originality

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The curse of originality

A common critique of any new movie, book, tv show or anything, a common criqitue of any new story in the written medium, (whether script writing or otherwise) is the lack of originality. Originality is defined as 1) existing from the beginning, 2) created personally by someone or 3) not dependent on other ideas. But is anything at all independent of ideas, or ‘original?’ One can now start to argue that everything’s been done before, from new world with strange creatures, to magical schools, to a climactic battle between good and evil. I pose three question: Does originality exist any longer? Does originality need to be redefined? Or do we need to change the way we criticize storytelling?

  • The book 'Reality Hunger' by David Shields is exactly about this, him claiming that everything comes from somewhere and is a type of collage. For this, you need to define originality. Everything we have everseen, heard or lived does influence us. There are tales of people thinking that they've written something original and then being told that their original story is almost identical to another from a long time ago; usually they have just forgotten being subjected to that original story. – heath 7 months ago
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  • I think storytelling should be defined by the depth of the narrative, not strictly the originality of the idea. – BVIS97 5 months ago
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  • in the jacobean era (and probably other periods) people would bring 'commonplace books' to the theatre with them and just write down what they liked so they could use it themselves. obviously there are some plagiarism problems there but it might be interesting to examine how our views on originality has changed – lizawood 5 months ago
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  • I think it’s also possible for works to poorly received precisely for their originality. An Australian writer Michael Winkler was unable to find a publisher for his novel Grimmish, so self-published. But the book got great critical reviews, has since been picked up by a traditional publisher, and has now been long listed for the Miles Franklin award. It is dfefinitely original, but that’s what put it off in the beginning from being published. Writers and artists will often follow their passion to strange places, and publishers may take ‘risks’ and get their work out there. But often work that’s original is also misunderstood, or doesn’t quite find its readership. – MelHall 5 months ago
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  • As far as I can tell, successful art and originality need not be mutually exclusive. You rightly suggest that many that many themes, many topics have already been expressed by brilliant minds. Nearly all great literature could be distilled into variations on a few themes, if one wanted to be so minute. But, just to stimulate some thought, I'll pose you a question: is anything at all NOT original? If art is, as Marcel Proust contended, a reconfiguration of our experiences, and no two people experience life identically (or, at least, no two people have the same frame of reference), then how could a work of art fail to be original, since it is gestated from a particular consciousness which has contents that will never again take shape in a similar way? How could the expression of one's vitality, one's essence, be anything but original when seen in this light? Just a thought. – ethanwatts 5 months ago
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  • This is definitely a topic that is so relevant today because creators lack "originality". Especially since a lot has been written over time, we can never be too sure if a so called, "original," idea that we have had is actually original or if it is something we've been inspired by through the subconscious after having read/watched/heard it already. Originality is so hard to come by these days and is something that is so craved in the media. It really is a sink or swim situation, and, as most have said here, originality should be defined by depth and how the story is actually told. One concept could have so many different ideas and meanings behind it, so therefore each concept can have different means of originality. – saskiawodarczak 5 months ago
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  • One could wonder if a piece's originality must be [pure originality]. Does anything like that even exist? However, every piece has the potential to be original in at least one or more aspects. If it follows the collage format - think about the collage technique used in painting: Are all of these paintings unoriginal? Such a claim is contested by anyone. But what makes them unique in that case? It is not the elements; it is the structure! How the various, unoriginal, little components are put together to create a fresh picture, new system, or unique narrative. A different structure might also imply that the new collection has a different endpoint and objective. That's one scenario! So, to discuss originality, we should slightly alter our understanding. There might not be such a thing as 100% originality. It's conceivable that there isn't such a thing as ultimate originality, yet there is originality in response to one or more aspects alone. Originality is not absolute; rather, it is relative. – Samer Darwich 5 months ago
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  • What's additionally interesting about this topic is an evaluation of whether originality in entertainment is really so different today than it's ever been. I see a note above that repeats a currently popular idea, that right now entertainment is particularly unoriginal. But when I think of movies from 90 years ago, there were countless remakes. Just look at how many Robin Hood and Little Women movies were made! Plus, when we think of really original storytelling from back in the day right now, how much of it struck audiences at the time as original as well? Star Wars or The Matrix might come to many fans minds as original, but there's strong arguments that neither is. All three questions are good, and in particular with the last one, just how useful is criteria of originality? – ronannar 4 months ago
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  • I believe that all new ideas sprout from an inspiration taken from the real world in some way or another. In that sense, I understand how you believe that nothing is "original" by the definition you provided. Therefore, when critiquing another story that definition should not be applied. – Aathi 4 months ago
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  • While arguably every piece of media is a derivative of some earlier piece of media, there is still plenty of originality out there to be had. Look at recent films such as Nope, which very explicitly shows its influences from films like Jaws and Close Encounters, or Everything Everywhere All At Once, a fresh take on the multiverse craze. Nope is highly original in its message and structure. Everything Everywhere is highly original in its world-building and story. I think that there is a big difference between these films and the constant sequels and prequels being spat out by Marvel or the remakes of old films. Sequels and remakes may offer some fresh perspectives--and the ones that do are often the best of these categories, but they do come from the same nucleus of an idea. Nope borrows heavily from Spielberg and others but creates a brand new way of displaying those influences and in some ways critiques them. But perhaps the criteria for originality is also based on how audiences feel. Personally, I am sick and tired of the constant trailers for new Marvel films and I do feel that the movie arena has been saturated. Does that just make the original films more novel or does it mean that originality is shrinking? Keep in mind much of this phenomenon is based on money and the fears of producers and studios that people no longer care for going to the movie theater or watching films in general. The sequels and cinematic universes pump out the most films because they work--they are a known quantity. Especially after the pandemic, it takes a brave studio or producer to splash out on originality. – zrynhold 4 months ago
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Is there no originality left in the world?

