Hollywood and its hatred of classic pop culture

I don’t know if it is a deliberate attack upon the iconic cultural memories of past generations or just a total disregard for learning about the past, but Hollywood film makers today seem not to care one whit about holding true to the original media characters from the past.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say they deliberately spit on these shows of the past, often taking what was a serious premise loved by many and transforming it into a horrible parody. Is it a form of rebellion? Does today’s generation of film makers loathe the memories of their parents and grandparents that much that they feel its necessary to drag the shows they loved through the mud, to trample upon beloved memories?

I think so. I find many recent attempts at “reboots” to be downright insulting and offensive. It’s as if the people involved never watched an episode of the show they are trying to recreate. Maybe they watched a clip on YouTube or read a Wikipedia entry, but they certainly didn’t study the show. Nor did they take the program’s meaning and impact at the time it aired into context.

In many cases it seems they took the name of the show, heard a few anecdotal bits about the show, then went on to deliberately create their own horrible caricature of the program.

They go for the laughs and a quick buck instead of a lovingly faithful adaptation.

The most recent example of this is Disney’s “The Lone Ranger.” This travesty doesn’t even have a Native American in the role of Tonto. Instead it has Johnny Drip running around in pancake makeup with a dead animal on his head. If Depp had credibility as an actor, its long since gone away. As a Native American friend of mine said, “What next? Is Depp going to put on black face and portray Richard Pryor?”

Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as television's Lone Ranger and Tonto
Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as television’s Lone Ranger and Tonto
My ire comes from the fact that The Lone Ranger was a well-respected heroic western from both the days of Old Time Radio and then later as an action adventure in the early days of television,  starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels (for you purists, John Hart was the Lone Ranger during the middle of its run from ’52-’54 during a dispute between Moore and the producers, but we usually don’t talk about that).

Fran Striker was the creative mind behind the original scripts of the Lone Ranger when it was on the radio. He also created the Green Hornet (supposedly a descendant of the Lone Ranger) and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. To me, the current movie is an insult to that great man’s memory.

Some interesting tidbits about the Lone Ranger. It was first a radio drama from 1933 until 1954. It was written primarily for children, sure, but half its audience was adults. About 2,956 episodes aired of the hit show. Compare that to The Simpsons (which seems to be what most of these current adaptations are sadly aimed at emulating: The Simpsons’ satirical nature) at 530 episodes. The Lone Ranger radio show has nearly 6 times as many episodes.

When it came to television in 1949, The Lone Ranger was the first western written specifically for the new medium and was ABC’s highest rated show during the early 1950s. It ran for 8 seasons.

I heard someone say, “Oh, so they ruined the Lone Ranger. What’s the big deal?”

I’ll tell you what the big deal is, if it was only the Lone Ranger I’d be upset but I wouldn’t feel compelled to write a lengthy diatribe about it. This isn’t an anomaly. It isn’t a one-time occurrence. It’s an on-going, series of insulting events.

As I said earlier, today’s film makers (heh, autocorrect made that “ill makers,” which seems very apropos), have consistently ruined good programs of old, have taken childhood memory after childhood memory and stomped on them.

Prior to the Lone Ranger they made insulting parodies of “The Green Hornet,” “Dark Shadows” (also with Johnny Depp), “Wild, Wild West,” “Starsky and Hutch.” “Dragnet,” “21 Jump Street” (oddly enough, without Depp even though he starred in the original show), and “The Last Airbender,” which though it doesn’t fit the criteria I had been using still deserves inclusion because most fans of the show were appalled at how little the movie resembled the original.

The thing is, these weren’t just badly done movies, they didn’t suffer from poor execution, or crash because of a lousy director, bad casting, or a low budget. Movies like that at least show the effort was made not to deliberately insult the fans. No, these movies purposely strayed from the original, often serious, premise to become a comedy.

The thing that boggles the mind is that the people who make superhero movies understand that if you treat the subject with respect and produce a quality product, people will come in droves and you’re going to make money hand over fist.

