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Reboots are common – everywhere and every medium. It’s like content makers have run out of original ideas and glibly remake things that have already been done. Closely related to the reboot is the superfluous sequel, titled that way because there are too many of them – like the Saw movies, or because it is made so long after the original that it is no longer relevant – like season four of Arrested Development on Netflix.
The most cognizable example of reboots are movies – Superman is the one that comes to my mind. If asked, people who grew up in the seventies would recall the 1978 movie by Richard Donner. Millennials would think of Batman v. Superman. People from my generation, which is in between, may remember either, or if they watch as many movies as me, may initially consider the 2006 Superman movie that starred a bald Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Anyone that has seen more than one will have their favorite.
Not often considered are reboots in music, otherwise known, usually, as covers, though sometimes musical sequels are created – like Metallica’s Unforgiven, which had two songs with the same name that followed it. Cover bands are sometimes seen as lazy or lacking in talent, but this isn’t always the case. Dolly Parton wrote ‘I Will Always Love You’ to underscore her decision to have a solo career. The song was tremendously successful, but is better known as being performed by Whitney Houston and used in the Kevin Costner movie, The Bodyguard. Houston’s version is one of the most successful singles of all time.
While reboots can be annoying, they also tend to create interest in characters and ideas. For me, this is because, after I see or hear one, I need to experience the rest – I want to know where my favorite media came from as well as where it is going. When I heard NOFX’s version of Starry Night and read that it was a cover, only then did I listen to the Don McLean original. As soon as I learned that there was a 1990 remake (and later a 2006 one) of the movie Night of the Living Dead, I had to watch them to see how the story might be retold with different effects as well as a different social and political climate. After seeing the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I watched the 1956 original and looked for differences.
In 2003, I went to ‘Punk Fest’ at the Worcester Palladium. Punk Fest was a line up of several local and regional punk and related bands. I don’t remember a lot of the show, but I remember one lead singer saying that he wanted to thank bands like Good Charlotte, which most of the audience booed at because they did not think of Good Charlotte as respectable. The singer shushed the crowd and explained that Good Charlotte, which appealed to kids that didn’t know real punk bands, were often the gateway for those kids to find more substantial things to listen to – they would want to know the genesis of pop-punk bands like Good Charlotte. This would lead them to bands like Rancid, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols.
What that lead singer said really rang true for me. Hearing a cover song, seeing a sequel, or listening to a catchy band that lacks substance is like hearing a reference that I don’t quite get, but I want too. Whether intentionally or subconsciously, I think a lot of people are like this.