I was watching tv with composer extraordinaire Alex Williamson the other day and the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was on. I’d never seen it before and we talked about how a lot of the feedback about the version that came out this summer had been that they don’t like the CGI of the turtles, it’s too much of an action movie, some shit about how the nostrils don’t look right,… anyway, whatever, I don’t really care, BUT, it got me thinking about what Plato has to say about art and if that might be why people are always so grumpy about remakes of classic movies, books, etc.
Stay with me here, but do you remember Plato’s Republic and the rant about chairs? Drama nerds and lit/humanities students will know what I’m talking about. There’s a section where Plato discusses art versus truth, and explains that art is extremely untruthful because it’s so far from it’s original truth of the concept which the art is about. With the chair example, here would be the hierarchy (from most truthful to least truthful):
- The idea of “chair” (purest form of chair)
- An actual physical chair (twice removed from chair-ness)
- The absolute WORST = some sort of art about a chair– a drawing, poem, etc. Bleh! He says that this is the worst level of imitation (his antithesis of truth) because it is a “copy of a copy.”
Of course most of what Plato has to say about art here in Republic is cray (like the idea that art is terrible and worthless because of it’s imitative-ness, WHICH, is awkward because Republic is merely words written down that are an imitation of his actual ideas… but anyway, that’s a diatribe for another day), but the apparent TNMT disappointment got me thinking about these concepts of imitation and truth and how people are almost always disappointed by remakes. So many movie-goers (myself included) are tired of seeing a bajillion sequels and remakes all the time rather than getting new, fresh, interesting stories. Not only that, but there’s an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation with a lot of these classics being remade– making a reboot that’s less than can desecrate the original. Is this because these copies of copies are getting at our inner Plato spirit? That these remakes and sequels are taking us further and further away from the “true” story? I’m sure Plato would not be down with the blockbuster schedules for the next few summers.
Plato was not a fan of the arts in general, but I think I have to agree with him on some level about this. Let’s treasure our originals and go make some kick-ass new stuff.