Thursday, July 04, 2013

In Praise of Rip Offs

One thing I'm sick of hearing is "X is a rip off of ". Lately I heard Pacific Rim was a rip off of Eva because they have people piloting giant robots! And of course, we've all heard about how The Hunger Games is stupid becuse Battle Royale.  It's always said with a superior tone as if no one could possibly enjoy stories without a wholly original plot. Of course, there's never an acknowledgement that a story might go further back- that someone would say that Evagelion is a rip off of "Gundam" or that Battle Royale is a rip off of the Running Man. Nope! The world begins and ends with

I love "rip offs" I love to see a story told and retold. For example,  the Across the Universe trilogy is set on a "generation ship" where generations of people live and die on a spaceship.  A girl from Earth is unthawed and falls in love with a young leader on the ship. The inhabitants of the ship are organized in extreme devotion to their leader. The first time I encountered this story was in an Ursula LeGuin story "Paradises Lost"- another generation ship, with people choosing to live on the ship as part of a new cultic religion, rather than land on the new planet.  With the attitude above- I would have dismissed it as "A rip off! With stupid girl love in it!" If I did, I would have missed a story full of power struggles, genetic engineering and pterodactyls  eating people alive.

Even if two stories  have generation ships or giant robots or teens fighting to the death for the entertainment of all, from that point the story will branch and change. The story of teens fighting to the death branches and we end up in story about the burden of fame and survivors' guilt, and how a revolution can change and warp those who worked for it. The generation ship branches and the story about how a shipborns can lose sight of the original mission of their ancestors and go their own way, becomes a story about revenge and power and struggle. I have no idea what Pacific Rim will be about. I hope to find out.

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