Wednesday, March 11, 2015

“Ghostbusters,” “Cinderella” and “Maleficent:” Remade vs. reborn stories

Photo courtesy of Disney
There are only so many times you can tell the same old story.

Hollywood, unfortunately, can never decide whether it believes this is true or not. They announce an all-female “Ghostbusters,” bringing a fresh idea to a beloved franchise that would actually justify resurrecting it, then turn around and approve an all-male reboot that will just bring more of the same. Disney makes “Maleficent,” which transforms a classic one-note villainess into a powerful heroine, then re-makes “Cinderella” solely to give the titular character an even prettier dress
But if we’re going to claim a story for our own, we can’t just slap a fresh coat of paint on it and tell people that we’ve created something. There’s already a perfect all-male “Ghostbusters” that exists in the world, and if someone is craving that all they have to do is pop in the DVD and listen to Bill Murray at his finest. Listening to Channing Tatum say the lines won’t make them funnier.

True, Tatum was hilarious in “21 Jump Street,” but that’s because the movie is nothing whatsoever like the original TV series.   An all-female “Ghostbusters” should exist because the change in gender automatically alters the entire dynamic of the movie. It gives audiences the opportunity to have a brand-new perspective with a story they thought they new well, giving them a fresh experience rather than trying to duplicate the old one.

The same is true for fairy tales. They’ve been retold so many times we’ve all memorized the traditional versions of the stories, whispered in our ears from the time we were little kids.  We all watched the original animated “Cinderella,” cheering on the ridiculously intelligent mice and enjoying how well the Fairy Godmother could rock a guest spot, and seeing it again in the live-action version was pleasant but dull. We already knew how that particular story went.

“Maleficent,” on the other hand, is nothing like “Sleeping Beauty.” It re-imagined the story, even more so than an all-female “Ghostbusters” would, and completely transformed a character who had been nothing more that a static (but incredibly cool) villain. Reversing her polarity like that made the story entirely different, and allowed it to go in directions that the original “Sleeping Beauty” could never touch. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the original – as with everything, your mileage may vary – but it’s worthy of standing on its own. The world is a better place because both stories exist.

That kind of new perspective was my goal with both “Beast Charming” and my previous book, “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” Both books are set in a world where fairy tales aren’t special or exciting – they’re every day, practical occurrences, and the world responds to them accordingly. You can go to graduate school to become an evil sorceress, and you can make pretty good money selling anti-curse insurance.

In a world like that, there’s no guarantee that the story will work out the way it’s “supposed” to.  And happily ever after … well, that can mean just about anything.

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