the Third of Four Mild Invectives on Originality
Everybody’s up in arms about originality, especially with the moving pictures where Hollywood seems to be trolling through books, graphic novels, and potential remakes, sequels and reboots at an alarming rate. Yeah, you’re saying they’ve always done this; books have always been targeted by Hollywood, and the explosion in popularity of more independent graphic novels is the natural evolution of this.
Remakes and reboots are nothing new, so get over it. Cecil B. DeMille remade his film The Buccaneer twenty years later, although due to his illness he had to turn most of the control over to his son in law. And his film The Squaw Man, based on the play of the same name? He remade that one twice.
Demille’s most famous film, The Ten Commandments? He did that one before too, as a silent film in 1923. That remake is the sixth highest grossing film of all time after inflation, and was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
But no, no you’re right, remakes should be outlawed.
I’m not saying every remake is gold, and there are plenty of lists out there ranking the best and worst of them. Oddly enough, The Departed shows up on both lists. Most people agree that among the worst remakes out there are Psycho (for no other reason than what was the point—Gus, if all you wanted was to watch Psycho in color, I think there’s cheaper ways to do it than remake the entire movie shot for shot) Planet of the Apes, Swept Away, and the Wicker Man.
But without remakes we wouldn’t have True Lies, the Thing, the Fly, or the Maltese Falcon. Or the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was remade in 1993 and then again as the Invasion. That latest one shows up on some ‘worst remake’ lists because it was more a Prozac overdose than alien invasion compared to the ’78 version and because it has a happy ending. Mostly it was the happy ending.
Remakes and reboots, trolling graphic novels and tween vampire fan fiction isn’t all Hollywood has in its sights now. Apparently one does not need a narrative, characters or a plot of any kind to adapt into a movie these days.
For proof of that see the rumors that Summit Entertainment is looking for any way to keep their Twilight franchise going beyond the last film, from spinoffs to remaking the entire series with a new cast. Summit claims this isn’t true, and while they’d back Stephanie Meyer if she continued the series, they’re not planning anything else.
I’m sure they’re simply concerned about fan reaction to a spinoff and undermining the artistic impact of the vampire/romance genre. They’d like to keep Twilight pure. Or maybe they’re just hammering out the final details for the Beetlejuice-esque cartoon series.
They really wouldn’t have to change much. And just for the record, that is totally Robert Pattinson’s hair.
Studios have their hands full right now anyway. They don’t have time to write Twilight spinoffs—not when they’re sending their interns into bookstores to ask where the nonfiction section is.
For the last few years self-help books and other guides have become the new farmlands of hack script writers living in the studio rom-com machine.
He’s Just Not That Into You? Act Like a Woman, Think Like a Man? What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Self help books lobotomized and crowned with a title that already has an established recognition factor? Queen Bees and Wannabees was partly the basis for Mean Girls, and that worked out pretty well. Mining the self help shelves for the next ensemble comedy project seems like desperation to a certain degree, but they’re making money.
He’s Just Not That Into You was made for $40 million and took in over $178; What to Expect When You’re Expecting had the same budget and after three weeks in theaters is up to $45 million. Think Like a Man was made for $12 million and after almost two months has taken in $92 million, knocking the Hunger Games out of the top spot its opening weekend.
I picture a handful of people sitting around a boardroom table bored out of their minds with nothing to pitch, until their conversation meanders around to whatever self help fad paperback their equally bored wives are reading this week; after each making fun of their significant others for a few minutes they realize they can spend a day and bang out a script based on what little they’ve gleaned from their wives’ incessantly babbling about the book.
Ninety-percent of the script is probably spliced together from the handful of rejected or shelved idea they’d already come up with.
That’s how we almost got a sequel to Se7en—some crap-assed script about a psychic FBI agent that they rewrote as Somerset to market it as Ei8ht. At least David Fincher had the good sense to point out that it was a fucking stupid idea and made no sense, so that was scrapped. Until someone asked, “Why don’t we just film the original script, you know, the one that had nothing to do with Seven?” And now Anthony Hopkins is apparently starring in it under its original title.
My point is, there’s a shit-ton of scripts lying around. Who’s going to notice if you take a male lead here and a female supporting character there, throw in some crap from abandoned Ashton Kutcher flick, ask yourself, “What would John Hughes do?” and then do that in the shittiest way possible.
No, that can’t be how it’s done, right?
It isn’t about making movies anymore; it’s just about marketing a movie ticket, and with bestselling self-help books that’s pretty much in the bag already.
All that’s left is finding a leading man with some abs and a good smile, an actress hot enough for guys to sit through with their girlfriends but not too hot that the girlfriends will hate her, and whatever happens between the opening and closing credits is altogether inconsequential. As long as there’s a handful of stereotypical jokes about how guys are like children and would starve to death in a day on a pile of dirty laundry you’re good. Then the smiling abs guy apologizes in some overblown grand and romantic fashion.
Think of the ending for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days where Matthew McConaughey has to jump on his super cool motorcycle and chase down the one cab out of over thirteen thousand in New York City with Kate Hudson in it. He finds it of course; stopping traffic on the George Washington Bridge so he can convince her his abs would be way more satisfying than achieving her lifelong dream of writing about politics in Washington DC.
