Why we remake: the politics, economics and emotions of remakes

Ever wondered if Hollywood has run out of original ideas? Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a lecturer in the Bachelor of Arts, explains why film and television remakes are taking over our screens in this bite-sized lecture.

When it comes to preferred versions of films, Pride & Prejudice is perhaps the quintessential conversation starter. What’s your favourite version? The most recent one with Keira Knightley as a feisty Lizzie and Matthew Macfadyen’s heart-throb Mr Darcy? Perhaps it’s the energetic classic serial with what must be the most famous ‘wet shirt’ scene in TV history, featuring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. How about the black and white 1940 iteration starring 36-year-old Greer Garson as Lizzie, with historically inaccurate costuming and giddy banter?

In the world of cultural studies, film remakes are fascinating territory for analysis. What makes a producer or director want to recreate something that’s already been done before … sometimes several times? Is it the desire to invest in a safe financial bet, or a genuine drive to make something good even better?

In this lecture Dr Rosewarne explores ideas such as creativity, newness, and the very nature of storytelling. “Remakes are under a unique kind of pressure that rarely gets directed at other screen content,” Dr Rosewarne wrote in her recent book on the subject. “Such productions are expected to make a convincing case to audiences that they are worth seeing even though their content is not ‘new’.”

“(The) argument that Hollywood is less creative today – or that it has somehow ‘recently’ run out of ideas – is premised on a nostalgic notion of a glory days when Hollywood was imagined as constantly churning out original and critically-acclaimed work.”

Dr Rosewarne explains that from Hollywood’s very beginning, “rather than an endless procession of wonderful new stories, studios were, in fact, producing adaptations of classic literature and stage plays, and, with every advent of new technology it was remaking its old properties.”

So let’s expect to keep on seeing new versions of Marvel comics on film, or classic stories for children animated and re-animated by Disney, because everything old can be new again.

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