When did the marketers take over culture?
It seems that every day there is an old idea being repackaged and reinvented to the point that the idea has been corrupted or even eliminated.
Take much of today’s music.
How often does one hear a cover version of an old classic?
How rarely is the cover better than the original…
Take the idea of cultural icons like James Bond or Spider-Man.
When Ian Fleming first introduced the master spy into modern literature with his book Casino Royale, James Bond was born in 1924, served in WW2 and had, according to later literature, killed a man in New York City and another in Mexico City to “earn” his 007 status with its license to kill.
We learned over time and subsequent writing that he was orphaned in his teens when his parents died in an Alpine accident, was raised by an uncle and served in the Navy achieving Commander status before joining MI5.
Bond films would have you believe that Bond is relatively ageless, came into his 007 status by killing two men in Prague, used mobile phones and the Internet to catch villains like Quantum’s Le Chiffre and Mr. White in the 2nd movie version of Casino Royale (the first was a Bond spoof film starring David Niven, Woody Allen and Orson Wells).
From the first major Bond film Dr. No until Die Another Day gadgetry took over as being more important than character in preserving Bond’s life.
When exploding air bullets (Live and Let Die) and invisible cars (the “Vanish” of Die Another Day) dominate the viewer’s attention and allow the hero to confidently survive anything then the hero as a man in mortal danger becomes less fatal as Q Branch will inevitably be the hero’s salvation.
Bond was born in 1924 (See Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice) so by this reckoning he would be 91 years old today!
But it seems rather than making films showing the “real” time career of the master spy, Hollywood simply replaces the actors in the primary roles and modernizes gadgetry to keep au courant with modern time frames.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James’ nemesis in both the books and half a dozen of the films, in the film Spectre, is now more intimately connected with Bond than the books or prior films ever suggested.
Eliminate Tracy Bond from the entire history of the Bond franchise, his wife killed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
Look at Spider-Man and his legend as created by Marvel guru Stan Lee…
Peter Parker’s chronicle begins in 1962 when a teenager in a NYC high school is bitten by a radioactive spider whilst attending a science demonstration, so by all accounts he should be about 77 years old as it is frequently mentioned in the comics that he was 15 at the time he first got his powers.
In the years that follow in the Marvel Universe, Peter eventually graduates high school, his girlfriend is killed by a villain, he marries Mary Jane Watson…a straight forward chronicle that anyone can embrace.
But could the Marvel makers leave well enough alone?
Peter is cloned and led to believe that he is the clone and his clone replaces him as Spider-Man before being killed and Peter resuming the masked identity of the webslinger.
Peter reveals himself to the world in support of the Superhuman Registration Act and thus places his loved ones in mortal danger.
His beloved Aunt May, who has died and been resurrected at least twice in the Spider-Man chronology, is shot and to save her, Mary Jane and Peter “make a deal with the devil” to have her life spared and the world’s memory of Peter’s secret identity erased, but at the cost of Peter and Mary Jane never married.
His archenemy, Dr. Otto Octavius switches minds with Peter and for many months is the Superior Spider-Man.
In the Tobey Macguire films, Peter has organic webbing; in later films, he has invented the webbing from chemicals he whipped together in his bedroom.
And Bond and Spider-Man are just two of many examples where the original backstory is altered to fit with marketing trends, where storyline and character are less important than the marketability of the media where they are presented.
And this is done with our own history…
How many anachronisms and inaccuracies can be seen in Gladiator and other “historical” films?
Fact and tradition take a backseat to what is marketable.
This is a crying shame and shows both a lack of respect to what has gone before as well as a lack of imagination and creativity in combining reality with truly moving plots.
We are a product of our own times.
I know it is difficult for those unfamiliar with the past to relate to the past as the unlived past is as alien as a foreign country to us today.
But disregarding the past if it doesn’t fit in modern thinking and trends is to disregard the lessons that these past events have to teach us.
Eliminating tradition, making tradition obsolete, robs us of the true value of why we are what we are today.
So, let Bond retire quietly in his golden-age home alongside Peter Parker, or tell their stories in the contexts in which they first came to be heroic.
Let us instead stop reinventing the past to suit today and instead make ourselves heroes of and for today to lead us to tomorrow, or tell their tales in the times they would have “existed” in.
Let us create something new rather than reshape into unrecognizable form the things of yesterday.
The past is the foundation of the present and without it the present loses its value and becomes merely a trend of fleeting importance.
Otherwise burn down the libraries and museums, for the past no longer merits preservation or respect.