Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Reinventing The Wheel In Order To Build A Better Mouse Trap

Are there no new ideas?  To borrow from Hollywood, are there only old ideas to be re-imagined? In the 1980s, Coca-Cola attempted to re-image a classic by introducing New Coke. It was a disaster. Prompted by the choice of a new generation, Coca-Cola switched back to the tried and true formula. There have been many others to muddle with a good thing, not fortunate like Coca-Cola to rebound in such a way. The adage has proved repeatedly that some things should not be changed, as “new and improved” does not necessarily translate to better.

The question remains though, are there no new ideas? Perhaps it needs to be examined from a different perspective – have we reached a point where only the improvement and reinvention of old ideas is viable? Can there be any new ideas? Styles and trends are the epitome of old versus new, creativity versus re-imagining. This occurs when an innovative idea becomes the norm, and then is repeatedly copied until the novelty is worn out. The problem lies in the fact that even when “new” ideas are introduced, they are simply old ones relabeled. It is simply a way to reintroduce products to a new generation. Take for example bell-bottom jeans, now back in style after a long hiatus. Only they are not called bell-bottoms – they are called “flares,” “boot cut,” or any plethora of names; they are, however, the same wide-legged jeans of the 1960s & ‘70s repackaged under a new name. Very original.

The worse case of this creativity, however, comes from Hollywood itself – the Mecca of re-imagined storylines. Tim Burton did it with a remake of the cult classic Planet of the Apes (ironically, Governor Arnold was to star in another Charlton Heston cult classic, The Omega Man), as did George Clooney et al with Ocean’s Eleven. Is Hollywood so lacking new ideas that they must continually remake and re-imagine earlier works? Film is not Shakespeare to be re-interpreted over and over and over ad nauseum, which only serves to dilute the originality and take away any importance the original may hold. Is it not too far of a stretch to perhaps one day see the likes of actors and actresses recasting Gone With The Wind, Casablanca, or even Citizen Kane?

Change is inevitable, and the catalyst for a society, but the change must be a measurable one that shows actual growth. While it is natural and beneficial to expand upon the work of others, especially those that came before us, there are just certain things that should be left alone. Newness as change that perpetuates the old is not change at all, but rather stagnation. So, when a politician, author or Uncle Lou touts a “new” idea based on the innovation of old-fashioned values, take them at their word. It is just another old idea that someone else thought of before, repackaged for a new, and unsuspecting, generation. 

©2006 Steve Sagarra

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