Today I came across two opposing views on the "re-imagining" of pop culture properties. First, my friend Javi says live with it — recasting is an inevitable part of an industry that recycles everything:
In a culture where everything is re-made and re-hashed over and over
again, i can understand why people would get so mad about daniel craig becoming the new james bond, or brandon routh the new superman or david tennant the new doctor who (any hartnell loyalists out there? c’mon – express yourselves!). People crave stability in their heroes and the values they embody – and re-hashing and re-casting takes that way. I get it. I can even understand the good-natured argument between friends about how the only man ever to really capture the spirit of superman was kirk alyn, and the occasional shocking revelation that someone who’s opinion
you respect actually thinks that george lazenby’s work in “on her majesty’s secret service” has been shockingly under-appreciated…
…what i don’t understand is the all-pervasive vitriol – why put up web pages full of heated invective about craig’s perceived shortcomings? why the long angry treatises about how “the character is named ‘starbuck’ – not ‘stardoe!’” why all the keening wails over how some callous money grubbing producer “ruined my childhood?” why the nasty public outcry over michael keaton putting on the mask and cowl? why all the death threats about how michael shanks was no james spader? oh wait – there weren’t any, moving on.
…but the fact is we live in a society where everything is re-made, re-hashed and re-packaged endlessly – which means your idols can be frozen in time indefinitely. no need to put up a protest site, i
can just curl up in a sofa and watch my dvd of “octopussy…”
John Kenneth Muir doesn’t agree. Despite all the accolades that the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA has been getting (including a Peabody Award), he thinks they should call it something else.
To reiterate my stance on Galactica: It’s well-written and I can enjoy an episode any time in much the same way I enjoy the tense 24. However, my problem begins and ends with the fact that it’s called Battlestar Galactica. The original series has been used as a "brand name" by Ron Moore to do something totally new, something unfaithful, something he wanted to do. That’s fine, and some people obviously like what he’s done very much. But it shouldn’t be called Battlestar Galactica
By the way, LIVE AND LET DIE was my first 007 movie, too, and I loved it (hey, I think I was 10 at the time). But then I saw GOLDFINGER and it was a revelation. James Bond became my hero (and still is). That said, I still eagerly awaited each new 007 movie — and enjoyed them –even as I was rediscovering the early ones (this was before home video…I had to wait for the Connery Bonds to show up in revival theatres or on TV). I was able to see them as two distinctly different experiences — the Roger Moore Bonds and the Sean Connery Bonds — and enjoy them for what they were (not any more. I cringe watching the Moore Bonds).
I can’t wait to see Daniel Craig in CASINO ROYALE. But the truth is, I’d be dying to see it no matter who was starring as 007 (Clive Owen, Julian McMahon, etc.). Because I’m a James Bond geek. Even at my ripe old age, I’m still a little kid when it comes to Bond…
UPDATE 4-18-07: John comments at length on the reaction to his original post. Here are some excerpts:
I wasn’t advocating that Battlestar Galactica (or
James Bond, for that matter) shouldn’t be re-cast. Unfortunately, we’re
all mortal and no actor lives forever (Lorne Greene and John Colicos
R.I.P.). Re-casting is a necessity if we want our pop-culture legends
However, in terms of Battlestar Galactica,
the changes are much more dramatic in the new series than simple
re-casting. Characters, races and themes have been altered, and that’s
why I recommended Battlestar Galactica should have been named something different.
[…]So while there is much to love in Battlestar Galactica
the re-imagination and I encourage everybody to enjoy it, it’s clear
that there was a whole lot more changed in the franchise than simply
"re-casting." The characters are totally different, though they bear
the same names. The Cylons are different too (and I’m not saying they
aren’t better…), and the focus has shifted from the family unit to a
blatantly reminiscent political context. Again — good for the show for
making a statement about the times we live in. But if you change the
theme, the universe, the look and the characters of a production, why
name it after that production? Isn’t the comparison a hindrance? Thus
my original thesis: this show shouldn’t have been called Battlestar Galactica.
The vehicle is the same, but the tires have been changed, the engine
has been replaced, and the interior design is totally different.
The metaphor doesn’t quite work. Have you seen the Mustang, Thunderbird, Impala, or Mercedes SL lately? The cars have changed, for better or worse, with the times…but the car companies haven’t changed their names (okay, to be fair, for one brief period in the 70s they called the Mustang the Mustang II).
I like John and I really enjoy his books, but I believe his argument in this case is typical of so much fan-thinking, which unfortunately is not based in the real world or on the realities of the movie & television business (note how the "Colonial Fan Force" is still rallying for a revival of the original BG with the original stars). There was no way BATTLESTAR GALACTICA was going to be called anything but BATTLESTAR GALACTICA for obvious reasons even if the characters were turned into singing, animated chipmunks…and to argue that it should have been different is, well, kind of pointless.
UPDATE 5/15/06: Here’s a link to actor Dirk Benedict’s tirade against the new Battlestar Galactica.