At one point in the movie Julie and Julia, Julie Powell receives secondhand feedback that Julia Child--whose recipes she has been cooking and blogging about exhaustively for the better part of a year--is not thrilled with the whole enterprise. "Does she think I'm using her?" Julie asks her long-suffering husband (who, if Powell's follow-up book CLEAVING is any indication, has not yet really begun to suffer).
"Using" Julia Child? You mean, clinging to the coat-tails of her hard work and fame to gain notoriety? Umm...was this really a soul-searching question? I would have put it in the no-brainer category. Not that I blame Powell. The whole half of the movie that dealt with her, I was kicking myself that: (1) I hadn't thought of such a blog first; and, (2) Was it too late to come up with my own gimmick?; (3) Which famous person could I suck off of?; and, (4) How could I get my blog attached to Salon.com?
After some late-night thought I came up with "The Kristina/Kama Sutra Project: 365 Days, Untold Numbers of Positions," with the byline, "It pays to be flexible." Unfortunately, before you all and the rest of humanity could sign up to follow such a--ahem!--titillating blog, a friend informed me that it would have to be vetoed because my pastor husband would "receive emails." That, and I suppose, if it were ever adapted into a movie, it would not receive a family-friendly rating. Sigh.
Gimmicks and re-hashes are time-honored traditions in the arts. Consider Shakespeare, who openly borrowed just about every one of his plots from popular publishing, headlines, history books, and foreign plays. Consider how people pitch their book and movie ideas: "It's TWILIGHT set in a pre-school that's remarkably like Hogwarts." The trick is bringing something new to it, which Shakespeare always, always did. We were watching the Anthony Hopkins movie TITUS (Julie Taymor's adaptation of Shakespeare's TITUS ANDRONICUS), and we marveled at how eloquently Goth Queen Tamora could plead for Titus not to hack her oldest son into bits and burn his entrails. Could not have put it better myself.
Which is why, if you've seen the accusation going around that AVATAR is just Pocahontas in Outer Space, that shouldn't necessarily be a strike against it. Did or did not James Cameron bring something new to the table? (JULIE AND JULIA at least yielded Meryl Streep's wondrous and charming performance--the best in the role since Dan Ackroyd.) Haven't yet seen AVATAR, but I do know from movie posters that Cameron made his "Natives" blue, and that counts as new and different in my book. Could you do any better?