Oh, how we love old stories: The fairytales, children’s books and movies of the past carry a fondness that we have developed towards these cherished characters, scenes, images and songs. I can vividly remember dance parties with my sisters, as my mom videotaped and the soundtrack of “The Lion King” played as we danced. I also recall our excitement toward watching “Cinderella,” “The Little Mermaid” and of course, “Beauty and the Beast.” I deemed Belle to be my favorite of the princesses, for I saw a resemblance of myself in her — namely her long brown hair and her love for books.
So here we are years later, remembering how much we adored these stories. We cannot keep them locked up in the past, nor do we desire to because little by little, they find their way back into our world. When they arrive, they come in many forms of adaptations — they have moved to Broadway or new films or even emerge in new literature. We then remind ourselves of the themes and lessons that fill these stories, and we are eager to enjoy them again.
We don’t just come across these “new” versions of beloved tales by accident. We rush to see the revivals or the remakes because we are so eager to consume what we love about the past.
We want to see what we once saw.
In his recent film review in Variety Magazine of “Beauty and the Beast,” Owen Gleiberman writes: “I keep comparing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to the animated version, which raises a question: Is that what we’re supposed to be doing?”
I don’t know if we can really pinpoint any one way we’re supposed to be consuming art, but I do wonder about the question he poses. Do we approach these “remakes” to old stories with the expectation that they will mirror the stories we once loved? Or should we alter our expectations to accept the inevitable differences that come across the window of time between the old story and the creation of the new?
Gleiberman goes on to write: “We’re drawn in to see the old thing … but we want it to be new.”
We hope to find a way to recognize the changes when they come, while also hoping we can willingly greet them. We wish to “approve” this new form of characterization or added scene and accept that it is one more way to enhance the already wonderful story.
We consume art within a culture that is addicted to nostalgia. We look to old fairytales or movies, thinking about how we can recreate our first experience with it, how the new film, Broadway revival or adaptation reconstructs that old, or how I now sit in a movie theater watching the new “Beauty and the Beast,” and it makes me remember the five-year-old girl who is dancing in the home videos.
Rarely do I find anyone who prefers the remake to the original. We want something new from stories like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella” or “The Lion King,” but we also want to keep the feelings that were evoked from the original versions. When “The Lion King” moved to Broadway, I remember seeing it and still imagining that it was the film. It wasn’t that the Broadway version had reduced the brilliance of the film; it was just different. I think the differences are difficult to fully accept in exchange for what once was.
There is a bit of danger that comes while seeking nostalgia, as we try to remake a feeling or a time that is long in the past. Though art can bring about its memory, it also reveals the striking reminder of the inherent impossibility of such recreation. Perhaps, the revival or remake of that once loved story reveals to you the changed nature of your own self — and it’s up to you to accept it.