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In Defense of Originality

Updated on February 4, 2012
22 Bruce Waynes and counting...
22 Bruce Waynes and counting... | Source

Who says originality doesn't exist?

I am determined to disprove the theory that original thought does not exist. By definition, a ‘thought’ is a firing in the subjective consciousness, and this breeds the Idea. The idea might be a choice of a red shirt over white, to remove pickles from a hamburger, to compliment an attractive person on their hairstyle, etc. Though indeed, the entire human race has once had the thought that they ought to get out of bed or eat a meal, it is the individual’s response to that idea that makes it original.

The word ‘original,’ according to my Oxford American Dictionaries widget, can be defined as ‘something serving as model or basis for imitations or copies.’ It comes from the latin word ‘oriri’ meaning ‘to rise.’ By this definition, an ‘original’ is the very first thing of its kind in existence. The first blond-haired woman, the first grilled steak, the first domesticated cat, etcetera. But not all blond-haired woman are the same and many of them are not naturally blonde. Therefore, there is also a woman who is the first blonde of Asian heritage. On from there, there must then exist the first blond Asian woman to become a man. This metaphor is silly, but apt to explain the complexities of the very term. So what is originality, then? Is it the first steak ever to be charred on hot coals? Is it the first ever story about fairies?

Certainly there are stories, films, and songs with marked similarities and not all of them are shamelessly pirated (cough cough, Vanilla Ice). The 2010 Darren Aronofsky psychological thriller Black Swan garnered criticism for having thematic similarities between The Red Shoes (1948) and Suspiria (1977). While both films involve a ballerina obsessed with her career, nearly driven mad by the demands therein, Black Swan stands apart because of the way that Aronofsky portrays Nina’s psychological decline. As an audience member, you aren’t sure what aspects of the film are real, and what are pyschosis. Aronofsky drew from Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky's famous ballet about Princess Odette who is turned into a swan by the curse of an evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart. In the original production, the Prince breaks the spell and marries the Odette. In the revival however, Odette and the Prince jump off a cliff and drown in order to break the sorcerer’s spell, and Von Rothbart dies as a result. In a tragic parallel to the ballet performed in the film, (SPOILERS AHEAD) Nina dies after finishing her performance, breaking the psychological spell she has been suffering under for the entirety of the film. Not only is the central story portrayed differently than The Red Shoes and Suspiria, but the genres are different. Suspiria was directed by Dario Argento, one of the Italian masters of gore, while The Red Shoes is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale tragic romance. In spite of the fact that the films seem similar in nature, it is the execution of the idea that makes each film unique.

The word ‘original,’ according to my Oxford American Dictionaries widget, can be defined as ‘something serving as model or basis for imitations or copies.’ It comes from the latin word ‘oriri’ meaning ‘to rise.’ By this definition, an ‘original’ is the very first thing of its kind in existence. The first blond-haired woman, the first grilled steak, the first domesticated cat, etcetera. But not all blond-haired woman are the same and many of them are not naturally blonde. Therefore, there is also a woman who is the first blonde of Asian heritage. On from there, there must then exist the first blond Asian woman to become a man. This metaphor is silly, but apt to explain the complexities of the very term. So what is originality, then? Is it the first steak ever to be charred on hot coals? Is it the first ever story about fairies?

In spite of the fact that I am adamantly against remakes, even they can bring an original spin on the story. One of the biggest debates among nerd-kind is the superhero movie. As of 2012, there have been twenty-two American films made about Batman. Batman himself is not an original idea, especially considering that there have been thousands of comics about the exploits of Bruce Wayne, but each film is a new spin on an old theme. The sheer number of Batman films, especially considering that most, if not all, are based on the comics, blurs the argument for originality. If I’m sticking to the theory that I have hypothesized, each film should be original because of the unique spin brought to the story. George Clooney, Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, and Adam West all brought a completely different quality to the masked millionaire; Clooney was suave, Keaton damaged, Bale broody, West heroic and all of them played the same man. Though this isn’t the very purest form of originality, it is a great example of how one initial idea can be taken and made original.

Original thought isn’t limited to the arts. If I were to fall in love with someone, the firing of those neurons that specified my chemical attraction to that specific person would be new to me (unless I didn’t learn from past mistakes and fell for him twice, or got in a terrible car accident resulting in amnesia and I fell for him all over again.). Though another person may have harbored this same chemical attraction for Hugh, the way I deal with these feelings would make this thought original. The unique combination of my past experiences, mental state, and personal beliefs would affect how I deal with stimuli.

The way I chew my fingernails, pick my clothing, style my hair, or the way I love is completely different than any other human who has ever existed or will come to be. I don’t claim this for myself out of selfishness; the combination of everything I have experienced, all the people I have ever met, the way I was raised, everything has shaped me into a completely original person. Because of this fact, it is impossible for any two people on earth to be exactly alike. 7 billion people walk the earth and not one of them is the same. Even identical twins have separate yearnings and inclinations.

So what makes something original? I say it is the person who makes it.William Shakespeare wasn’t the first man to put pen to paper, and in fact the story of Romeo and Juliet wasn’t his to begin with. And yet, whose version do we remember? The one that did it best. Shakespeare was original because of the style and lexicon with which he spun his tales.

Originality exits in each person on this planet. You’re original and so is everything that you create, whether you like it or not.

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    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I love this hub and your name. They're both very original. I like how you used a layered argument to present your points. And I'm finally glad I know how many Batman movies there have been so far. Great job and I look forward to reading more of your work MyGirlThursday!

    • Jarn profile image

      Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl

      Slight typo in the 3rd paragraph from the bottom. I think you mean that 7 billion people walk the earth, not 7 million. And while I like very much the idea that were are each a unique little snowflake, I am forced to disagree. By the very definition of original, being something which serves as the basis for copies, we cannot be original while still being human. Everything about us, while it might possibly be arrived at by purely personal means, has been thought of or is derivative of something else. The best example of what I mean is the simple fact that you and I are using the same words. Were we original, we would be unable to understand one another, what with each of us having purely original means of communicating.

    • profile image

      Ryan Flint 5 years ago

      Aronofsky also acquired the rights to borrow from a Japanese anime thriller called "Perfect Blue," which he then used elements and shots from for "Black Swan" and "Requiem for a Dream."

      But, the greats steal, so steal from the greats. I'm pretty sure several somebodies said that at various times.

      Nihil Sub Sole Novum

    • FloBe profile image

      FloBe 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Yes! I believe each person is a beautiful original and therefore deserves to be loved. What each person does with their originality is sometimes a delight and at times can cause great sadness. I wish people knew how valuable their being is and could understand how unique their contribution to this world is. This "knowing" would likely encourage them to strive towards their true potential.

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