Another day, another announcement that a television show from yester-decade is being rebooted, revamped and remade.
Cartoons, movies, television series. Ducktales, Charmed, and even Buffy, but as the machine keeps churning out remakes I can’t help but wonder, is it really for the best?
Hear me out, please. I’m not saying it’s been all bad and I acknowledge in some ways everything’s just fanfiction. One Day at a Time on Netflix makes you laugh, question things, and sometimes just hits you right in the feels. Girl Meets World, in my opinion, ended too soon. Ducktales (a whoo ooh) in addition to being hilarious and nodding to the originals constantly, gifted us with among many things Lin Manuel Miranda as the endearing and fast-talking Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera. And because I’m a sucker for all things magical I won’t pretend I’m not kind of excited about the prospect of a dark and twisty take on Sabrina the Teenaged Witch, but as more live action Disney remakes are announced and other reboots only murmured about I can’t help but worry. Are we just getting stuck in the past?
In these remakes, there is certainly potential. There’s fan-fiction with a budget. Some of the gender-bending, race-bending, twenty-first-century spins on these 90s tales are well done. But, I think in the romanticism and nostalgia for less tumultuous times something important’s getting lost: a classic is a classic because it’s timeless. These stories stood out because in their introductions they did things other writers hadn’t before. They took chances, they were original.
The first time I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I expected the petite girl walking down the dark alley to get her heart ripped out because that was the story I was used to. I kept watching because she bucked the tradition and fought back.
Generations of teenagers go back to John Hughs films (problematic warts and all) because he dared to treat his adolescent viewers’ pain and problems as being no less serious and deep. The first time around Full House was so special because it showed a non-traditional family, explored loss, grief, growing up and letting go. Charmed was charming because it told this great story about these sisters who each other no matter what the magical world threw at them.
I understand the desire to bring back the 80’s and 90’s, in many ways those eras were a renaissance for pop culture. There were stories that were funny and sad and remind us all of our innocence.
But, the universe is made up not of atoms but of stories and there are millions of stories to be told. And a big part of me thinks if we collectively commit to living in our nostalgia we’ll miss out on telling them. If we didn’t rely so heavily on what’s already been done we could have a new renaissance and still draw inspiration from the classics.
There could be other stories from perspectives that haven’t been told. Magical girls, boys, and non-binary folks of color. More non-traditional families. Allegories for the eternally complicated world we’re living in.