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Originality Doesn’t Matter

Again and again when I’m reading forums or blogs I see complaints about the lack of originality in books/movies/tv. The complaints come in different forms. One of the most common is a complaints recently has been about the number of remakes on tv or in the movies.

But I’ve also seen the same complaint made about the plot of fantasy novels, and when Marvel’s summer cross-over Secret Invasion was announced there were an awful lot of people who felt the need to point out that Skrulls had invaded before. And they have, but it doesn’t matter.

Star Wars isn’t a good movie because it’s original (there’s barely a single original idea in it). Willow isn’t a bad movie because it’s un-original. It’s a bad movie because it’s poorly written, poorly acted and poorly directed. The same holds true across all medium.

Like everything else, originality is just a tool in the writers toolbox. It can add a spark to an otherwise predictable tale or in some cases it can mask poor craftwork. But the absence of it can’t make a story bad.

So why do people so often point to lack of originality when they are criticizing a book or movie? Because its easy and it’s obvious. All you have to do to tell if something is original is read it. You don’t have to analyze it any further than that. It doesn’t require any real thought or any depth of understanding of what you have read.

It’s lazy criticism.

Now I’m not a critic. I don’t have either the experience, knowlege or (I suspect) the insight to provide a proper review. I tend to read and watch things on a fairly shallow level. Enjoyed it. Didn’t enjoy it. And the capsule reviews I do on this site reflect that. However if you read any serious reviews you’ll notice that problems with a story are rarely if ever as simple as how original it is. The execution is more important than the idea. Ideas are cheap. Ask any writer.

So, please, the next time you plan on complaining about how unoriginal some new show is. Take a moment and figure out what it really is that you don’t like about it. And then complain about that.

Eoghann Irving is amongst other things the creator and Editor of Solar Flare. He has a life long interest in all forms of science fiction and fantasy and a pressing need to share this interest with anyone who will listen. Find out more at his personal website

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Absolutely true. The key isn’t to do something that’s completely new and original, but make something old seem new again. Star Wars is a prime example of this. If you can do it well, people will love it. If you fail, then it just seems boring and rehashed.

    Manxom Vrooms last blog post.."Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey - YOU!"

  2. Joseph Alfano

    I agree completely. Its our our relation to the piece of writing (or film) which makes it special. I find Star Wars to be a bore. Batman Begins, however, I love. That movie just retreads everything we all know about Batman. Nothing brand new there. It’s just well executed.

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