Cultural Reuse as Pertaining to the Generation Gap

Whether you like it or not, reboots, remakes, sequels, and their ilk are here to stay. Of the top ten grossing movies worldwide, seven of them are sequels to something else. [Box Office Mojo, 2 December 2016] The market has spoken, and what it wants are more twists and turns based off of established intellectual properties.

Driving these “cinematic universes” are large fanbases with their own desires and demands. While DC's cinematic offerings have enjoyed financial success, they've suffered critical backlash, with reviews on aggregating websites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes failing to reach past 60% on even the highest-scoring movie in the franchise, 2013's Man of Steel. In response, DC's enterprise has insisted that they'll be meeting a fan demand of having their movies be “lighter” or “more upbeat.” Geoff Johns admitted of the company's upcoming Justice League that “we accelerated the story to get to the hope and optimism a little faster.” (Fritz, 2016)

We can find another example of fanbase demands in the Starship Troopers franchise. Paul Verhoeven directed an adaptation of the original Heinlein novel in 1997, and has been very open about his distaste for the source material. In an interview with The A.V. Club in 2007, Verhoeven said “we felt like we had something... you could even say had a tendency to be fascist. We felt we should counter that with irony...” (Tobias, 2007)

According to the director, the film is, indeed, meant to be a satire – or at least an ironic take – on the original book. So it makes an amusing sort of sense that a reboot of the franchise is planned, but this time around, with a closer tendency to stick to the source – and presumably, stripping out much of the irony and satire present in Verhoeven's work. Verhoeven seems less than pleased, stating that “going back to the novel would fit very much in a Trump Presidency.” (O'Falt, 2016)

A take on this could be found through modern musical mega-hit Hamilton, a huge winner at the recent Tony Awards and in box office sales. Despite being an adaptation of a non-fiction story – the life of Alexander Hamilton, naturally – showrunner Lin Manuel-Miranda insists that the founding fathers are cast as people of color. “We're telling the story of old, dead white men but we're using actors of color, and that makes the story more immediate and more accessible to a contemporary audience." (DiGiacomo, 2015) Hamilton is necessarily a play from the mid-2010s, and represents a specific image of America as portrayed through the lens of modern times. The thing that makes Hamilton stand out as a not just a story, but as a piece of the arts, is their specific use of people of color to deliver a message.

This and Verhoeven's comments bring an argument that the reuse of these established properties is almost an act of reclaiming a culture mostly set up by previous generations. When a director works on a new reboot of a movie franchise, or even a musician covering another song, it could be seen as an act of not just retreading what came before, but specifically using what's already been established as cultural shorthand, to make room for other, newer elements brought in by the present. In this context, the continued prevalence of reboots, sequels, and spin-offs makes a lot of sense – millennials are using this as an opportunity to carve out their own cultural identity despite most of it being made of what was left for them before.


Fritz, B. (2016) Warner Bros.'s New Strategy on DC: Lighten Up, Superheroes. Retrieved from

Tobias, S. (2007) Paul Verhoeven. Retrieved from

O'Falt, C. (2016) Paul Verhoeven Slams Starship Troopers Remake, Says It'll be a Fascist Update Perfect for a Trump Presidency. Retrieved from

DiGiacomo, F. (2015) 'Hamilton's' Lin-Manuel Miranda on Finding Originality, Racial Politics (and Why Trump Should See His Show). Retrieved from

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