The other day I came across a trailer for a new movie. Apparently, somebody thought it was a good idea to turn Dr. Seuss' beloved book, The Lorax, into a March 2012 blockbuster.
Why take a book that skillfully tells the story of how overzealous industrialization can lead to environmental destruction and turn it into...this?
I read The Lorax as a child, and now read it (sometimes multiple times daily) to my son. It's not the most uplifting, happy story, but it is one that inspires important conversation, at least in our house. My son has had lots of questions, and we do our best to explain the connection to the environment and why it's important for us to take care of it. And...(not so) surprisingly, he gets it. Without all the bells and whistles and giddy Polyphonic Spree background music.
This trend of remaking something that was perfectly wonderful in its original form and translating it for "today's children" is incredibly frustrating. First, it assumes that the original was not as good as it could be, and could stand to be "improved" upon, which is usually inaccurate. Most remakes hardly make things better, only eye-rollingly worse. Second, remaking things for the sake of "the children" insults today's youth. To say that they wouldn't be able to "get" the original because it was written in another time is a stretch. Most classics are classics because they supersede trends and changes through the years. Just look at Star Wars if you need further proof of that.
Lastly, I think we all know that the real reason behind most of these remakes is that they're hoping the nostalgia will pull in the adults, and the flashy pictures and stories will grab the kids in hopes of doubling their profits. Sadly, this is what most of these decisions boil down to: money.
Strawberry Shortcake is a perfect example of this.The original was everything her name encompassed: Sweet, adorable and cutesy.
It might have helped that I also wore similar "Holly Hobby"-type dresses as a little girl, but even as an adult I feel a bit of affinity towards the original Strawberry Shortcake.
Then she was re-imagined in the '90s. I was "too old" for cartoons then, but managed to catch a few episodes in passing. I liked that they made her a bit of a tomboy and kept her same cheerful disposition and friendly attitude.
She looked just like any other kid, running around and playing with friends. Looking back, that's the kind of remake that seems acceptable. Change the character to fit the times without losing any of the original message. But then, somebody thought they could do one better than the first remake.
The new Strawberry Shortcake seems to have turned into a teenager overnight. She wears bikinis and "trendy" clothes and poses in lounging positions the original would never dream of.
Oh sure, that obnoxiously big pouf of a hat remains, but not much else from the original is left. (Also of note: Poor Custard the Cat has been traded in for a cell phone!)
So how did it come to this? Can we really say that the changes occurred because kids "can't relate" to the originals? I just don't buy it. My son has seen a few "old-school" cartoons via YouTube, and not once has he complained that he can't get into it because he just can't relate. He loves them. He laughs along and jokes with me about them afterward.
So perhaps it's not the kids at issue here, but the marketability. Perhaps it's easier to market wide eyed, Bratz-like dolls in Strawberry Shortcake wear. By having Strawberry Shortcake "grow up" the hope is most likely that she'll appeal to an older, and therefore wider age range. From the marketing end it makes sense, but it doesn't make it any less wrong.
Taking a character that originally was geared toward toddlers and young girls and turning her into something more akin to the Hannah Montana set is disconcerting. Strawberry Shortcake doesn't need teenage appropriate clothing and cell phones. She was perfectly fine the way she was, and changing her up completely sends a whole other message—you need to dress and act older to be relevant and interesting.
I don't think I have the energy to even get into the travesty that was the Smurfs movie.
Why, Neil Patrick Harris, why?
This trend of remaking childhood classics holds no nostalgia for me. It only inspires anger that companies feel that they can update a part of my childhood in order to double their profit margins and, in the same breath, insult my child by suggesting he won't enjoy something with a simple, timeless message.
*Note: All hope is not lost. In the next couple of posts I'll give some credit to when remakes get it right.
Previously: Mom & Pop Culture: Totally Terrible Toys