Remix This!

The remix. To remix. Re-re-remix, now! A word that was only created in the 1980s, but an idea that has been in existence since the beginning of human culture. An idea that is ever more important to continue using palatable existing and established works to address today’s issues. To remix is to take something in existence — whether an idea, a sound, or a look — and make it new, make it one’s own. This includes everything from mixing boring, everyday life (think: Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Can) to music to existing art pieces. While “everything is a remix” (Kirby Ferguson) in human history every single remix holds significance. Every remix speaks to today’s culture, every remix reintroduces history, and every remix tells a new and important story.

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Cans 1962

Storytelling is a common form of remix both in today’s society as well as generations past. Mixing, kneading, and combining to create a recipe for every moral, every story, every lesson. For instance the adaption of Grimm’s fairy tale, Snow White (1857) by Disney nearly one hundred years later in 1937. Disney took a common fairy tale told to children a century prior and remixed it into a consumable story for a new generation. They removed the gore and horror that the Grimm brothers are so known for and made it into a child friendly tale of good overcoming evil.

“1. Storytelling is interactive.
2. Storytelling uses words.
4. Storytelling presents a story.
5. Storytelling encourages the active imagination of the listeners.”
-National Storytelling Network

To accept the definition presented above, is to realize that storytelling consists of spoken word, novels, movies, and other forms of language based arts.

Today’s culture of remixers may be the most interactive to date. In today’s online life, every remix is instantly uploaded, downloaded, shared, Tweeted, and Instagramed. These files, images, and videos can be viewed by the world, twice over. They can be commented on, “liked”, “double tapped”, and “shared” with others in the blink of an eye.

The remix in the written form arguably did not arrive until the printing press, when everyone was able to have easy access to books, and therefore accessibility to remix. To remix an oral story, however, is the oldest tradition of time — the OG remix. Legends and myths being handed down from one mouth to another, changing just a tad each time. Remember sitting in a circle while the child next to you whispered the message into your ear, and how by the end it was never the same — whether that was because the original author forgot, or because the absurdity of small children is limitless no one will ever know. Regardless, in this fashion every story has been remixed.

However, not all remixes are welcomed with open arms. Some of our beloved novels were accused of theft of intellectual property. For instance Dan Brown was sued for copying “a substantial part of the work to produce an altered copy or colourable imitation” (Justice Smith ruling) in his book The Da Vinci Code. The case was dismissed as it the courts ruled it impossible to steal a general idea. However, the thought remains: the books in question (The Da Vinci Code and Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh’s book, The Holy Blood) are similar. Did Brown legally remix The Holy Blood to create his best seller? It is highly possible. And if he did not remix that specific book, he certainly remixed Bible stories, tales, conspiracy theories and other works of literature. However, what he ended up giving today’s society was a new conversation and a new entertainment piece. He managed to get run of mill, blue colored homes to talk about theories and ideas that only academics and crazy people (which may say something about academics) discussed. He managed to start a religious war. All because he took stories that were already out there and made them new again.

With “The Da Vinci Code” doing all of these wonderful things for culture and renewing interest in history, one could turn the tables on the authors of The Holy Blood, by asking, “Are you writing for your own gain or for societal benefit?” As Cory Doctorow states “If you are not making art with the intention of having it copied, you are not making art for the 21st century” (Remixing Culture, Ben Murray). So who were Michael and Richard making art for?

Even movies today, our form of myth and legend telling, all get their start from someone else, who got their start in another and the chain goes on and on. According to Kirby Ferguson, “Most box office hits rely on remix” (Everything is a Remix, Part 2) For instance, the tried and true psychotic woman with a vengeance and twist that is so popular right now with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2015). In this story a woman, dissatisfied with her marriage, plots revenge and her own murder going completely psychotic — complete with a twist ending. Sound familiar? Single White Female (1992) was a hit movie in which a roommate becomes obsessed and jealous of her friend’s newfound love — of course going psychotic. Sound like it was inspired by something else? Fatal Attraction (1987) was a blockbuster movie in the 80s in which a scorned lover exacts revenge on the man who betrayed her. All of these films rely on the “crazy, dangerous woman” role to thrill and terrify. These movies were all a chain reaction remix. The rabbit hole is limitless (no pun intended).

With each of these reinventions of the same story we were made to love the theme yet again. The characters became more relatable today. The hairstyles made more sense! And the twists kept us on our seats, though we had seen it a million times. Each of these remixes reintroduced us to the “crazy female with a vengeance”. They each made us love and hate her all over again. They each made us feel something.

This cannot be a bad thing. This must be embraced. The money implications, while varying, are always to be had. But furthermore, society as a whole benefits. When an author is given the ability and the authority to remix, with moral high ground, we see something new, modern and relevant. We, as the consumer, are able to rekindle old loves, rework old ideas and feel old feelings like they were brand new.