No, it’s totally cool that there’s already construction on the bridge constricting traffic, making a hellish commute even worse—he has to bring her their love fern and save the day. Then make out. And make you late for work. But that’s cool; you didn’t need that job anyway.
And just for the record, you can’t even read the word fuck on the cover.
But that’s not important. No, the contents overshadow the cover and clearly Adam Mansbach must have been striking his own children while writing the book—how else could he have constructed such abusive and Satan-fueled verse?
This isn’t abuse. This is frustration.
Whatever, Anna Smackers—I don’t have kids so I don’t understand—that’s what you said isn’t it? I couldn’t possibly get the point of why you were so upset, you said. Well I don’t think you quite got the point. Do you realize this book is filed under humor? That it’s intended for adults?
And it’s not as if the guy in the story is actually screaming those lines at the child, we’re coming back to that point. Did you miss that? You’re claiming it’s a depiction of verbal abuse, but it isn’t verbal at all.
It must be difficult to be you, Anna, to have such perfect children that you never have to discipline or raise your voice to them. No doubt without the burden of disciplining your kids in any way, must free up a lot of time for you. That must explain how you can visit me so much.
You’re not really allowed to discipline your kids anymore are you? You raise your voice and get accused to verbally abusing them, you spank them and Child Services is knocking on your door because you’re physically abusing them. I think a spanking every once in a while might do some good. How many times growing up did one my parents threaten me with a spanking? And do you know why? Because I was being a little shit, that’s why.
I’m not condoning child abuse—physical, verbal or psychological. Don’t read this wrong and claim I’m saying you should punch a kid in the face when they get out of line. I don’t think so at all.
But getting spanked when I was out of control and past the point of hearing my parent’s verbal admonishments? Got my attention. You don’t want to get spanked when you’re a little kid, you certainly don’t want to get spanked in public—and let’s face it, when you got threatened with a spanking nine times out of ten you were fucking around in the middle of a department store at the mall. You don’t want to get spanked again though; you remember it hurt and was embarrassing, its not something you want to happen repeat.
Of course there are those parents who skip entirely over the verbal portion of attempting to keep their kid in line and begin with the spanking, which is just furious, repeated poorly aimed bottom swatting. They were excessive, took it too far and ruined it for everyone.
Everyone seems to overlook the psychological aspect of parenting; verbal and physical are the real attention grabbers. From what I’ve seen parenting is like being at war—war with really tiny enemies who are always hungry but never want to eat what you offer them.
How many times have you seen a kid throwing a tantrum or not following their parents, and that parent is at their wit’s end? All that parent wants to do is leave the grocery store. Its late, they have to start dinner and that friggin kid has been picking up everything; can I have this, can I have that, why not, of course I’ll eat it, why can’t I have it?
What usually happens? Well first the parent lies to them and claims they’ll buy it for them next time. Then what?
“Fine, you don’t want to leave? Well I’m leaving, see you later.”
And they walk away.
I enjoy watching this because at first the kid doesn’t believe them. They call that parent’s bluff. But then the parent walks away, heads for the door or around the corner.
And then that kid freaks the fuck out.
There’s usually a panic-stricken scream before that kid tears-ass to catch up, tears running down their adorable pudgy little kid faces.
This is acceptable though. Well, at least for now. Complete psychological warfare on toddlers. You just threatened them with abandonment.
Where’s the outcry about that? Instead you’re up in arms because a parent read to their child at bedtime, but was frustrated when three hours later the kid was still up engaging in their own form of warfare.
But it’s OK to threaten your child with leaving them to fend for themselves in the middle of the grocery store because they stopped to check out the Bubble Yum selection.
Go the Fuck to Sleep isn’t about the verbal abuse of children but, rather, the internal monologue that everyone has, not just parents. Yes, specifically this is the frustration of parents with their children, but more then that it reminds us that steady complaining of children with parents, employee with boss and vice versa, coworkers and friends with one another. You’re thinking it all the time.
Our conversational filters stop us—some of us, at least—from saying most of these things. Telling your boss to fuck off, calling your coworker an idiot, spitting in a customer’s food; this book represents the things we don’t say, the things we don’t do.
Mansbach, said it himself, “A lot of these frustrations are not permissible to talk about. We’re not completely honest because we don’t want to be bad parents.”
It’s like admitting you don’t get a joke. Doesn’t happen, you just laugh along with everyone else. So no one admits that their kids are really in charge when it comes to bedtime, instead they keep swapping stories with their other child-bearing friends about how perfect their little angels are.
You can’t admit you don’t know how to put your kids to bed, you can’t admit you just spent three hours reading them half a dozen stories because they refused to lay still, or close their eyes or stay in bed. You can’t admit that they’re in control.
Maureen O’Connor’s all-too short bit for the Gawker is great, and the comments are even better. She addresses David Arrendondo’s suggestion that to properly understand how offensive Go the Fuck to Sleep is one should should instead consider if it was written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos.
Personally I think one should be more insulted that out of the four Arrendondo mentions, blacks doesn’t get capitalized, that seems racist. Just saying.
O’Connor is absolutely right in her assertion that, “Swapping ‘Jew’ into random sentences about children doesn’t mean the aforementioned sentence is offensive. It means that one does not speak to a Jewish adult the way one speaks to a child.”
Can you think about how disturbing it would be if Mansbach had written a book about how to read a Jew to sleep at night? I prefer the product as we have it now, even if it does incite (one person) riots in my store.