Pyramus and Thisbe whisper to each other through a crack in the stone wall dividing them and fall in love as they talk every night. Their families, who despise each other, forbid them from meeting in person. Finally, they sneak out to meet, but Thisbe is frightened away by a lioness and runs, leaving her veil behind. When Pyramus arrives, he sees the bloodied garment and assumes that Thisbe has been devoured. Heartbroken, he kills himself. Thisbe returns to find his body and, refusing to live without him, kills herself as well.
Sound familiar? It’s the Greek myth, recorded in the Metamorphoses, that inspired Romeo and Juliet.
During the Renaissance, a renewed interest in Classical humanities contributed to the explosion of art and literature that we now identify as a defining moment in Western civilization. After the so-called Dark Ages, the Renaissance, which actually refers to several concurrent movements in different parts of Europe, helped reify several world powers that commissioned important artworks and consolidated cultural and sociopolitical power. The Renaissance proves that “pop culture” is a powerful sociopolitical force, and today, we tend to divide our entertainment into “high” and “low” culture.
That’s why when I hear people whine that contemporary music, film, and art is “crap” compared to the “greats,” I remind them that Shakespeare’s plays included low-brow humor akin to today’s sketch comedy shows, Paul Gaugin’s work wasn’t widely appreciated or even known until many years after his death, and Moby Dick was despised by contemporary critics. Sometimes, it takes time to appreciate art, or perhaps, our nostalgia puts rose-colored glasses on our faces when we look at old works.
If you watched every classic film released in the 1930s and 40s, you’d see a bunch of duds among the extraordinary movies that we love to idolize as “perfect films.” For every Citizen Kane, there’s a Jungle Goddess.
By the same token, when people complain that “there’s nothing new under the sun” or slam Hollywood for rebooting something, they’re either dismayed that we’ve run out of original stories or disgusted that studio executives aren’t bothering to look for them.
In fact, reboots have always been common, and if you think two years is too short a timeframe to…