You know, when I was in film school, it was all about being super deep. Everyone worshipped “Memento” and “Fight Club”. David Lynch was viewed as some sort of deity.
But you know what, there’s a reason why “Avatar” is the highest-grossing movie of all time. And it’s not just because of 3D or because James Cameron has more money than God.
No, it’s because he took a bunch of familiar character tropes, mixed them up in a blender with “Dances With Wolves”, made a very tantalizing dish out of it and served it to an audience hungry for exactly that sort of thing.
…why is that bad?
Hint: it’s not.
We live in a world where there is much emphasis on absolute originality in creative pursuits. If you make a story and some character or plotline has already been done, everyone sees it as some sort of grave unfortunate error. But the truth is that that’s how stories work.
As a storyteller my job is first to entertain you and secondly to hopefully teach you something. Both of these things are best done by allegories, fables, and parables. By the familiar hero that is almost like us, if maybe we were just a little more brave. By the familiar character arc that is almost like our own, if we had been born a little different. In that world that is almost like our own, if you hold a funhouse mirror up to it. That’s where you make emotional connections and that’s where you tell the best stories.
Yesterday I watched “Elf“. It was completely unoriginal. But it was thoroughly entertaining, it made me laugh, the ending made me go “awww”, and I loved every minute of it. That’s what movies and stories are supposed to do.
Guys, if you’re a writer or a dreamer or an artist or what-have-you, and your goal isn’t to make the next “Ulysses” but to make the next “Warcraft: The Last Guardian”, then stand up and be proud. Who cares if you’re not super hardcore or deep? Who cares that students won’t have to BS their way through long papers about your work sometime in the far future? You made someone’s day a little better.
I would rather make the next “Elf” than the next “Apocalypse Now”. And I’m not afraid to admit it.