Since when did appreciating originality make me the bad guy?

Before I begin my little opinion piece, I set aside some time as I deal with this gigantic cold front all over the Midwest. At the time of this article, the high where I’m from is -18 Fahrenheit which is insane. This coldness is more on par with Siberia, Antarctica, and the top of Mt. Everest than the part of America where I’m from. If you’re dealing with this, then please stay warm and take care of yourselves.

Okay, now onto the subject at hand.

I’ve been wanting to make an article like this for a long time now. The thing is I appreciate whenever people create some truly unique things. Whether it’s music, film, art, literature, or other subjects, I really like it whenever people craft things that no one else has thought of before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against adaptations on principle, building off other works while acknowledging inspiration, or even parodies/satires when done right.

What does grind my gears is whenever I hear people say things such as “Oh, everybody rips off things”.

In my opinions, I find that to be intellectually insulting and just lazy thinking.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I do try to be as original as I can be with my various works such as my spoken word projects, poems, reviews, music, books, and other things I create. One of the biggest compliments you could give me is telling me that no one else sounds like me, writes like me, or that I’m an innovator in whatever I try. Yes, I’m certainly influenced by others, so I’m not going to lie to you, but I want to be unique in my creative endeavors. There’s one quote from Oscar Wilde that I like a bit too much: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” I truly believe that some people aren’t even trying and just follow the leader in music, film, books, etc which I find to be quite slothful.

So why does this make me the bad guy for wanting originality to still be a quality worth desiring?

Seriously, I’ve been made fun of for mentioning how I like more original content as others dismiss my tastes for whatever reason. Possibly it’s insecurity on their part, but I could be wrong.

Over the years, I’ve been realizing how many things have been stolen whether it’s movies, art, video games, or something as extreme as cultural appropriation. You have artwork from Benin and Senegal that’s in European museums without those country’s permission. There’s an obelisk in Ethiopia known as the Obelisk of Axum which was stolen by Italy and a certain leaning tower bears similarities to it. For those who’ve checked out some of my film and anime reviews, I’ve mentioned a few examples. Yes, one of them involves this nefarious lion named Claw from Kimba the White Lion as seen in the featured image who predates a certain other villain let alone other characters in some popular movie by 44 years (or 29 if you only count the anime), yet Tezuka Productions never got credited to this day for that series. If you got triggered by that picture, well…that says more about you than it does about me. Besides that, I get tired of people even resorting to scripture by saying “There’s nothing new under the sun”. I know it’s in Ecclesiastes, but did those same people miss “Thou shall not steal”? Sorry to mention theology in this post, but I needed to use that example to prove a point.

With all these rampant remakes, clones, and frauds going on, it’s really tough for me to cling on to a bunch of media. It’s no wonder I try to make my own stories, music, blogs, and other things. Does me appreciating the innovative make me pretentious? Do I see others as peons for only liking whatever the mainstream spoon-feeds them? I hope it’s not the case for the former, and I certainly don’t want to think that way about the latter.

The image of Claw is from The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion and is property of Tezuka Productions.

13 thoughts on “Since when did appreciating originality make me the bad guy?

  1. I do kind of buy the idea of “there’s nothing new under the sun.” No matter how hard you strive to be original, someone from somewhere will be able to spot striking similarities between your work and someone else’s. That’s because as you said, we live in an interconnected world and are influenced by a myriad of things.

    I think we can only take on an idea somebody has worked with before, and combine it with something else or see it at a different angle. That is originality to me. It’s not something to strive for too deliberately, if you want to be a happy person, but something that comes naturally and not as a reaction to accusations (imagined or actual) of stealing. Not saying that you or anyone else is doing that, but that’s just my two cents on the subject.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There’s certainly truth about how things will have some similarities to other people’s works whether intentional or unintentional. What I don’t like is people using that quote as carte blanche for ripping things off or at best not trying to do anything creative.

      I’m fine with combining things and/or deconstructing them (as long as the deconstruction isn’t used as a gimmick or for pretentious purposes). One thing that got on my nerves years ago was me being made fun of for liking a band called La Dispute. They are a band that fuses spoken word vocals with hardcore and post-rock, in case you were wondering. A couple of people I know think they ripped off mewithoutYou. I like both bands and have seen them live. Yes, both use spoken word vocals, but they don’t sound anything a like and those individuals gave me crap for liking La Dispute to the point where I temporarily “hated” that band just to spite them for making fun of me. To be honest with you, I’ve wanted to shame people for liking “ripoff” things as revenge for what I went through and for knowing my stuff when it comes to music, anime, and movies, but I feel that it would be immature in hindsight, so I never went through with that plan.

      I do take pride in my work to do the best things and to give a unique spin on things whether it’s my music, fiction, or my reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, I didn’t know anything about Obelisk of Axum, though that totally doesn’t surprise me. The older I get, the more I learn that most of the European things I’ve been told are Big Deal Masterpieces were actually from Asia or Africa…anyways.