When reading books or watching movies, it’s rare that plot twists or events will catch people by surprise anymore. Almost every plot twist has been done in multiple books or movies. Is there any originality left in the world? What does everyone else think? Has humanity run out of ideas? There are thousands upon thousands of books and movies in circulation, so have we exhausted all possible ideas?

  • Some would suggest that we have always been telling the same tales, this is why Joseph Campbell's The Monomyth is still so relevant and Jung's character archetypes. I think this is an interesting topic to discuss, and in that talk about tropes, generic features and the previous works that have been done in genre study - however, this should not be discussed as a negative. We tell the same tales as the same things matter to us regardless of time and place - we love, we live, we grieve and we die - nothing will change this, it is not the originality of a new story that matters, but the inclusion of a new voice within the world. – SaraiMW 4 years ago
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  • I would love to see this topic discussed. I think this has a lot to do with how far we allow a writer to veer from the expected path (Campbell's heroic journey for example). If they veer too far, they lose the audience, if they follow it too faithfully, it's boring. How can a writer meet the "requirements" yet still be novel? – tclaytor 4 years ago
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  • There is a book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories (by Christopher Booker) which can be woven into an essay on this topic. – Joseph Cernik 4 years ago
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What is Hollywood willing to take a chance on?

Recently, Hollywood has been focused on franchises, adaptations, and remakes that are guaranteed to have an audience (Disney live action remakes, Star Wars continuations, Ready Player One, Jumanji, comic book movies, etc.) What movies have come out recently that the film industry took a big chance on, and have they done well or have they flopped?

  • this is a very interesting topic, considering last year Hollywood made one of their biggest gambles on Darren Aronofsky's Mother! The film, for me, felt like a test production to see if audiences would gravitate to more artistic and experimental projects. It failed, and it is rather rare to see big studios funding new and original projects unless the director has a certain weight (ex. Spielberg). I think this could work, but I think it would be important to discuss the trend, specifically in the 21st century, of big studios supporting riskier projects and when it seems viable to do so. There should be specific films, like Mother!, but the topic should be more weighted towards Hollywood trends and what the general public is more likely to lean towards as far as genres/ideas in films. Specific films don't always work as an indicator, it is better to focus on trend and changes, even sociopolitically, anything that could influence viewership. – Connor 5 years ago
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