Is Creativity Dead? The Curse Of Sequels, Prequels, and Reboots

admit one idea. over and over.

admit one idea. over and over.

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

All good things must come to an end, right?  That holds true pretty much everywhere except for Hollywood.  They don’t seem to know when to let go.  More and more the entertainment industry takes one successful property and squeezes every ounce of profit out of it they can.

So far in 2013 the movie going experience has been dominated by sequels.  There was the sixth installment of Fast & Furious (with a seventh film to be released in 2014), Grown Ups 2, The Hangover Part III, Insidious: Chapter 2 and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues will be released at the end of the year.   Dumb & Dumber To, the sequel to the cult classic Dumb & Dumber, is shooting now and will be released next year- twenty years after the original hit theaters.

TV has followed suit turning film premises into TV show.  Parenthood, Anger Management, Bates Motel, and Bad Teacher are all based on the film versions and bank on their built in audiences.

But do we keep going to the movies and tuning in?  Why can’t we say goodbye?  Is our nostalgia and investment in characters and plots so great that we don’t want to open our hearts to new ones?  Is it too time consuming to go on a new journey?  Or do we just not want to see these characters we’ve come to know leave us?  And more importantly, is creativity dead?

And now there is data to back this up.

A new study from the Nature Scientific Reports examined the evolution of novelty in cinema by tracking crowd sourced keywords spanning films of the last seventy years. The study prescribed “novelty scores for each film based on occurrence probabilities of individual keywords and keyword-pairs.”

So what decade was the most creative?

The films in the 1960s proved the most creative, varied in plot, and less formulaic than any other decade studied.  The 60s also opened the door to American new wave films—Bonnie and Clyde possibly being the best example. The 70s also scored high in creativity by mashing up genres: Westerns with Science Fiction, for instance.

But mainstream, modern day cinema can’t claim the same level of originality as the films of the 60s. Moviegoers don’t seem to mind though. The films of the study that ranked “most creative” sold fewer tickets.

All of these sequels, prequels, and reboots leave your imagination spinning on a metaphoric hamster wheel.  Without new stories to stimulate us we don’t expose our creative minds to new stories.  And with every re-telling of the same story, creativity dies more and more.

With all of the talented writers am I supposed to believe that instead of watching an original idea that I’m better served by tuning into Carrie Bradshaw’s teenage antics on The Carrie Diaries?  I sure hope not.  So here’s my call to action.  Go out and be creative.  Paint, write, sketch, act, do whatever creatively inspires you and don’t be afraid to be original.  And maybe one day Hollywood will get the idea too.  Because do we really need a Scream TV series in 2014?

Sometimes the best thing we can do is say goodbye.

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