Marge’s post nicely opens up the discussion of remixing classic novels by focusing on Clueless, a rendition of Jane Austen’s Emma and discusses the creativity and originality needed in such renditions. A lot of the best movies of our generation are remixes of classic novels and plays by Shakespeare. One of my favourite movies is She’s The Man, which is a remix of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night. Another recent rendition of a Shakespeare play is 10 Things I Hate About You, a modernized version of Taming of the Shrew. Both of these movies were quite successful at the box office, together bringing in a total of approximately $111 million dollars – which speaks to the films’ popularity.
These modern adaptations and remixes of Shakespeare’s plays have popularized his work and made his plays accessible to the masses of the 21st century. When Shakespeare is introduced in high school and university english classes collective (and exaggerated) sighs can be heard across the country. Students tend to find the language used inaccessible, which causes them to become distracted and unwilling to learn something difficult, that they perceive as unnecessary and impossible to understand. Personally, I have trouble reading plays – I prefer to watch them, but even watching a Shakespeare play can be difficult if you cannot access the language, which most people have a hard time doing, especially without previous study.
In making these modern versions and remixes of Shakespeare’s work, Hollywood has created a way to overcome this barrier of difficult, inaccessible language. The writers change the setting and time period to one that is easily accessible for their intended audience: a modern day high school. They change the language used to reflect that of the average teenager found here and voila, they’ve created a hit! Suddenly, these students that English teachers are fighting with in class are actually enjoying Shakespeare – they just might not know it. And maybe part of this change of heart is that we are no longer in a classroom setting, but the simple stylistic changes that mask the fact that what they are watching is, indeed, Shakespeare, need to be given credit as well.
Hollywood has turned Shakespearean plays into accessible, manageable, loveable movies that tend to stick with the audience. But what is more important and impressive is that this has been achieved in a simple and yet creative way – the integrity of the play remains intact with only minor changes as mentioned above. However, that these films were (and are) so successful raises an important question: Do we have to remix and modernize every old or classic piece of literature in order for students to relate to and enjoy the material? And if so, how does that effect the literary cannon as we know it?