Thursday, March 4, 2010


I will admit it: I have a soft spot for musicals.

As such, I am a huuuuge fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera, because it also has healthy doses of sci-fi, horror, and humor cobbled in. It is a cult classic, and I will stand up any day of the week to testify that it is utterly amazing.

That being said, the fan base is pissing me off.

They are lashing out uncontrollably and frothing over the release of Repo Men, a completely unrelated film based on the same premise: that if you fall behind on your organ payments, a repo man will hunt you down and reclaim the "property."

The films diverge, from what I can tell, at that point. In addition to the not-being-an-opera thing, Repo Men tells a completely different story than Repo!, according to the trailers. Repo Men is made on a larger budget, and is based on a novel that was being written by the author of the screenplay, since published in 2009. Repo! is, however, over a decade old in its earliest incarnations, having been developed from a "ten-minute opera" called The Necromerchant's Debt. The Repo! film was released in 2008, I believe, before the novel on which Repo Men was based was published.

Is Repo Men a ripoff?


Yet, the fans of The Genetic Opera seem to think it is, going so far as to publicly bash Repo Men before its release and boycott the film. While this is perfectly within their rights, I don't believe they really understand what is going on here.

By bad-mouthing a film they've never seen, even after they've been asked by Terrance Zdunich (co-creator of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and subsequently co-author of their collective fandom) to "kill 'em with kindness" in regards to this new film, they are making themselves look very, very bad. It makes them look rabid and intolerant and utterly incapable of coherent thought, as their mouths are moving without lease from their minds. By speaking out of emotion and hurt rather than taking a moment to think out their displeasures and put them into a logical framework, it makes them look rather silly. As a Repo! fan myself, I don't want to be labeled as such, unless it's the good kind of silly. The kind you'd find at the Ministry of Silly Walks, for example.

In his posts on the subject, entitled "Idea Repossession?" pts 1 & 2, Zdunich explains the events that lead both to Repo! and Repo Men as he understands them, and expresses his wishes to his fandom. "Sweetly recommend that they check out REPO! Opera," Zdunich requests, "because the film, and the community surrounding the film, is awesome."

In my opinion (for this is a blog of opinions, and not one of newscasting), the community isn't showing their awesome at this very moment. I fully understand that they feel hurt, as they are so deeply emotionally tied to Repo! as a fan-base, but I believe that by lashing out against this new film in anger, they do little to show their greatness. Instead, I believe it is a show of ignorance.

The fans pine and wail about how "unique" Repo! is, and how the very idea of Repo Men is stolen from Zdunich's hands, like an apple plucked from a neighbor's tree. They rail against Repo Men, some going so far as to say that one should be allowed by law to copyright an idea.

As a writer, I feel these statements are the same as saying "It should be federal law that only George Romero may make zombie movies." Or "Every robot movie ever made is just a rip-off of Capek's R.U.R.." Or that "The Chronicles of Narnia shouldn't exist, as it's merely a re-telling of the New Testament."

I do hope you see the fallacy in these claims.

Many stories start as other stories. Good tales are retold time and again. The Lion King is merely a retelling of Hamlet, mixed with a local African epic of a similar nature. Star Wars is basically a combination of Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" and every epic, mythic tale of a young journeyer with a wizened hermit archetype to guide him. Nearly all of Kurosawa's films had plots based in stories around the world, and just as many of them were remade as westerns for the enjoyment of Americans.

Hellfire, even the idea of organ repossession wasn't originated with Repo! In '97 or '98, I wrote a short story for a class project that dealt with the same idea: two young lovers were in a car accident, and ran away from the hospital. They were chased by an agent of the hospital to "reclaim" the work done to save their lives. I mentioned it to a friend of mine, and we began playing a Shadowrun campaign based on the notion. I hadn't even heard of Repo! until it's theatrical release in a nearby town, sometime in late '08 or early '09.

Stories are retold. Ideas are reused. It happens. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. So long as there is no plagarism afoot, enjoy what you enjoy for the reasons you enjoy it. Repo! is unique, and will continue to be so, no matter how many other "dystopian organ repossession" stories there are floating about. Talking trash, however, is never a good way to get anything done.

In closing, I strongly suggest you check out both films and draw your own conclusions. I am a huge fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and plan to see Repo Men as soon as finances permit. I also heartily entreat you to check out the "Further Reading" section of this post for more information on everything I have mentioned here. Thank you, and goodnight.

= Further Reading =

1 comment:

  1. As a note, I am a HUGE fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera, as well, but I have no particular desire to see Repo Men. *shrugs*