    I was having a conversation about this with my boyfriend recently on the concept of originality. He brought up that I find a decent amount of movies “boring,” because I don’t think they do anything original. He countered by saying that some of my favorite works aren’t actually original, either, which is true – they all reference other texts or are shaped by a certain classic genre or whatever. Then we had a whole talk about how you can borrow from things or use classic tropes without making it feel stale. Something I love about film and fiction in general is that you can subvert standard plot conventions or tropes and make something old feel new – like, something isn’t necessarily 100% original, but it still FEELS original, you know? I don’t want to blow up your comments with my thoughts on the subject, but this blog post really has me thinking more now about how originality can still exist after thousands of years…

    Liked by 2 people

    • I recently learned the situation about the Obelisk of Axum from the documentary Unjust Perceptions: Ethiopia which is free to watch on YouTube legally from the creator. I’ve certainly been learning that about art and architecture when I’ve been researching more about African cultures. Benin is actually suing a ton of these museums in order to get their artwork back. It’s certainly a big issue and I need to stop myself before I get into rant mode. Hahaha!

      I guess you and I have that same problem. That’s one of my main issues with so many Hollywood films. I certainly know that the stuff I like and even given positive reviews to aren’t always fully original. Sure, I’ve watched original screenplays, but I’ve also liked some adaptations and the occasional remake. I get what you’re trying to say about something feeling original. For me, Haibane Renmei felt very original because I still have trouble knowing what anime series prior to it’s creation was anything like this. Adding onto your comment, I also like when people cover topics I’ve never seen before in film and fiction, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haibane Renmei is a really good example, I STILL can’t think of anything that’s felt the same even years after it came out. I’m hoping that, as time goes on, it becomes easier for minorities to enter media. The more diversity there is, the more diverse stories will come up! That’s a whole ‘nother topic that I could rant about, but it’s insane that production companies still turn away people who are different but give the same opportunities to white dudes who make the same movies over and over again. Your willingly turning away a chance at a more unique story! Which isn’t to say that white dudes can’t make original stuff, but you get the idea.

        Also, I’m going to have to check that doc series out, it sounds really interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you agree. That anime is certainly one of the most unique things in that medium.

        That’s cool how you think that way, too. It’s sad about how so many people are turned down. Not just actors, but directors and screenwriters, too. I do like making stories with many diverse characters. I’m glad you have noticed that.

        Sure thing. That doc was an interesting watch and it destroys so many stereotypes about Ethiopia much less Africa.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not something is original for me, it’s the question of whether or not something feels fresh or provided something new to the table with traditional elements of story telling.

    Still, I definitely think that I would go for something nobody has tried before, if that’s possible, over something that is cliche and substandard. (I say as a person that watches MCU films).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see. There are defensible things in that statement since I do like some media that has traditional or straightforward narratives as much as I like experimental forms of storytelling.

      That’s something I really strive for especially as an author. I do think to myself “Okay, what haven’t I seen done for a certain story, plot point, character, etc…” whenever I craft some stories. Sometimes, I do wear some inspirations out there. Like my book Sylvain: Serpent King, for example. That was a dark fantasy adaptation of an obscure fairy tale called The Green Serpent except there’s more action, plot elements are changed, and half the narrative is from the Serpent’s perspective. Even Hollandus Landing despite the experimental cell phone novel structure is influenced by Spoon River which I mentioned in my interview with my friend Jeannette. Sure, the characters in the Hollanduscosm aren’t dead like that aforementioned book, but both play on a story which involves several narrators in one city. I sure hope what I do isn’t cliche or substandard since I do want to make quality things.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Does me appreciating the innovative make me pretentious?”

    Am I pretentious if I answer “No”?

    If we want to create art, we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. That only means we have starting material. There are only a handful of plot types, character types, tropes, etc. — the building blocks of stories.

    But if you have pride as an author, it’s only natural to want to create something that expresses your perspective. That necessarily means you don’t want to just copy someone else.

    “Do I see others as peons for only liking whatever the mainstream spoon-feeds them? I hope it’s not the case for the former, and I certainly don’t want to think that way about the latter…”

    The original Star Trek taught me something. If you’re asking that question, then you’re among the last folks who would succumb to that fallacy. Reading your post, I got the sense that what others enjoyed wasn’t something that bothered you; you just wanted to read new and interesting perspectives and wanted to create those perspective yourself.

    Sounds like you might have a seriously dreaded malady: Integrity as an artist.

    I don’t think there’s a cure…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You aren’t pretentious by saying “no”, so don’t worry about that. Haha!

      That is true with creators building on the influences of others and I’m certainly one of them. What I do my best to do is to make tweaks to the previous archetypes to make something new or approach something in a different way. That and combining aspects could be fun to make something unique.

      Exactly about expressing my perspective. Writing stories and reviews allowed me to express my feelings in different ways and for me to address certain issues especially when it comes to fiction. I certainly don’t want to be a copycat in anything I do. When I do reference something, it’s either homage, parody, or satire depending on how I feel about something.

      It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything Star Trek related, but that brings up an interesting point. I do hope that I don’t come across as so egotistical when it comes to my tastes. You’re absolutely right about me wanting something new and interesting. The best way for me is to write those ideas into story forms for example.

      Indeed. Integrity is something I uphold.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ” do hope that I don’t come across as so egotistical when it comes to my tastes.”

        I can only answer from what I’ve read here, and the answer is: No. Trying to be clear, trying to communicate a perspective, and trying to bring something new to the table? That’s not how I define egotistical! Those are good things!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good to know. I’m glad there are people out there who appreciate new things. There have been times where people thought I was trying to be better than them when I never attempted to do so. To be honest, I’ve struggled with how others bash everything that I like or for my attempts to do new things. I’m much better at dealing with it now especially getting active into blogging, but some of those elements still linger.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Why do you care so much about originality and rip-offs? | Ospreyshire's Realm

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