Art, and remakes and revisions thereof

I started this as a response to Hai’s comment to my previous post, but it got long-winded so I decided to put it here.

Regarding the third Harry Potter movie: they did rearrange stuff, and leave a lot out (I was really looking forward to seeing Snape hover unconscious with his head lolling to the side…and they never explained how Lupin knew about the map, or about Prongs! Plus the movie ended early, etc…). As I was telling Brooke the other day, though, I guess I don’t see movies as “adaptations to a different format” so much as I see them as “retellings”. You know how several different people can see the same movie, but they’ll all talk about it differently? Or how the same event can happen to two people, but they’ll both give two different accounts? That’s how I see “remakes”–movie versions of books, anime versions of manga, etc. (This doesn’t typically apply to book versions of movies; I haven’t come across many book retellings that were all that great, because I think they try too hard to bring out the feel of the movie, instead of trying to be good literature.)

So I guess if someone’s complaint is that a movie didn’t include everything from the book it was based on, or if a movie rearranged things to make for a better movie, then I can’t agree that those are good enough reasons to dislike the movie. I feel that movies should be judged as movies, not as “moving picture forms of books”. The media are completely different; it is impossible to make a direct translation.

I think there is a sense in the US that the first version of something is automatically the best version, and everything else must be judged based on the first version. I get the feeling that later versions are supposed to present the perfection of the first version to new audiences, and when this is “unsuccessful” or when the new version goes in a different direction, those who were fans of the original don’t say “wow, that’s interesting”, they say “I want to rip out the entrails of anyone involved in the making of this garbage!” There is a keen sense of betrayal that I think can shoot any chance of good, collaborative, community storytelling right in the foot. Originality, in this particular genre, is not seen as a good thing.

People who know of my disdain for the Star Wars Special Eds (they ride the short bus) may think that I am being hypocritical here. Far from it. I would have no problem with George Lucas making new movies, and reinterpreting what he set down in the originals. My problem comes when he takes the originals and changes them fundamentally. You can’t disagree that the stories were changed. This is, I feel, more of a slap in the face to the integrity of the original work than would be making an entirely new version of it.

I have a strong sense of history in the arts. I feel that any piece that has been published should be allowed to remain available to the public. By revising and revising and then only releasing the revised versions on DVD, George Lucas is sweeping his original Trilogy under the rug. I’m lucky enough to have a set of laserdiscs, but I don’t have a laserdisc player, and my tapes won’t last forever.

A remake, on the other hand, does not in any way “undo” what has come before. It’s just a different version; a retelling from another point of view. Anyone who has studied history even a little should know that we never know the whole truth. Everything is shaded by bias and by the scope of perspective of the observer(s). Only by getting multiple perspectives can we even begin to approach “what really happened”.

I used to be really, really anal about “canon”. Basically, I wanted everything to fit, to be internally consistent, and to recognize that there was only one real “truth”. This gave me plenty of headaches on the AMRN, because we were constantly revising history in order to explain away GM or player disappearances, or to add in new Macross information. It drove me nuts. I felt that the integrity of the game was demolished every time it happened.

I think this mindset came from my childhood, when I believed that everything I read or saw on TV was real, out there somewhere in another dimension that I couldn’t reach. I was comforted by the fact that I could at least watch what was going on. Many times I would pray that God would send me and my family into one of the universes I loved. Back then, when I encountered a remake–like the Popeye movie–I had to explain it to myself as “pretend”, and later as simply more alternate dimensions.

But as an adult, I started to watch more anime, seeing how different stories have been made and remade and accepted not with cynicism and judging but with open-armed excitement at seeing an old story in a fresh, new light. And I slowly began to change my mind. New versions of something do not negate or invalidate the old. They’re all the same story, but told through different eyes. (And if that’s too difficult to grok, then the alternate universe theory should placate you.)

I’ve officially retired from the AMRN.

After four and a half years, I’ve decided to quit playing, GMing, and administrating for the Anime-Manga Roleplaying Network. I’ve tendered my resignation, as it were, and given the AMRN my permission to use my character concepts in non-profit ways. (I retained the rights for my own future publishing. We’ll see if that ever happens.)

I was pretty much coerced into playing by Sean and Shade, but I did grow to enjoy it. Eventually I became a Q-GM, then an A-GM, and then a Head GM. I even created and ran a game based on Sailor Moon, but it was during that experience that I really started to dislike the play-by-post format. Over the latter half of my AMRN career, I’ve come to realize that I prefer writing stories to playing and arbitrating games. My goal in quitting the AMRN is to allow myself the freedom to expand into different writing projects.

I believe that writing on the AMRN helped me with technique and with characterization. I will always remember what I learned there, but it’s time to move on.

There is a new project that has been congealing in my mind since around 2002 (or before), and I hope to get started on it sometime soon. For now, I plan to be horribly vague and mysterious about it.

Goodbye, AMRN. It’s been fun.

Life on Mars

This has fueled silly, half-baked science fiction tangents all afternoon. Among the questionable things I’ve said:

  1. “See, humans used to live on Mars, until we destroyed the environment there and had to move to a new planet, Earth. It’s so obvious! This is why humans are (apparently) the only intelligent life on this world. Earth is at an earlier stage than Mars. Don’t you see? When we came here we lost our old technology due to being unable to refine metal with the equipment we had, and now our extraterrestrial life lives on only in myths and legends that have become severely warped over time!”
  2. “Hey, I could write a novel about my crazy speculations in (1)!”

Don’t worry, though…I don’t have it in me to write a novel. At least not yet :P

Despair transmuted

Here I am at 6:30 am after staying up all night–as usual, with something of a nap to tide me over–trembling with euphoria, chest swelled, eyes smarting with unshed tears, because I actually worked hard at writing something.

I have had a pretty shitty night up until this point. The reason I went to take a nap was because I wanted to cry. Bawl, in truth. I was unable to do that; my sobs felt forced and pathetic as I lay wrapped in the covers, face buried in my pillow. But I did at least cry, and then fell off into restless, desperate sleep.

I am unsatisfied with my life and I am unsatisfied with the way I spend my days. I do not feel as if there is any purpose to anything I do. I want more, I want to stop feeling desperate. I want to be more than useful; I want to be thrilling, inspiring, necessary, adored. I want to Do Things that make people Sit Up and Take Notice. I believe I have fallen into despair because I can’t envision these things ever actually happening. I’m lost, jobless, a housewife who hates keeping house. I’m no good to anyone else and I’m no good to myself.

But I wrote something. Something I am outrageously proud of, something I revised until it flowed off my tongue with a rhythm that plows a clear path. I read it aloud, several times, and tweaked it far more than that. I worked on it, and it’s finished, and I can say that I am reasonably happy with it.

It’s only a post. But holy shit do I feel good about it.

I must have needed that.