What is more annoying: Hollywood unwittingly exposing its artistic exhaustion by continually remaking movies/TV shows from the 1980s, or the fantastically predictable response of thirty-something kidults who treat every such remake as an invasion and pillaging of that lovingly cultivated bit of their brains titled "Childhood Memories"? It’s the latter.
Sure, Hollywood might be so hard up for ideas that even the super-naff 1980s can start to look like a bottomless well of wonderful storylines (there’s even discussion about a Hollywood remake of Rentaghost, FFS). But the nostalgic preciousness of people who are knocking on the door of 40 and who want their pasts to be preserved forever in formaldehyde smacks of something far worse than cultural laziness – it stinks of infantile cultural protectionism.
The thirty-something adultescents were at it again yesterday, when a rumour swept through the Twittersphere (where these people spend a large part of their lives) about a possible remake of The Princess Bride. First released in 1987, The Princess Bride is a somewhat overrated fantasy story involving farmboys, giants, kings and a very knowing narrator with his tongue pressed firmly against his cheek. It didn’t make much of a splash in ’87 (how could it when the far superior Robocop was also released?), but over the years it has transmogrified, largely as a consequence of film-critic revisionism, into a cult classic of the Eighties which all culturally switched-on people must dutifully profess to love and bore on about at interminable length at dinner parties.
So the news that the movie might be getting a makeover had people of a certain age spitting (or at least Twitting) in fury. “Remaking the Princess Bride is NOT COOL”, trilled the Twitterati; one of their number even threatened to “fly to America and shoot everyone involved” (for a joke, obviously. Everything on Twitter is a joke, unless it involves Jan Moir, in which case it is deadly serious.)
Let’s leave to one side the rather embarrassing fact that The Princess Bride is *not* being remade, which means that, not for the first time, tweeps in their hundreds of thousands fell for an unsubstantiated rumour. The more striking thing revealed by the outburst of Princess Bride apoplexy is that there is something weird about people who were children in the 1980s (I was one of them, sadly), where they seem determined to erect a moral forcefield around all their cultural memories in order to protect them from the greasy fingerprints of modern-day plunderers.
Whether it was last year’s big-budget Hollywood version of The A-Team or Steven Spielberg daring to revisit his own brilliant 1980s franchise, Indiana Jones, with a new movie in 2008, there will always be some hybrid adult-child chucking his or her toys out of the pram and effectively saying: “Leave my culture alone!” The release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008 even generated an irate Facebook page called “Stephen [sic] Spielberg Has Raped My Childhood”. That’s the tenor of all the spasms of kidult fury with Hollywood remakes – a feeling that horrible Hollywood men hellbent on making cash are raping MY memories, boo hoo.
Hollywood’s conservatism – where it feels safer remaking one-time hits rather than investing in anything spectacularly new – is nothing compared with the conservatism of the super-nostalgists desperate to ringfence their mental photo albums from external interference. Their tantrum-like protectionism brings to mind those kids who won’t let other kids play with their toys even when they are no longer playing with them.
But why not entrust something like The Princess Bride (which, after all, was a book long before it was a movie) to a new director and a potential new audience? The re-interpretation of old characters and storylines – from Tarzan to James Bond to King Kong – has been part and parcel of the film world for decades. The kidults should prise open their eyes to the fact that, no matter how many times they geekily giggled over their VHS copies of The Princess Bride, that story does not belong to them and their generation. Let go, people, and grow up.