We can all agree most people consider originality to be a good thing. And, for the most part, the general public considers unoriginality to be unworthy of comment. It’s the lukewarm of originality, the middle on the originality scale. Copying others, however, is being seen less and less as flattery and more like infringement.
This resembles the concept of remediation, in that both are based off of something that has already been done. The concept of virtual reality is based on reality. I am aware that was both an obvious and simplistic statement, but it needed to be made. I believe is credit is given where due, a re-creation of someone else’s creation can be great and different. To illustrate what I mean, I am going to use a recently released music video.
“Countdown” by Beyonce:
The song itself counts down (get it? Yeah, me either) the things she loves and/or does with her “boo” (her words). The visual that is the music video goes through the decades with Beyonce dressed as Audrey Hepburn from Funny Face (see my older blog post from September “There and Back Again (and Again)”), classic Vogue photo shoots, Brigitte Bardot, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Beal in Flash Dance (arguable), German experimental dance and the always classy West Side Story.
Beyonce received much criticism with how heavily she borrowed from the aforementioned German experimental dance “Rosas danst Rosas,” choreographed by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. This 30-second clip shows the most obvious resemblances to the extensive, much longer dance.
I, however, do not believe this is fair putting my bias toward Beyonce aside. What is an original work if not to inspire originality in others? Some people simply struggle with expressing themselves in imaginative ways, so they copy others. It is still expression, and Beyonce is not trying to steal credit for De Keersmaeker, but rather call positive attention to her work that is probably not known outside of the dance world for several reasons including the inception of the dance (circa 1980).
“Countdown” received no such criticism from its heavy reliance on the epic Funny Face reference. Why? Because it was epic. Nor was she attacked for her throwback to Diana Ross, Twiggy, or her 60s-inspired makeup. It is clear from the video she is not trying to take credit for other people’s work, if only because she referenced so many of them. And when approached about her “stealing,” she admitted to “borrowing” the dances and looks from icons. It was her intention. No one caught her in the act because she was not hiding anything she was embracing it.
It is important to address copyrights and plagiarism is an era where so much is readily available and artists (for lack of a better word) are exploited by people with more power and pull, but it is equally important to remember this is not always the case. I’m pretty sure no one accused the team working on “virtual reality” of not being original enough or stealing ideas from actual reality. These scientists were upfront about digitally recreating reality. [Disclaimer: I am in no way equating Beyonce’s music video to virtual reality in importance, they both serve good examples for my argument.]
The content in this post relates closely to “There and Back Again (And Again)” because it is a pressing issue. When does flattery turn to plagiarism? If this could be clearly defined, then there would be no need for such arguments because people would know when their work would be considered plagiarism and either avoid or embrace it.
This blog is unoriginal. The topics I write on have already been addressed and heavily discussed. And much like a research paper, that is the intention: to think about things even if I am not the first person to do so. It’s quite a twisted logic, the idea of originality, and this is why it causes so much controversy in all areas, not just four-minute music videos. The issue is prevalent in politics, film, music, poetry, literature, etc.
Enough of this ranting. Let me leave you, my lovely reader(s), with some pictures of the people Beyonce chose to honor in “Countdown.”