Adaptation as Recycling (Or: Cartoon Gandhi)

I’ve been tossing around the following idea for a while, and this seems like a perfect time to grab it and see where I can take it in the context of adaptations. I’m interested in the different ways in which personalities are re-used in books and films not of their original origin. I think that the “recycling” of existing characters might engender an enhanced degree of audience belief in a fictional narrative. I’d like to explore whether/to what degree it imbricates them both into a certain kind of shared reality of audience and character, working to bridge the divide between fiction and reality.

I start out by examining different ways in which familiar figures are used in fiction (both narrative and filmed) before moving on to the bulk of my analysis, on fictional “cameo” figures being placed into a new environment. What I would like to show is that by re-establishing the (original/originary) character in a new (and perhaps realistic) context, it reflects back to the original work not as a rewriting, but as a commentary on the second work in which it appears (which make the commentary a meta one).

Some preliminary possibilities:

Example 1: use of public figures — “fair use” — a) Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (absurd/ridiculous use of historical figures), b) Family Guy (almost constant satiric use of public figures — recycling to make a point), c) the sadly underrated Clone High, which (literally) reanimates historical figures through cloning (and animation) and puts them all in the same high school. (Gandhi and Abe Lincoln are best friends. It’s worth a look.)
Example 2: small scale overlap — putting Ursula in both Friends and Mad About You, and knitting together the two fictional environments (fairly plausibly, since they take place in the same city and era) . What’s the difference between this and spinoffs/linked shows (All in the Family/Jeffersons, Buffy/Angel, MTM/Rhoda, Golden Girls/Empty Nest — the latter two linked chiefly through one character)

Unsurprisingly, given all this, I’d like to lay claim to Shakespeare and Stoppard (and Beckett!). R and G aren’t quite the “cameo” figures of, say, the historical personages in Bill and Ted, but how cool could it be to take the Stoppard versions out of their Stoppardian context and put them somewhere else? I’m wondering how they might fit into a dystopian graphic novel.

One thought on “Adaptation as Recycling (Or: Cartoon Gandhi)

  1. >>lay claim to Shakespeare and Stoppard (and Beckett!).<<

    Sure. Why not? Anybody else want to "lay claim" to particular topics or texts in our schedule? I guess it's first come, first served. I figure that we have 14 sessions (minus the first one = 13) and 11 participants, so we should be able to accommodate everyone, with or without overlaps. Other selections for Tuesday mapping out?

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