Show disrespect to your subject and the fans and you’ll end up like the Lone Ranger, with a projected loss of $150 million.

Why is that so hard to understand? In the last couple of decades I can count the number of faithful and respectful treatments of a remake on one hand, and still have my middle finger free to give Hollywood the bird they so richly deserve.


5 thoughts on “Hollywood and its hatred of classic pop culture

  1. Hollywood has never been any different. It lives in a world of its own making and has never had any respect for the cultural aspect of original work. To be honest with you, it has an unhealthy disrespect for British culture for sure, as of course its own history, and has always painted anything that isn’t American as unimportant and of little consequence. Take the remake of of the film, Alfie, for instance. The film was about more than just a selfish, but loveable rogue, it was about the culture of working class England at that period of time. Hollywood took it and recreated a monstrous and pointless film, which had little respect for the original idea. So also with films like Get Carter, and Arsenic and Old Lace. Hollywood seems to have the knack of taking superb stories and turning them into cheap slush. But not all Hollywood is bad, only 99% of it, as there have been some memorable films coming from dark Satanic world of greed, blood and guts, and down right filth: I name The Bridges of Madison County, and Dancing With Wolves as perhaps two of a handful of meaningful films. The US has some incredible, classical writers and yet Hollywood always has to bastardize their work. It takes what is good and wholesome (though not always easy to stomach) and turns it into pulp because that’s what they say the majority want. Well, I guess if you feed someone on beef burgers for breakfast dinner and tea for years on end (and I use the beef burger as an analogy for anything created with little imagination), then they will come to see that food as good and wholesome, and generic to their way of life. And wo betide anyone who tries to tell them differently.

    1. Your complaint, although valid, goes way beyond what I was thinking. I happen to like pulp. Nothing wrong with entertainment for entertainment’s sake. None of the shows I was referring to, even in their original incarnations, rose above the level of pulp. Many shows I mentioned started as radio adventures, often inspired by the larger-than-life stories appearing in the pulp fiction magazines of the day.

      I agree that a lot of what Hollywood produces is schlock. And I fully admit British culture is Americanized so that is more accessible to The American audience. But that isn’t from an unhealthy disrespect. On the contrary, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Hollywood is extremely flattering of British culture, that’s why so many great British shows are borrowed and repackaged.

      If anything, Hollywood has an unhealthy disrespect for the intelligence of the American people and feel they need to “dumb down” British culture because they think we’re too low-brow to comprehend it. Heck, maybe that’s what’s happening here when they adapt classic American television shows. They’re dumbing it down because they feel American audiences today wouldn’t appreciate the shows of yesteryear unless they did make them into banal, sophomoric comedies.

      1. Fine, I have no argument with the Americanization of British culture for American audiences, that’s fair game and to be expected, although we never seem to do likewise for audiences in the UK. I’m sure we do though somewhere along the line! But Hollywood and imitation? I doubt that they readily see things in those terms to be honest with you. I do apologize for perhaps missing your original point though, and do agree with much of what you say in it.

      2. I don’t think you missed the point and you did bring up some valid criticisms. I never thought about whether American shows were ever ported overseas as adaptations or whole cloth (like we’d never dream of creating our own Doctor Who (although I think Fox made an abortive attempt in the 90s?).

        And what’s with BBC America? Why do they show more American shows than British? “Star Trek: The Next Generation?” Really? 😀

      3. I’m not sure if the shows we get here are adapted for the UK market or not, but we do get a lot of stuff from the US coming through. Shows like the S.H.I.E.L.D, The Michael J Fox Show, The Blacklist, The Americans, and too many more to mention. We don’t seem to do adaptations of American shows over here, whereas a lot of British shows are adapted for the American public as I understand it. But the point really isn’t about who makes what or where it comes from is it? It is about quality, believable story lines and above all, the use of inspirational, well written dialogue. I wonder if the current prime time film and TV viewer is ready for that kind of honesty just yet? Maybe not!

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