I’ll Have the Same Plot with a Side of Originality. What’s That You Say? You’re All Out?

In the book Remediation by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, remediation is the idea that nothing or original, and, in fact, all new media is only a repurposing of an older media. It is “both what is ‘unique to digital worlds’ and what denies the possibility of that uniqueness” (50). Within this theory there are two logics: the logic of transparent immediacy and hypermediacy. Transparent immediacy longs to rid the “viewer” of the medium, while hypermediacy acknowledges the mediums and representations in use “with window open on to other representations or other media” (34).

I want to loosely focus on the theory of remediation today in Hollywood, by which I mean film and television. Remediation relies on repurposing an older representation into something new, fresh and fun – which is exactly the purpose of film and television studios, at least at the current moment. In my post last week, I mentioned older moments in pop culture – such as Charlie’s Angels, Audrey Hepburn and The Great Gatsby – were being repurposed into modern television, film and fashion. The main idea with that post, however, was that these ideas were popular 15-40 years ago and are just as popular when reintroduced to contemporary society. In the following examples, every “remediation” (or perhaps “repurposing” is more accurate) happens within ten years, if not five, of each other.

Here you see two posters for films that are separated by minor plot differences and three years. The heart Anna Faris sits on for What’s Your Number is cleverly a shape filled in with numbers, which is clearly significant to the film. Katherine Heigl’s dress in 27 Dresses is made to look like she is wearing the technical information about the film. In both posters, there is one color among the black and white that stands out in both the title and on the only animate object within the poster. In Number, the word “number,” names of first-billed cast members and Faris’ dress are in red. In Dresses, only the title and Heigl’s hairpiece are pink. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that while these movies are different, their marketing campaigns are similar, and they’re meant to be this way. Both films want to draw the same crowds. Since Dresses’ campaign went so well (it topped the box office), why not use the same campaign for a new, repurposed romantic comedy?

Speaking of romantic comedies, here we have two films that were entirely too similar and released entirely too close together for both to be successful. Granted there are some [intentional] differences, such as in No Strings Attached’s poster, the woman is to the left and the man to the right and the backdrops between the two, but that was not enough for this summer’s movie crowd. Please excuse me while I digress. Both actresses – Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis – were fresh off awards season when these movies were released. Portman had been nominated for “Best Actress” in several circles for Black Swan and Kunis had been nominated for “Best Supporting Actress” in most of the same circles for the same film. Kutcher, who plays Portman’s love interest in No Strings Attached, was Kunis’ character’s (Jackie Burkhart) longtime boyfriend in the still popular That 70’s Show. Finally, No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits both wanted to title their films “Friends With Benefits,” but Strings ultimately had to change their title, which is ironic since No Strings Attached is also the name of *Nsync’s wildly popular album from 2000 because Justin Timberlake (Kunis’ love interest in Friends) was made famous fronting the aforementioned boyband. Talk about repurposing.

The trend here is couples with weapons on white backgrounds with a difference of five years between them. If you are familiar with the films, you realize the plots are significantly different. The attention I want to draw is between the ways films (particularly romantic comedies) are marketed.

Below you will find a couple of romantic comedy posters of films released within the last five years. White backdrops are preferred, there is typically some sort of physical separation between the man and the woman (i.e. random black bar, title, space, etc.), colors outside of black and white are kept to a minimum, and Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher are repeat offenders.

Each of these films follows the logic of hypermediacy when they place the actors names on the poster. They no longer try to draw you in as an active audience member (transparent immediacy), but rather with their big name stars. When films choose to advertise without dropping celeb names, it makes a bigger, more serious statement.

Last but not least, I give you hypermediacy at its finest.

In case you’re confused, here’s the trailer they parodied.

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