as being so totally radical probably isn’t. What we remember might be the specific episodes, their plots, and the characters, but what we forget is the bad acting, terrible scripts, and gawdawful production values. It’s the difference between Transformers and Transmorphers.
In reality, our fond memories are actually less about the product and more about our states of mind at the time we started loving them. I don’t have anything against the Transformers these days, but the franchise isn’t something I bother to keep up with. I do have great memories surrounding the days when Transformers meant a great deal more to me than they do now, and that understanding is worth more to me that the toys or the shitty cartoon (yes, even the movie with it’s feel-good theme song).
Besides, hoarding these elements as if they would negate our personal experiences withholds the same opportunities from a new generation. It would be a war crime to subject my daughter to the cartoons and TV shows I watched when I was growing up. Case in point: She has become obsessed with Doctor Who, so when she said that she wanted to watch the show, I started her out with the Ninth Doctor — not the Fourth that I grew up with (and still consider to be “my Doctor”). Doing so would only massage my ego and would have been driven by my belief that if I liked it, it must have intrinsic value. My daughter is growing up in a different time, with different values and different thresholds of what is acceptable and what is “cheesy”. She would never sit for the Tom Baker era, and if I’d made her do so, it might have turned her off of the whole series as a result.
We own our nostalgia, but we don’t own the foundation. The elements that we remember fondly are of our own design, triggered by moments in time and at the hands of entertainment that we enjoyed when we were younger. But the IPs are just keys, and those keys should be free to unlock enjoyment for anyone at any time in whatever format appeals to them. Wishing that what entertained us would just stay in statis forever and ever is selfish and shortsighted, and we need to welcome opportunities for newer generations to experience the same universes we love, but on terms that may speak to them the way out experiences spoke to us when we were kids.