“Princeton, that’s so sweet!
I’ve never gotten such a nice present from a guy.”
Kate Monster (Avenue Q)
When I was a freshman in High School, I fell in love with a girl. Of course, she didn’t know it. I did a dumb and naïve thing, I made her a mix tape. It was love songs, mostly. I hoped that if she listened to the tape that she would like me. You and I know now, it didn’t work.
Why I did it:
- I didn’t know how to express myself.
- I didn’t want to use the songs to tell her how I felt, instead;
- I hoped that the good feeling that she’d have from these songs would be transferred to me.
The idea of using someone else’s work, the songs on the mix tape, taught me early that it doesn’t work.
When I first saw the movie Moulin Rouge! it was in the movie theater. Instead of having original song and lyrics, they used well-known pop songs. Frankly, I felt that it was a kind of cheating; as if the director was hoping that I’d transfer my original feelings from that song to his movie. It was awkward. Unlike me, they have writers who do know how to express themselves.
There is another example. The movie Interstellar has the legendary Michael Cain reading the famous poem by Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” over the scenes of the astronauts flying off into unknown space. It gives a bit of a step back, almost a “how dare they” to use this beloved material in a movie.
I had no problem with Rodney Dangerfield in Back To School reciting the same poem. This is moving the plot forward and the actor is not claiming the work as his own.
Patriotism is always okay. It is inherently cliche, so I say toss in a flag, Mount Rushmore, a cherry tree and a limping fife player. It feels good.
Talent shows are okay. It is expected to use and cover famous works to display the talent.
If you are going to use other people’s material, you have to own it and bring something new to that material. Otherwise, you are hoping that the love for that song will make the audience love you too; and we know that doesn’t work.
Here, Joe Cocker owns a Beatle’s song.
I was going to call this Cheating in Hollywood but that would be just click bait. I’m too good for that … right?