kristen stewart snow white and the huntsman

Hollywood Experiences Deja Vu

Do you ever get the feeling that the new movie or TV show you’re watching has been done before? It’s no secret that originality isn’t always something Hollywood excels in, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood has given up on originality all together.

Movie and TV shows always seem to copy some previous concept, but lately similar movies and TV shows have been coming out simultaneously.

Earlier this year Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached, movies with almost identical plots of friends engaging in a casual sexual relationship, came out just months apart.  Their opening box office numbers were even close.  According to, No Strings Attached opened with an estimated $19 million while Friends with Benefits collected an estimated $18 million its opening weekend.

Next year two different movies retelling the fairy tale of Snow White will come out.  Snow White and the Huntsman stars Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth while the second film is currently untitled and starring Lily Collins (The Blind Side) and Julia Roberts. 

Even this past Sunday, ABC started airing “Once Upon A Time” while NBC will launch “Grimm” on Friday; both shows revolve around fairytales.

Sophomore Jenna Tshudy said she finds the situation “pretty obnoxious, actually. I feel like Hollywood is running out of ideas.”

So why does this keep happening? While it is easy to think studios are just copying another’s successful project, the answer is a bit more complicated. Andrew Demirjian, specialist professor from the Department of Communication, said the studios are attempting to find a formula that will guarantee a hit film. “Someone gets worried when you’re gambling with that kind of money. So they take stories that are safe,” Demirjian said.

Yet audiences will eventually stop seeing identical films. They need something different thrown in there, something “that captures the imagination in a different way,” Demirjian said. It seems as though studios are taking what they know works and altering it slightly to keep viewers intrigued.

Amanda Caruso, a sophomore at the University, said, “People are capitalizing on what’s popular right now. It’s like the whole vampire thing. Twilight came out and then everything had vampires.”

This week’s premieres of “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” seem like copycat shows because they both share that element. However, there are details that do distinguish one from the other.

“Once Upon a Time” (Sundays at 8:00 pm on ABC) depicts the town of Storybrooke, Maine, where all the townspeople are fairytale characters. However they have forgotten who they really are and walk around like normal people because of a spell cast by the evil witch (Lana Parrilla). It’s up to Snow White’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) daughter, Emma Swan (“House’s” Jennifer Morrison) to return to Storybrooke, where she was sent away from as a baby, and help the townspeople get their memories back. Of course, Emma, a bounty hunter, who grew up in foster care will have to be convinced that this fairy tale stuff is real.

“Grimm” (Fridays at 9:00 pm on NBC) follows homicide detective Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli), a descendent of the famous Grimm brothers. Turns out the fairytales aren’t just stories, but tales of the demons the Grimm brothers hunted. Nick has inherited his family’s power to see the demons as what they are behind their human disguises, and he must fight them to uphold the balance of good and evil. It seems like a procedural cop drama with a fantasy twist, along the lines of “The X Files” or “Angel,” (which makes sense since much of the writing staff wrote on either or both of those shows).

Not every movie or TV show can be the next Avatar or Inception, both highly original and successful, but audiences don’t exactly need something completely unheard of. They just need something to hold their interest.

Demirjian brought up this summer’s hit Bridesmaids as an example of a movie that “just went against the grain. I think there is an element of bold choices. To show women in a light that we don’t get to see, audiences really responded to it.”

Bridesmaids, though, wasn’t exactly something no one had seen before. It was an R-rated comedy penned by and starring a bunch of SNL actors like Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. That’s certainly been done before, but Bridesmaids brought in different choices and different perspectives.

It showed the realistic way female friendships tend to work in a hilarious way. It worked because women are rarely portrayed that way in films. So it was a basic formula we’d seen before, but the details were what made all the difference.

Originality is always the best, and that’s why films like Inception or Avatar are so immensely successful.

However originality isn’t always what the studios will give money to, but maybe audiences don’t need complete originality. Maybe studios can follow this formula, and as long as the details are different enough, audiences will stay tuned.