May 21, 2016

Has 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Shown Us That Remix Culture is Dying?

We are no strangers to remixes, reboots, and sequels.

This is because the film industry is flooded with films that borrow from other successful narrative and character archetypes, effectively creating what has been called a "remix culture" in American cinema.

Kirby Ferguson, the one whose popular series Everything is a Remix brought to light a different way of looking at originality and creativity, is now asking whether or not our love affair with familiar stories and heroes has run its course. In this video essay, he argues whether or not J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens has become the harbinger of doom for this remix culture in film.

Now, the weight of such a claim doesn't solely rest on The Force Awakens. There are tons of reboots, remixes, and franchise films that have been saturating the market for years, but the fact that this film draws so many similarities between A New Hope, makes it an easier, more discernible target for criticism. In fact, it might be one of the most peculiar kind of franchise films in terms of remix culture, because it borrows and steals from its own franchise. It's essentially a meta-remix. 

Through the years we've seen franchise films grow and evolve—I mean, the Star Wars franchise itself made a "prequel" a thing. And now, it has, in a way, cannibalized itself to create yet another kind of remix, one that appeals to the original diehard fans by reusing tropes and storylines that they're familiar with and love.

Is anything wrong with that? It depends on who you ask. I personally am not fond of when one of my favorite films get rebooted for today's audience, because many times it takes away the original charm and heart and awesomeness that made them my favorite films in the first place. (Ahem—Poltergeist!) But sometimes, fans love it if it works. Who didn't love seeing the Millennium Falcon take flight in The Force Awakens? Who wasn't cheering when they saw Han Solo and Chewy show up for the first time on screen? However, the point here is that remix culture might be becoming lazy, and this might cause audiences to finally become fed up with tired clichés.

Are franchise films copying, transforming, and combining, or are they just copying? Are we seeing the final days of the tentpoles? Will fresh narratives and new characters start to emerge? Let us know in the comments!     

Your Comment

9 Comments

I sure have but the box office numbers for TFA say it's still profitable so...I don't expect studios to change course anytime soon.

May 21, 2016 at 8:06PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2649

I agree that TFA is a remix of A New Hope, but I think it's intentional. That's why JJ was perfect. Fans and audiences needed it after the prequels. I believe Star Wars will jump right into originality in Episode 8.

EDIT: Just watched the whole thing and they mention it being intentional. Haha.

May 22, 2016 at 8:19AM, Edited May 22, 8:22AM

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It was no accident that the TFA was a reboot. Everyone knows this. They need a guarantee and re-tweaking what works is an almost guarantee. Star Wars doesn't work when you stray too far. Maybe they could have been a little more original but if you didn't enjoy TFA, you're just dead inside=)

May 22, 2016 at 9:29AM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
985

Well... according to Josh R, I am dead inside.
He's probably right. I'm old and I've seen a lot.
I loved Star Wars like most everybody else but, before I got halfway thru TFA, I was on my iPad, reading and looking at miscellaneous stuff.
TFA felt like, to me, the ultimate, Hollywood mush.
About as appealing as mashed potatoes out of a box.
The only good I can see coming about from TFA, would be if it heralded the end of the franchise movie model.

May 22, 2016 at 11:04AM, Edited May 22, 11:04AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1917

Disney probably spent as much money replacing the "C" and "V" keys on JJ Abrams' laptop as they did paying off reviewers to get that Tomatometer up.

Defending TFA is like defending Canon and their yearly re-release of the T2i. It's like patting EA Sports on the back for updating the rosters in the latest Madden game.

May 22, 2016 at 3:22PM, Edited May 22, 3:30PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2649

Dying isn't the right word, but peaked might be more accurate. All I know is that I'm a huge Star Wars fans and I was definitely not cheering when Han Solo and Chewbacca appeared on stage. I actually was quite puzzled when everyone was clapping. I saw the movie several weeks after release and it's not like the actors are there to appreciate it.

May 22, 2016 at 3:14PM

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Charles Duoto
Studio Floor Director
1378

I would argue that it is the cyclical nature of mankind's storytelling, as it happens in ancient mythology all the time. The rule of a great threat, the rise of a young hero, their journey, the finding of the legacy power/weapon, the final battle and then the story resets, generations later. We've been telling that story for thousands of years, all the way into contemporary cinema. The Force Awakens knows this, but adds a few new wrinkles to keep things interesting, for example, Kylo Ren's struggle to resist the pull towards the light, will that come into play later? (most likely it will, but how or when is yet to be seen) Is Rey a descendant of a powerful Jedi lineage or a new emergence of the chosen one? What will Finn's role be in the grand scheme of things? It was also nice to see the handing off of the guard, from the previous generation to the new one. It both celebrated the original trilogy and yet invited new viewers into a world and journey that would be theirs. And in time, I'm sure it will happen again. But for now, I'm thoroughly enjoying it..

May 23, 2016 at 9:50AM, Edited May 23, 9:50AM

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Nicholas Ortiz
Director/Writer/Stuntman
325

The thing is what created the controversy is that in the pre-quiles they tried to make something dramatically different. It just didn't work as fans wanted something similar.

I do not blame them for playing it safe, ruin that series and you are basically black listed for life.

May 24, 2016 at 3:32AM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
746

What everyone conveniently glosses over in this conversation is that A New Hope was itself nothing but a shameless remix of many, many things that came before it. Lucas grew up watching westerns and sci-fi serials, so he wanted to basically make a new movie that could do exactly for kids in 1977 what those other movies had done for him decades earlier. There are no new ideas in that movie; just a fresh coat of paint.

The Force Awakens is just the next step in the same cycle. It's made by people who saw A New Hope as kids, and it's made for kids who deserve their own iteration of the old ideas delivered in a way that best meets their sensibilities.

Remixing old ideas is not new. Remixing old ideas is not bad. There are always going to be children who need new entertainment. Just because a bunch of bitter old assholes on the internet think The Force Awakens is worthless doesn't mean anything.

October 6, 2016 at 11:23AM

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