When we think of adaptations, we think first of the page-to-screen kind. While numerous other forms of adaptations exist -- everything from musicals to memes (yes, memes) -- the transformation of a well known text into a live-action or animated performance is the kind of adaptation we're most familiar with.
This familiarity is historical, as some of the earliest films ever made were adapted from literature: Frankenstein's monster first reared his bolted head on cinema screens in 1910. Before then, Mary Shelley's novel had already been adapted for the stage three times. But the production of adaptations has increased exponentially since then, particularly as our modern, digital age means we're consuming culture faster and faster across an ever-widening range of media.
Currently, it feels like we're drowning in a culture of things that are based on other things. Remakes and reboots also fill these crowded waters, most controversially: Disney's stream of live-action retellings of its own animated work. "Pointless" is a description that often proceeds the news of each one. It seems that Disney, and Hollywood in general, no longer has the patience to wait for new hit novels to feed the hit movie-making machine, and with enough of its own history to pull from now, the industry is eating itself to survive.
Because of this, we feel more suspicious of the creative worth of adaptations and remakes than ever before. We might be living in a Golden Age of television and record-breaking box office smashes, but literary sources retold by film and television still haven't totally shaken their "culturally inferior" status.
The fact of the matter is, adaptations and remakes are here to stay, and as "Old Ben" Kenobi says of the Tusken Raiders, "in greater numbers." Some of them will be "culturally inferior," but to dismiss them all as mere derivatives before giving them a chance to prove themselves turns us into The Last Jedi's Luke, embittered hermits guarding our sacred texts from the threat of a fresh perspective. What could help us feel more comfortable with never-ending reappropriations is an attitude shift. Adaptations are never pointless and originals are not sacred.
To unpack our complex relationship with adaptations and remakes -- and change it for the better -- we're going to examine three things: faithfulness, originality and medium snobbery.