Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Hideaki Anno is a Japanese film-maker who made the Neon Genesis Evangelion films and anime series. It was a groundbreaking mecha series. But a lot of people had trouble with the way the series ended. Apparently Anno did too, and subsequently he went on to rework it not once but twice. The first time was a movie length version called The End of Evangelion. The second was a massive four film rework of the entire series with many other elements of the original changed besides the ending. It wasn’t so much a fine-tuned director’s cut as a complete industrial strength demolition and rebuild overhaul complete with wrecking ball.

There has definitely been a tendency, or perhaps it’s now a trend, towards re-working, editing or extending existing pop culture artifacts of late, most clearly seen in the so-called directors cut for films. Anno is just an extreme example of this, which is why I used him. I could have used Kate Bush from the world of music instead. She actually did an album called Director’s Cut that borrowed from the idea, where she presented re-worked versions of songs from her albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes. Why do they do it? Is it because some dissatisfaction sets in after a time, the urge to get it ‘right’ becomes overwhelming, or the opportunity to change things just comes along?

I remember watching Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King with the commentary track by Jackson and the writers Phillipa Boyen and Fran Walsh. Jackson mentioned how some fans had been annoyed he had put the chapters concerning Frodo and Sam’s run in with Shelob the spider in the third film, when they had originally appeared in the second book, The Two Towers. He suggested they could re-cut the films to fit the novels, if they so desired and had the video editing software to do so. Realising its illegality, he drew back from the comment a minute later, but it had already got out. It was an interesting observation from Jackson. Virtually an admission that, if we (the professionals) can do it, they (the amateurs) can do it too.

And we do. Whether it’s films, tv shows, music or even novels, we tinker around with it, alter it to suit our tastes, try to ‘improve’ it just like the professionals do. I guess because we can. We have video editing software, we have audio editing software; we even have ebook editing and creation software like Calibre for when we decide, say, the Twilight series needs some deft editing. We can make our own versions: song mashups, Youtube film and tv show edits; I’d even say fan fiction is a form of it. It seems like all pop culture is up for grabs, and copyright restrictions be damned. I love it. I think it’s intensely creative and liberating and even educational.

You have to be passionate, invested in a work of pop culture to want to change it. You have to have a critical attitude towards it too. Reviews and critiques are a great example of this. You’re not so much physically altering a work as suggesting ways, in hindsight, it could have been improved or even made perfect. We know what we like and we know what we don’t like, it’s all very subjective. But by engaging with the work we strive towards some kind of objective truth, some kind of perfection (or sometimes, just to see how far we can take it, aiming for multiple permutations). We are not perfect, and they the creators are not perfect, but it is their work and they have the last say. Usually.

I myself have made many such tinkerings or alterations of pop culture items. Up to now I have done them under the furtive cloak of anonymity, in silence, in darkness, unheralded. I’d like to come out of the shadows now and share some of them here with you in this blog. It is meant as a purely educational or instructional activity, so copyright warriors need not fear. Check them out here. Let me know what similar things you’ve done.

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