Reproduction and remediation run rampant in our culture. Walter Benjamin’s work on the aura and art in the age of mechanical reproduction is a very interesting take on what has become so common since the 20th century. The ideas of reproduction can also be seen in every part of our lives rather than just movies or books. I have worked with Walter Benjamin already when taking Literary Theory and Criticism, and I began to notice even more interesting ideas when reading it again.
It seems to be true that every movie coming out lately is just a reproduction of something else. Some of my favorite movies including Batman and Tim Burton films are typically reproductions of books, comics, or other past film reproductions. Even movies or books based on historical events can be seen as a reproduction of the original event. Pictures are reproductions of people and the aura is difficult to find. It is debatable whether it truly exists at all in all technicality.
The aura can be greatly disintegrated during reproduction. The aura of an object is that which has a distance from other objects or a reproduction and cannot be messed with or it will disintegrate. Someone may want to bring the aura closer to them, but it cannot be done. Benjamin brings up the idea that when art loses its authenticity, it begins to be based on political ideals which is something I didn’t exactly understand last time I read this critique. The cult value and the ritualistic value of art are changed when the artistic function of art is less important and the focus is mostly on exhibition. The best example that Benjamin uses to describe this process which I did not notice much the last time I read the critique, is the idea that art can self alienate itself and make aesthetic pleasure out of it. Benjamin compares this to Fascism depicting politics as aesthetics and Communism must respond by actually politicizing art.
Although getting carried away with reproduction can and has in some ways become detrimental to our society already, reproduction can also be a type of paying homage and interpretation that is always important for growth and development of previous ideas. There is a grey area in deciding what is plagiarism or how far away from the aura we can get without making art not very artistic anymore. There will be spoilers in my example below about the difference between homage and plagiarism.
As I use as an example, the new Marvel movie Deadpool pays homage to the Ferris Bueller end-of-credits scene by adding humor about Marvel foreshadowing upcoming sequels at the end of their movies. It is connected to Ferris Bueller because it was the first movie that used a scene after the credits ended to trick the audience into thinking there was more to come, but there was not more to come.
An instance of plagiarism would be where something is ripped off from someone else and the reproduction is exactly the same as the original, or where a remediation tries to change the original idea too much so that they are obviously connected but indistinguishably so as if the remediation is trying to hide something. Such as in the One Direction song, “Live While We’re Young” where they are accused of ripping off a song from the Clash, and many other songs of One Direction have also copied other famous bands by claiming sampling. Vanilla Ice also got in trouble in the early 1990’s for copying “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie and it was so similar in melody that he was sued for not asking for permission.
Of course, no matter what someone must ask permission to equip themselves with remediation or reproduction of someone else’s work. Just like in everything else in the digital humanities, moderation is key. We cannot map, graph, or use timelines for someone else’s work and credit it as our own either. Yes, rights are loosening with more technology, internet, and reproduction in media especially with the digital humanities, but we must still be respectful and cite our sources.